How Hard Is the CAT?

How Hard Is the CAT?
How hard is the CAT? This is one of those questions along the lines of “How long is a piece of string?” Basically, the CAT will be a different level of hard or easy for each and every person taking the test. Everyone has their own unique educational history, natural skills, coursework, etc., that will change how they experience the exam. On the other hand, there are a few comparisons we can use to determine, once and for all, “How hard is the CAT?”

The CAT Is (Mostly) Easier than the GMAT

If you’re applying to business schools outside India, you may be required to take the GMAT as well as the CAT. GMAT prep will prepare you for CAT content, if not its form, but you’ll still want to study for the CAT separately at least some of the time. Why?

In terms of Quantitative sections, the two tests are roughly equivalent. On the other hand, CAT Verbal is significantly easier for most people, because it doesn’t have the heavy focus on grammar that the GMAT does. The tests significantly diverge in their reasoning sections (on the CAT, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning, on the GMAT, Integrated Reasoning). Here, the GMAT is almost universally considered harder.

For more on the CAT vs. the GMAT, check out David’s post on the differences and similarities between the two exams.

The CAT Is (Mostly) as Hard as Secondary School

…if you had a strong maths focus in your coursework, that is. You’ll find that the Verbal passages are written at a high-secondary or early-university level. Of course, the main issues here are:

  1. Time (you’ll have a lot less than you did in high school!);
  2. Recollection (for some of us, it’s been a long time since we studied trig…);
  3. and Format (CAT problems may take two concepts you rarely see together and combine them into a much harder problem that you’ll have to pick apart before solving).

The CAT Is (Slightly) Easier than (Most) Universities

If you studied the humanities, and particularly on English Literature, you’ll find that CAT Verbal seems relatively simple to you compared to your college coursework. On the other hand, the maths may be either long ago and far away or full of concepts you’ve never encountered.

Likewise, if you’ve studied a maths-heavy curriculum, like Physics or Engineering (or, well, Mathematics), you’ll probably find CAT Quant relatively simple. But it may have been some time since you’ve seen passages as complex as what you’ll find in CAT Verbal.

Unless you attended a university where you took three courses of study in Literature, Statistics, and Mathematics, you’ll most likely need to learn (or re-learn) a fair amount of information before your exam.

The CAT Is (a Lot) Harder than Everyday Life

Let’s put it this way: when’s the last time your boss made you do a logarithm problem? For most of us, the answer’s probably “never.”

Don’t let this put you off, though! With careful preparation, starting with learning what the CAT tests, you’ll be well on your way to mastering both what’s easier for you on the CAT and what comes less naturally. And hopefully, you’ll be able to walk out of the exam center this fall with confidence. Then, when people ask you, “How hard is the CAT?”, you can simply shrug and say, “Not that hard!”

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