The first stumble every MBA aspirant faces is the – “entrance” test. When one starts their research about MBA entrance exams there are only 2 results that pop up instantly: GMAT and CAT. Both the exams are aimed at 2 separate and distinct categories. Recently Indian B-schools have started accepting GMAT scores which have left many candidates in a dilemma on which exam to pursue. CAT is exclusively aimed at students aspiring to complete their MBA at IIMS or any nationally renowned B-schools. On the other hand, GMAT is attempted by candidates who would like to study at international B-schools which are prominent worldwide.
There have been many studies which indicate that opting GMAT is beneficial when compared to CAT exam. We will delve a bit deeper into why this is so in the following article.
The number of aspirants and market trends:
Every year over 1.8 to 2 lakh students appear for the CAT exam competing for 10,000 -20,000 seats in the top management colleges across the country. You can see from the above numbers how challenging the task will be to gain one seat in these colleges. In addition to the above-stated numbers, you will also have to face discrimination on the basis of the community making an already tough task impossible. However, in the case of GMAT, you will not face any such concerns. This is because while the number of people attempting the exam may be high, the actual number competing with you for admissions in the university of your choice will be significantly lesser. Thereby giving you a fair chance to get admitted provided you have the right credentials. GMAT also gives you the choice to study in any country – Hong Kong, Canada, the US, Australia, Germany etc. you desire. It provides you with ample options for obtaining scholarships and to study in a culturally and linguistically diverse atmosphere. Additionally, you can interact with students from various backgrounds giving you a lot of exposure. Another factor which favors the GMAT is that the number of colleges which candidates will be applying to is vast in comparison with the CAT exam. Due to the limited number of colleges which are available for admissions with the CAT exam, it leads to intense competition for seats in the top-ranked colleges.
More opportunities to increase your score:
The CAT exam can be comparable to the occurrence of the festival Diwali. It takes place only once a year and after all the festivities (Registering for the exam, preparation for the exam to attempting the exam and receiving the scores) are complete you will have to wait for one more year for the same. It does not give you the privilege to improve your scores or if you have missed the exam to write the exam on a different date.
Conversely, the GMAT exam is extremely flexible and gives the candidates many additional features like the cancellation of scores, Score selection (Selecting the best score out of all your attempts) and also the major option to attempt the exam on any day all year around. There are other benefits where you can attempt the exam up to 5 times in a calendar year with a 16-day gap between each attempt. Certainly, all of the above advantages do have a hefty price tag involved since you will have to pay the full exam fee cost for each attempt of the GMAT exam. However, the rewards you will enjoy are far greater than the cost involved.
The format of the Test:
While the CAT exam has a specific order in which you will have to attempt the exam the GMAT, on the other hand, offers you 3 different ways to choose from:
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
The CAT exam has recently become computerized similar to the GMAT exam while previously it used to be a paper-based test. Another difference between the CAT and the GMAT exam is that the GMAT uses adaptive testing patterns which means that the difficulty level of the next section depends on your performance in the previous section. Yet one more contrast between the exams is that with the CAT exam you have the option to skip questions and go ahead with the exam. On the other hand, thi is not possible with the GMAT exam, since the computer decides on the difficulty level of your next question based on your answer to the previous question. Therefore you don’t have the option to skip, return or change your answers to any of the questions. You will not have such restrictions with the CAT exam. The CAT exam does not have any Writing Sections whereas the GMAT has a specific division dedicated to evaluating the candidate’s writing prowess. The Analytical Writing section aims to judge the individual’s ability to think critically and analyze a given argument to convey his/her ideas in a clear manner according to the question which is given in the exam.
Calculation of Scores/Scoring Patterns:
This is yet another aspect which is different for both the exams. The total scores for the CAT exam is- 300 which is divided into the 3 sections as follows:
- Quantitative Aptitude – 34 questions
- Logical Reasoning – 32 questions
- Verbal Reasoning – 34 questions
There is an increment of 3 points for every correct answer. The CAT exam also has a negative marking so for every incorrect answer you make there is a 1 point deduction as well. You will not face this issue in the GMAT since there is no negative marking concept for this exam. The scoring for the GMAT exam is divided as mentioned below for every section:
- Quantitative Aptitude – Scored between 6 to 51 with 1 point increment
- Verbal Reasoning – Scored between 6 to 51 with 1 point increment
- Analytical Writing – Scored between 0 to 6 with an increment of 0.5 points
- Integrated Reasoning – Scored between 1 to 8 with an increment of 0.5 points
It is therefore important to keep in mind the above division of scores during your preparation so that you can accordingly plan your studying strategies as well. Another important point to remember is that while the CAT exam is scored in percentile, the GMAT is absolute. This means that your CAT score is dependent on how others have performed in the exam as well meanwhile your GMAT score is independent of such requirements. Your GMAT score reflects only on your performance in the exam.
Duration of the Exam:
The duration of the exams is distinct as well. The CAT exam has a duration of 180 minutes whereas the GMAT exam has a duration of close to 4 hours (inclusive of the breaks). As you can see the GMAT exam requires you to spend almost double the time you spend on the CAT exam. You must be well equipped to handle sitting for such long hours and hence you should begin attempting more practice exams which will help you in this regard. You get accustomed to the total time you need to spend on the exam and also on how much time you have to allocate on each section of the exam as well. If you have short attention spans then it is highly recommended that you begin intensive preparation so that during the final exam you will not face any difficulties.
Syllabus/Content of the exam:
The syllabus once again varies between both the exams. Although both of the exams have similar topics the content has some variations and therefore it is not sufficient if you prepare for only one of the exams and attempt the other exam on the basis of the same. The exams are aimed at evaluating an individual’s competencies in Quantitative, Verbal, Logical Reasoning and Analytical Writing (only for GMAT) skills. The syllabus for the CAT exam is more focused on the quantitative reasoning and data interpretation capabilities of its applicants while the GMAT syllabus aims at judging the individual’s verbal skills and analytical abilities. Finally, it is critical to remember that the main intent of the exam is to check if the individuals are qualified enough to handle the challenging/demanding schedules of an MBA program and can adapt to the academic schedules accordingly.
Cost of the exam:
The cost is an additional element which differentiates the CAT from the GMAT exam. The GMAT exam is more expensive when compared to the CAT exam. The CAT exam costs – Rs.1900 contrarily the GMAT exam costs $250. Even though the cost of the GMAT exam is high the ROI which you will receive once you complete the exam will be higher.
Greater validity of the Score:
The validity of the test scores also plays a crucial role in the minds of candidates since it contributes to a compelling part in the admission process. The GMAT scores are valid for 5 years from the date you attempt the exam. Au contraire, the CAT score will be valid only for a year and you will have to retake the exam if you want to apply for admissions the next year. GMAT gives you the chance to take the exam now, gain a few years of work experience and then start your application procedures to gain admissions in the universities of your choice. This will not be possible with your CAT exam since you will have to apply the same year you have attempted the exam lest the score becomes ineffective. This option of GMAT ensures that you have enough time to build your profile and complete all the application procedures at your pace of time. You do not have to meet any other deadlines apart from the universities you are applying to since you can rest assured that your GMAT scores are valid for 5 years.
Greater GMAT acceptance in India:
Attempting the CAT will certainly assist you in gaining admissions in any of the top B schools in India. Ultimately though it is basically an exam which is specific only to India. However recently many Indian B-schools have started accepting GMAT scores for admissions in their universities. You can make use of this policy if you change your mind about where you want to study (In India or overseas). Previously most Indian B-schools accepted GMAT scores from candidates who were NRI citizens and not from Indian students. This is still the case in certain schools however in India. Therefore you will have to check the requirements of each university before you proceed to apply. GMAT scores are accepted worldwide as already mentioned and it increases your chances of getting admitted into some of the illustrious universities in the world.
You should take a decision accordingly after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both the exams.
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