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Shatakshi Sharma, St Stephens College, University of Delhi Graduate, ISB MBA, strategist to government of India, former BCG management consultant, advisor to tony blair institute, ivy league exchange student, LinkedIn Top Voice and co-founder of Global Governance Initiative

Career insights by GGI is a new series by GGI sharing hacks and tips around management consulting, MBA, product management and public policy.

In this GGI career insight, we will be sharing insights into: the toughness, scope, financials, and eligibility of CAT and GMAT.


Both of these exams include quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and integrated reasoning. The quantitative reasoning section tests your quantitative skills, whereas verbal reasoning checks your critical thinking. Through the integrated reasoning section, they check your ability to read data.

GMAT over and above has an analytical writing section. This section is not counted in the final score, but still hold importance.

If you want to read about skills you need before doing an MBA, check out my insights here.

1. Location of school

First and foremost, CAT is more of a domestic exam. More than 130 MBA schools, including the IIMs, accept this test.

On the other hand, the GMAT is a global exam, which is accepted by around 2000 MBA schools in India and about 7000 MBA schools abroad.

When I was 24 and going through the conundrum of deciding on MBA schools, I thought about taking both these exams.

But, my friend advised me to focus on just one, as you need to be in the top 1-2 percentile to gain admission to a good college.

2. Toughness

In my opinion, CAT had a tougher section on math. It seems to prefer those who are engineers by degrees or hail from the IITs.

Whereas, GMAT has a competitive section in English.

3. Number of questions

You have to solve 100 questions in 2 hours in CAT.

For GMAT, you have to solve 80 questions in 3 hours.

4. Validity

Now CAT score is valid for only 1 year. I know of GGIans who had an offer from IIM Ahemdabad but wanted to take a deferral. Such a request was not accepted by the institution and they would have to take this exam again.

GMAT is valid for much longer, that is 5 years. This is largely because people tend to take the GMAT for other master's courses as well. The interesting part here is that they can use the same score for their PhD admissions as well, rather than taking this exam twice.

5. Fees

CAT is relatively cheaper costing about 2000INR. Though, GMAT is at the higher end of the spectrum costing about 19,000 INR. This parity is largely because GMAT is a global exam and its fee has to be paid in dollars.

The notable aspect is that you don’t end up wasting an year on GMAT is you do not get your score the first time. You can take multiple attempts, unlike CAT where you have to wait an entire year.

6. Preparation cost

CAT has a very vast syllabus. Thus, working professionals take coaching for it which costs around 450USD.

On the contrary, GMAT has a much more precise syllabus as you have the official guide. You know the entire math syllabus is going to come from these certain topics. Thus, you do not need additional coaching to crack this exam. The aforementioned guide costs around 48USD.

7. Why I chose GMAT over CAT?

I was very clear that I wanted to take the GMAT route largely due to 2 reasons- the location of the schools and the toughness of the exam.

In the initial few days, I was scoring more on the GMAT due to my English speaking skills. This was reflecting in my sentence correction and analytical questions. The kind of English that GMAT tests is more on the analytical front than the grammatical.

In addition to this, I always had the keenness to study abroad. Eventually, I ended up studying at ISB and went for an exchange program at Harvard University and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Feel free to check my thoughts on MBA specialisations here.

If you need more help getting into management consulting and product management, feel free to check out my education venture- Global Governance Initiative. We invite industry leaders to host Masterclasses and teach our students the hard and soft skills required to excel in their careers.


Author: Shatakshi Sharma, Co-CEO Global Governance Initiative, Ex-BCG Management Consultant, Former Policy Advisor, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.

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