GMAT vs CAT: a Duel That Never Ends

Firstly, the students should be aware of the fact that FUNDAMAKERS provides dedicated classroom programs for both CAT and GMAT.

We are always committed towards helping every single aspirant in realising his or her dream of securing the coveted seat in one of most prestigious B-schools, either in India or abroad!
“Should I write CAT or GMAT?”
is a question that bugs several students aspiring to be managers. I have been asked this question innumerable times over the past decade. We would be discussing GMAT vs CAT in this article and the parameters a student should consider before taking the final decision. Two parameters that we will be discussing in depth are: GMAT vs CAT on the basis of the aspirant’s wish to study in India or Abroad and GMAT vs CAT on the basis of work experience of the aspirant.

About CAT:
Common Admission Test or CAT is a ticket to the MBA colleges in India. It is conducted by the prestigious IIMs for admission into their management courses. CAT result is also accepted by 200+ B-Schools in India. In the international landscape, CAT results are accepted by few international B-Schools, namely, HEC Paris, ESCP Europe, Emlyon Business School etc. thus, the international attractiveness for CAT is low. But the fact that all the IIMs, exclusively, consider only CAT score is enough to make the exam ‘a must’ for any aspirant wishing to do an MBA within the country. Note that the CAT score is valid only for a year.

About GMAT:
Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT on the other hand, is an exam that almost all the international B-Schools (outside India) consider as a part of their admission process. Even within India, few top B-Schools consider the GMAT score (although most of Indian B-Schools may accept GMAT scores for their executive programs, but more on that later!). GMAT score is valid up to 5 years.


student’s decision on CAT or GMAT depends on whether a student is willing to go abroad for MBA. If the answer to this question is a ‘no’, then obviously, GMAT has little use (ISB is a great option in India, will discuss more later in this article) for such a student, and CAT should become the primary focus. And if a student wants to pursue MBA only from colleges abroad, then GMAT obviously is the only choice.

Now that there is a basic understanding, let us develop a framework to come up to the final decision. We will begin by classifying the student into categories as, our advice throughout this article will be according to the student categories. For this article, we will divide the students into 3 categories based on work experience –

0-2 years’ work-ex
2-5 years’ work-ex
5 years’ work-ex
We will also focus on GMAT score use mostly in the article as CAT scores have only a single use – to get into the 2-year flagship program of some of the top B-Schools in our country.

0-2 years’ work-ex (Category 1)
We will include the pre final and final year students in this category. If a student in this category decides to do an MBA, and is open to both abroad and in India, then the below possibilities exist

GMAT score use abroad:
based on the work experience, the student will not be suitable for most of the MBA colleges abroad. The best course recommended abroad at this juncture for a student is the MiM course. It is tailor made for students with little or no work experience. The students at this level will relate a lot more to the MiM courses over MBA courses and are more likely to extract the maximum value from MiM over MBA courses abroad. We highly recommend students of this category to not worry about MBA but focus on MiM programs abroad.
If you are more technically oriented and like to have a mix of management and engineering, there are courses called MEM that blend these two together.

GMAT score use in India:
students of this category can use GMAT score only in a few Indian colleges for respective 2-year flagship MBA programs. While there might be other colleges accepting GMAT scores in India for their MBA program, we are sticking only to the top 20 colleges that accept the score.There are only 2 colleges in the top 20 that accept GMAT scores as a part of their admission process into their 2-year flagship MBA programs.
These are –
ISB – Indian School of Business accepts only GMAT scores for all its programs. It is positioning itself as an international B-School offering 1-year MBA programs. ISB has a minimum work-ex requirement of 2 years for students to get admitted into the course. However, it has processes such as YLP and EEO (for students who are in college or working but have less than requisite work-ex respectively) that enable all students in this category to apply.

SPJIMR – SP Jain Institute of Management & Research accepts GMAT score on par with CAT scores. However, students usually tend to write CAT over GMAT due to the cost difference in the exam. But if one thinks that GMAT is more suitable, one can apply to this college using the GMAT score too!

2-5 years’ work-ex (category 2)
Students of this category will have mixed options now that MBA from colleges abroad is also suitable for them. Unless one decides not to go abroad (also ISB is not in your consideration set in which case CAT is and other Indian exams are options left) or decide to pursue MBA abroad (in which case GMAT is the option), one should focus primarily on CAT but also give GMAT a shot.
The reasons for this is –
● Preparing for CAT is much more rigorous than your standalone preparation for GMAT thereby making parallel preparation for GMAT easier.
● Students above 4 years of work-ex can use GMAT scores to apply to executive programs from some of the top colleges in India (like the IIMs, XLRI etc.)
● Value addition for longer work-ex students from MBA courses abroad will be higher than that of courses in the country. Typically, 4 years point is where the CAT becomes the secondary preference and GMAT takes the first spot

>5 years’ work-ex (category 3)
Clearly for this group of students, GMAT will be the only way out. CAT will become unsuitable for the students as most of the Indian colleges will not add great value for students with such work-experiences compared with MBA options abroad. Students of this category can also seriously consider 1-year executive MBA programs within the country (GMAT may be required).