GMAT vs CAT – What is the Difference Between GMAT and CAT?

10 April, 2024
parthiva mewawala

Most typical business schools in India and abroad base their application evaluations of the MBA and finance programs on two of the most competitive standardised tests in the world – the CAT and the GMAT. 

Even though many schools accept both tests, they are inherently different. Understanding the differences between GMAT and CAT can help dispel many of the doubts most aspirants face.


GMAT @ Zero Fee
Start your GMAT prep for free
Sign up for a 14-day free tria and get access to:

  • 5.5+ hours of GMAT Concept Videos
  • 6 hours of GMAT Strategy Sessions
  • 4 hours of Recorded GMAT Sessions
  • 1 Free Profile Evaluation Session

Sign Up


What is the GMAT exam? 

Accepted by over 2,400 business schools worldwide, including many in India, GMAT is the world’s leading test for MBAs and other business-related programs. Students aspiring to pursue an MBA from top colleges in Europe, the US, and Australia usually opt for this test. But what many students don’t know is that highly-ranked Indian colleges such as XLRI Jamshedpur, MDI Gurgaon, and ISB Hyderabad also consider GMAT scores. 

It is conducted several times a year by the Graduate Management Admission Council and can be taken online or at a test centre. You can even register for the test online at in minutes.

You can read our beginner’s guide here to learn more about GMAT. 

What is the CAT exam? 

The CAT exam is a standardised test used by reputed Indian management colleges for their admissions. Students seeking to apply to some of the best Indian MBA and finance programmes can take this test. Although, CAT scores aren’t valid outside India . Moreover, CAT is much more competitive and is considered a harder exam to crack by many. 

It is conducted only once a year by one of the many old IIMs on a rotational basis. Unlike GMAT, which aspirants can take up to 5 times in a year, aspirants can only attempt the CAT once every year. 

Is the GMAT and CAT syllabus the same? 

This is a common question for most students, usually preceding the next doubt – is GMAT easier than CAT? 

While there is no right answer to this question, you can look at the format and syllabus of both tests to decide the one best suited for your skills and goals.

Both exams are computer-based tests, although the GMAT is significantly longer (at 187 minutes) than CAT (at 120 minutes) and uses an adaptive testing methodology. In adaptive testing, the chronological order of the questions isn’t fixed. Every time you answer a question right, the next question will become progressively harder. And if you answer wrong, the next question becomes easier. On the other hand, the CAT has the same order and difficulty level of the questions for everybody with no automated adaptation. 

The GMAT has four sections and 80 questions in total, while CAT has 66 MCQs spread across three sections. The GMAT doesn’t punish students for answering incorrectly, but the CAT exam has negative markings for wrong answers. 

Lastly, the GMAT score is immediately visible on the computer screen and remains valid for five years. On this parameter, the CAT score can take a month to arrive, with the validity lasting only a year.

For more GMAT vs CAT differences, refer to the table below. 




FormatComputer-based; can be given online or at a test centre. Computer-based; can only be given at a test centre. 
No. of questions8066
Score validityFive yearsOne year
Total time187 minutes + 30 minutes of prep120 minutes
Total attempts/year5/year and eight total1/year
Negative markingNoYes
Acceptability of the score2400+ universities worldwide, including top colleges in IndiaTop Indian business schools
EligibilityBachelor’s with minimum 50% marksNo minimum academic qualifications
Conducting BodyOld IIMsGMAC
Frequency of examOnce every year on a fixed dateOnce every 16 days on a rolling basis
Exam fee$275 or Rs. 22500Rs.2300


GMAT vs CAT is a perennial debate that requires a thorough review. MBA programmes can play a crucial role in charting your career graph. That’s why it’s always suggested to talk to an experienced consultant who can guide you through the process. You can contact IMS for more information around the CAT & GMAT exam.