Exploring the GMAT route

GMAT score is accepted in several top ranked MBA programs across the globe. If you are thinking of increasing your options for an MBA education, GMAT should be in your target. In this article, we explore more about GMAT, and how it differs from CAT.

In our article titled, “MBA Entrance Tests: All you need to know”, we discussed some of the most commonly taken entrance tests for admission for MBA programs in India. Most of these entrance tests function as the screening mechanism for their two-year post-graduate program in management. However, not everyone wants to pursue a two-year MBA, and not everyone wants to pursue it only in India. What course of action should such MBA aspirants take? The answer is – GMAT and GRE. However, despite the increasing acceptability of GRE scores, the GMAT is still the number one choice for MBA aspirants. So, in this article, we will tell you all about the GMAT route.


The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the most preferred standardized test for several reputed and highly regarded MBA programmes across the globe. More than 2,100+ universities and institutes across the world use the GMAT scores as part of the selection criteria for admission into their graduate management programs that include, MBA, Master of Accountancy, and Master of Finance programs.


In India, most of the 1-year MBA programs require GMAT scores as part of their admission process. To view the list of and know more about these programmes click here.


GMAT – separating facts from myths


Several MBA aspirants believe that the GMAT test is for those who have many years of work experience, and that it is only for admission into the International Business Schools or Executive programs in India.


Neither is true.


With GMAT, you can get into several top ranked and highly reputed Universities and Institutes worldwide (such as London Business School, Kellogg School of Management, etc.) with limited or no work experience at all. GMAT is also steadily finding acceptance in the flagship programmes (including ones that require no work experience) of some of the top ranked Indian B-schools (such as ISB, SP Jain, Great Lakes Institute of Management, TAPMI, MICA and more).


You must have read in news articles that suddenly GMAT has found interest among MBA aspirants, and that they are shunning CAT in favour of GMAT. These are extremely misleading articles. First of all, if we compare the number of CAT 2015 takers and GMAT 2015 takers, we notice that the latter increased only by 2.9% against 7% increase in CAT test takers. So, no one is shunning CAT – it is going to remain the most preferred management entrance test in India in future too. However, GMAT has managed to increase the number of test takers steadily over the past five years, growing at 7% CAGR since 2011.


Table 1: Number of test-takers for CAT and GMAT


Year 2011

Year 2012

Year 2013

Year 2014

Year 2015

Common Admission Test (CAT)






Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) (India)







Truth is that both the tests appeal to completely different set of MBA aspirants. The current average age of CAT takers is approximately 22 years, while the current average age of GMAT takers in India is approximately 26 years. Do understand that this difference of 4 years is not by chance.


GMAT is preferred mostly by aspirants, who have had some work experience (usually 3-4 years) under their belt, while CAT is popular mostly among Freshers, people with 1-2 years of experience, and even those pursuing their final year of undergraduate education. However, as many B-schools in India start opening up to GMAT, it is going to gain popularity and takers in India.


Here is how the GMAT and CAT compare




Test Conducted by

Graduate Management Admission Council, a non-profit governed by top global business schools

One of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)


$ 250 (Rs. 17,000)

$ 50 (for each rescheduling request)

 Rs. 1,600

Test Score validity

5 years

Some B-schools in India do not consider scores older than 3 years

1 year

Multiple Score

If you have had multiple attempts at the GMAT, the highest score is considered at most business schools

No such flexibility


Can be taken 5 times in one year


Can be rescheduled 7 days before the test date

Only once in an year


Rescheduling can be done, but the date has to be within the test window and subject to availability

Test Sections & Duration

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): 30 min.


Integrated Reasoning: 30 min.


Quantitative: 75 min.


Verbal: 75 min.


Test takers can also take breaks


3 Hours, 30 Minutes

Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation: 70 min


Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning: 70 min


Additional 15 min. tutorial before the test begins


2 Hours, 35 Minutes

Test Format

Adaptive: Test taker can view only one question at a time; if the answer provided is correct, the next question would be slightly tougher and reward more for accurate answer.


There is no negative marking.


Once you have answered a question, you cannot go back and change your answer.


Test taker also can not skip a question.

Each section comprises
of 30 questions.


Test taker has to attempt Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation
section first, followed by the Verbal Ability
& Logical Reasoning section.


Candidates can review the various answers within a section
during the time provided. Once a section is
completed, candidates do not have access to it.


There is a +3 marking for a correct answer
provided and a -1 marking for an incorrect answer.


No marks are given for unanswered questions.


Test takers may also skip a few answers instead
of providing incorrect answers.


Similar to GMAT, results provided mention the percentile rankings for each individual
section and the overall test score.

Score Reporting

Scores are declared section-wise, and also a composite score on the scale of 800 is given; AWA is reported on the scale of 6.0

Scores are declared section-wise and total, along with percentile

Score delivery

Scores on Verbal and Quantitative sections can be known immediately after the test is taken.


It may take up to 3 Weeks for the official scores to reach the candidate

CAT results are announced much later at a fixed date

Number of Institutes the score can be reported to

 5 (without additional expense)


$28 for each additional reporting


Courses accepting the score

One and Two year, full-time MBA, Masters in Business Management (MBM/MiM), Executive MBA (part-time) across India, USA, UK, Australia, APAC and China

Two-year Post Graduate Programs in Management at Indian business schools

Sectional cut-offs while selection process

Most B-schools accepting GMAT do not have sectional cut-offs

B-schools accepting CAT tend to have sectional cut offs

Importance of test score in admission process

Most B-schools using GMAT assign 20%-30% weight to the score, while evaluating candidature.

They also include several other aspects such as work experience, extracurricular achievements, essays etc. for short listing candidates for interview

CAT scores are used as screening, so it is assigned significantly high weight during the selection process.

B-schools shortlist candidates for interview based solely on CAT scores

The ideal test taker

GMAT is accepted for both post experience management courses (MBAs) and pre-experience management courses (MBM/MiMs) at business schools across the world.

If you aspire to have an MBA education in USA, Europe or India or an MBM/MiM course in USA, Europe, Australia or Asia-pacific

CAT scores are accepted for PGP courses in India. Most of these institutes admit freshers, or candidates with 1-2 years experience.

Take CAT if you intend to target 2-year management education in India


The Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) 2016 testing year has begun.  If you are interested in securing admission in various Business schools and management programs across the world, it should be in your focus now.


Just to recap:


  • The Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) has four sections, spread across 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • The first section is Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) (30 minutes): AWA measures the candidates’ ability to think critically and to communicate their ideas on a given topic
  • The second section is Integrated Reasoning (12 Questions; 30 minutes): IR comprises of Multi-Source Reasoning, Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis and Table Analysis
  • The third section is Quantitative section (37 Questions; 75 minutes): This section tests a candidate on skills and proficiency in Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving
  • The fourth section is Verbal section, (41 Questions; 75 minutes): It involves Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction
  • The GMAT Scores range from 200 to 800.  A score in the range of 680-720 is considered competitive at the Top-20 business schools across the world. That said, GMAT is only a small, but very important piece in b-schools’ admission process


To know more about GMAT and its process, visit their official website: www.mba.com

Some great resources for preparing for GMAT are – The Official Guide for GMAT® Review (2017), The Official Guide for GMAT® Quantitative Review (2017), and The Official Guide for GMAT® Verbal Review (2017) – featuring more than 1,500 real GMAT questions and their answer explanations.