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GMAT vs CAT – What is the difference between the two?

01 January, 2024 By Parthiva Mewawala, IMS India

Most typical business schools in India and abroad base their application evaluations for the MBA and finance programmes 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.

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 MBA.com 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. 




Format Computer-based; can be given online or at a test centre.  Computer-based; can only be given at a test centre. 
Sections 4 3
No. of questions 80 66
Score validity Five years One year
Total time 187 minutes + 30 minutes of prep 120 minutes
Total attempts/year 5/year and eight total 1/year
Negative marking No Yes
Acceptability of the score 2400+ universities worldwide, including top colleges in India Top Indian business schools
Eligibility Bachelor’s with minimum 50% marks No minimum academic qualifications
Conducting Body Old IIMs GMAC
Frequency of exam Once every year on a fixed date Once every 16 days on a rolling basis
Exam fee $275 or Rs. 22500 Rs.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.