Which should I write? GMAT or CAT ?

A common query many MBA aspirants have is “Which should I take? the GMAT or CAT ?”

Difficulty level comparison – the wrong way to look at this

This can be a tricky question for students to find the answer for – especially since most tend to compare the difficulties of tests rather than real world ‘usefulness’ to make their decisions. Grading the GMAT and CAT based on difficulty is pointless. Why? Because they are tests that give out scores in ‘percentiles’ and not number of right vs wrong responses. A percentile score, for the uninitiated, is the representation of how well a student fared in comparison to all the other test takers.

By this rationale, it’s illogical to compare difficulty levels between test to make a decision; who you are competing against and how likely you are to get into a Business school with your score is what actually matters!

Considering this, let’s address the issue from the ‘usefulness’ perspective…

Which test is more ‘useful’ GMAT or CAT ?

Let’s dissect the differences based on a few criteria.


CAT: You can take the CAT once in a year and test scores are valid only for a year. Scores are published, generally, a few weeks after test dates.

GMAT: You can take the test 5 times a year. Scores are generated as soon as you complete the test. You can retake the test within 16 days. Test scores can be cancelled or reinstated as required, essentially letting you send the best scores to the colleges you are applying to.

Winner: GMAT

Colleges that accept GMAT vs CAT scores

CAT: Typically an Indian test and the number of (Indian) colleges that accept CAT scores are in the 100s. Many of these colleges accept candidate who don’t have work-ex.

GMAT: Accepted in Indian B-schools as well as B-schools all over the world. The programs that accepts GMAT scores number in the 1000s! One disadvantage is that most of these programs require at least 2–3 years of work-ex.

Winner: Depends; if you are a fresher and want to apply only to Indian schools, the CAT is the winner. But, if you have some work ex and want to cast your options wide – the GMAT definitely takes the win!

‘Usability’ of scores

All said and done, what’s important is that you get into a good B-school program with the best score you can get. The problem with CAT is that the competition tends to be really high for the good B-schools. Scores in the 95+ percentile become mandatory! This is not the case with GMAT. Even with scores in the mid 70 percentiles you can still get into really good programs (in colleges all over the world) if you have other strong qualities in your ‘profile’.

For instance: The IIM-A 2 year MBA program requires (in most cases) a 99 percentile score as minimum cut-off. On the other hand for the PGPX (one year executive MBA) program by IIMA, which accepts GMAT scores, I’ve known candidates get in with as low as a 75 percentile score! Do note that these candidates had amazing profiles.

Winner: GMAT by a long shot!

Still wondering whether GMAT or CAT ?

Here’s a quick summary

  • If you have work experience GMAT because it opens a whole world of options
  • If you don’t have work experience, CAT – but your odds are really small getting into an Elite Indian school without work-ex either ways!

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