Differences and Similarities Between the CAT and GMAT

differences similarities cat gmat

Is the CAT the right MBA entrance exam for you? If you do need to take the CAT, should you take the GMAT too? Today, we’ll look at CAT vs. GMAT in-depth

CAT vs. GMAT: Which Test to Take?

The CAT’s biggest “rival” is the GMAT. OK, OK, it’s not exactly a rival. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), the group of Indian B-schools that design the CAT and accept it for admissions, also accept the GMAT. So the makers of the CAT treat the GMAT as an equally acceptable alternative, not a less-favored competing exam.

In fact, if you are applying to an IIM school from outside of India, you will need to take the GMAT instead of the CAT. This is because the CAT is only administered at select locations within India.

The GMAT is also your only option at most international and US-accredited business schools inside of India or out.

If you are an Indian national and are applying to B-schools in-country, there still can be some advantage to taking both the GMAT and the CAT. Having scores on both exams may give you a wider choice of schools. Also, if you do better on one test than the other, you can submit your best score to the IIM, whether it’s the CAT or GMAT.

Of course, you may not have enough time to prepare for both exams…. or enough money! (Fees for test prep and test registration can really add up.) So if you have to choose just one exam, which once is best?

For Indian applicants to IIM schools, I recommend choosing the CAT, if you can only do one test. Why CAT? Because preparing for and taking an entrance exam is a way of preparing for your actual classes. And if you’re an IIM candidate, the CAT is actually designed by the schools you’ll be attending. The professors and administrators you’ll study under have carefully crafted the CAT as a measure of your ability to do IIM coursework. In other words, CAT content, more than the content of any other exam, matches the exact skills you need to succeed on an Indian Institutes of Management campus.

CAT Content vs. GMAT Content

And speaking of the content of the CAT exam, let’s look at CAT content vs. GMAT content.

The CAT Quantitative Ability section and the GMAT Quantitative section are actually quite similar. Both tests have comparable problems in pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, numeric properties, statistics, and so on. There is one very noticeable difference between CAT Quant and GMAT Quant, though. The CAT allows you to use a calculator, while the GMAT does not. Now, this may seem like a huge difference, especially for those of you who are “math-phobic.” But the difference is smaller than you think. Although you can use a calculator on the CAT, most CAT math problems are really designed to be solved mentally, with some light use of scrap paper and pencil. The same is true on the GMAT.

You’ll start to see bigger differences between the tests when you get to the Verbal sections of each exam. CAT Verbal emphasizes reading comprehension a lot more than the GMAT. (Although RC is certainly important on both tests!) In addition, the heavy English grammar component in GMAT Verbal simply doesn’t appear on the CAT. With CAT Verbal Ability, you deal with paragraph structure, not the grammatical structure of sentences and phrases.

This brings us to CAT DILR (Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning) vs. GMAT IR (Integrated Reasoning). Here, the tests become very different. The only similarity here is that CAT Data Interpretation and GMAT Integrated Reasoning both have graphs, charts, and math operations. However, CAT DI keeps the graphs, charts, and calculations relatively simple. In contrast, GMAT IR’s data problems are a lot more complex. The graphs and charts are more detailed, with paragraphs of accompanying text. Then there’s CAT Logical Reasoning. This really is nothing like GMAT IR. In CAT LR, you need to detect and comprehend logical patterns. Although there are elements of logic in GMAT Quant, Verbal, and IR, logical pattern comprehension is not tested directly on the GMAT.

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