How to Prepare for the GMAT and CAT Parallely?

Both the CAT (Common Aptitude Test) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) exams are an integral part of the admission process for individuals who desire to gain admissions in the business and management courses. And most Indian MBA aspirants take up the risk to prepare for both the CAT and GMAT parallely. Indeed, the situation is a very tough one. Thus, to draw a significant conclusion, they ponder on the internet, read numerous blogs and discuss with friends and relatives. The following article will also help you make an informed decision regarding your dilemma.

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Prepare for the GMAT and CAT Parallely

The GMAT gives you the opportunity to apply to eminent B-schools located across the globe; whereas the CAT is primarily for Indian B-schools. However, Indian B-schools also accept GMAT scores for the management programs offered at its campus. The other advantage of GMAT over CAT is that the candidates can take the GMAT upto five times in a year and its score is valid throughout five years. On the other hand, CAT is conducted once a year and the score is valid for the current academic session only.

Although the test structure, nature of questions, and the time available per question are similar, both the tests are still completely different from one another and have only few overlapping concepts. However, preparations for the both GMAT and CAT can be done concurrently, in fact, because some concepts are the same, it is the same as the saying killing two birds with the same stone. There are a few common topics in the quant section for both the CAT and GMAT syllabus. In CAT test, the quant section mainly focuses on Geometry, Mensuration while GMAT focuses on Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and word problems as well.

Therefore, you should not attempt the two tests simultaneously or immediately next to each other. You have to leave a gap of at least 4-6 weeks between the two tests. After you have done your basics, decide which of the two you want to attempt first. Then focus exclusively on that test for about 6 weeks. Once done, move on to the other test. This is absolutely necessary because otherwise, you will not get into the rhythm of the test.

Another vital distinction between the two exams is that with the CAT exam you get to choose the order in which you attempt the sections of the exam. Whereas with the GMAT exam you will have to select the order to attempt your exam only from the 3 existing choices – (Option 1: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order) , Option 2: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment, Option 3: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment). The duration of the exam is again different between both the exams – while the CAT is only 3 hours long, the GMAT exam is almost 4 hours in duration inclusive of the optional 8 minute breaks.

It doesn’t really matter which one you choose to attempt first. Set GMAT in the first position in your priority list as GMAT allows you another attempt after a cooling period of 16 days, so in case things don’t go well the first time round, you can always come back to the GMAT after you are done with the CAT attempt.

Let’s reiterate, while in the GMAT the exam is a computer adaptive test with every right answer the difficulty level increases for the next section. This is also the reason why you cannot skip questions in the GMAT, so you will not be able to afford to have gaps in your preparation. You might get away with not learning Probability for the CAT since there is no penalty for a missed question. You do not have this luxury in the GMAT. The good news is, so long as you have a solid foundation and are comfortable with the basics, you should be able to answer any question in the GMAT. Hence preparing for the Quant section of CAT alone won’t prepare you for the GMAT and vice versa. You will need to draft separate study plans for both the exams so that you don’t miss out on any important topics in any sections of either the GMAT or the CAT.

You must also remember that the scoring pattern for both the exams varies considerably. While the CAT exam uses negative marking structure which means that for every incorrect answer that you make you will receive a -1 negative marking. There will be a 3 mark increment for every right answer which you give in the exam. Conversely the GMAT doesn’t use any negative marking schemes however it does use an adaptive testing technique as already mentioned above. Both the Quant and the Verbal have equal proportion of marks allotted to them (scored between 6 to 51) while the Integrated Reasoning is scored in the range of 1 to 8 and Analytical writing between 0 to 6. Except for the Analytical writing section which has 0.5 increments, the remaining sections have 1 point increments.

The GMAT is significantly different when it comes to the Verbal Section. Unlike the CAT, it is a much more consistent, well-conceived and structured exam. The verbal section in the GMAT is split across three categories: Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning. In CAT, under the verbal section you will be presented with questions under the following sections- Reading Comprehension, Para-jumbles, Critical Reasoning, Misfit Sentence/Error Corrections, Summary Writing and Para-completion. Consequently, the CAT test aims to evaluate you on grammar rules and vocabulary.

Apart from these, the two sections in GMAT viz. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) and Integrated Reasoning demand more practice in terms of writing and it also analyzes your critical thinking ability. These two topics are different from the Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation sections, which one might encounter in the CAT exam. Once again you will have to spend adequate time towards preparation of both of the above mentioned sections individually. It is not wise to simultaneously prepare for both the exams due to the vast differences in many aspects of both the exams.

In the following points we’re highlighting a quick review of both:

  • If you are planning for CAT and GMAT parallely, then you have to start your preparation at the maximum by April.
  • You should target round 1 application deadlines.
  • As we know that GMAT verbal is difficult and CAT quants are difficult, so for giving GMAT in the month of July, one should prepare with GMAT verbal and CAT quants within 3 months.
  • Once GMAT score is given in the month of July, the application process should start and the preparation for the rest of the syllabus of CAT should commence.
  • Data interpretation and logical reasoning can be covered in 2 months easily
  • Once these two important topics are covered, you can start giving mock tests, analyze your performance and practise more.
  • CAT exam is conducted once a year in the month of November. So you will be able to complete your preparation for the exam by then.
  • Once you have given your CAT exam, the results of round 1 from the GMAT exam will be announced. Incase you have been selected then you must start preparing for the interview.
  • In the event that you are not selected then you must start your application procedure for the next round of admissions.

Finally do remember that while the admissions for the CAT requires you to only submit academic credentials (mark sheets from 10th, 12th and undergraduate degree), work experience, academic achievements, co-curricular achievements etc. Contrarily with the GMAT exam you will have to develop several documents like – SOP (Statement of Purpose), LOR (Letter of Recommendation), CV, Any online certifications completed, extracurricular awards/achievements etc. The admissions committee of universities overseas will be keen to admit candidates who have diverse competencies and can add value to their university. Although it is important to have good academic credentials the adcom will want individuals who are versatile and don’t have a common profile which they are bound to come across with the hundreds of applications they receive. Therefore do ensure to spend adequate time to develop all aspects of your profile so that you are able to secure admissions in the university of your preference.

We also list out the syllabus for both the GMAT exam and the CAT exam in the following tables, you will be able to judge better for yourself based on this regarding which topics are similar and which topics are completely different in both the exams.

GMAT Syllabus
1. AWA
2. Integrated Reasoning
Table Analysis
Two-part Analysis
Multi-Source Reasoning
Graphics Interpretation
3. Quantitative Aptitude
Problem Solving
Data Sufficiency
Number Systems
Elementary Algebra
4. Verbal Aptitude
Critical Reasoning
Reading Comprehension
Sentence Correction
CAT Syllabus
1. Quantitative Section
Percentages and its applications
Ratio and its applications
Numbers and its applications
Geometry and its applications
2. Verbal Section
Critical Reasoning (and its numerous applications)
Reading Comprehension
3. Analytical Reasoning
Blood Relations
Direction Sense
Data Structures
Clocks and Calendars
4. Data Interpretation
Line graphs etc

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