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CAT Vs GMAT: A CAT 100 percentile scorer speaks.

Posted on January 02, 2015
Cat vs GMAT

“I have a 100 percentile in CAT Verbal!”


Every time I say this to someone, I see eyeballs popping. “Wow!” they chorus, “Which IIM did you go to?” The answer is none.


I was born with a severe case of Quantophobia and my CAT Quant percentile was (and is) “undisclosable”. So, despite having an overall percentile of 99.47, I did not clear any of the IIMs’ cut-offs. Of course, in those days, there were just a handful of IIMs; so I really didn’t have many options.


Now that I have crossed over to the other side and been in the GMAT space for a while, here is my take on the age-old CAT Vs GMAT battle.


The CAT route to an MBA can damage your self-worth!

I am sure many of you are burning with curiosity to know my Quant score. “How bad can it be?” you’re probably thinking.

This is exactly what an entire higher education system thought – my profile, leadership skills, extracurricular interests… none of this mattered at that time. I have a stellar academic record and been in the top 5% of my class throughout – but that didn’t matter either. No one even wanted to interview me before making a decision. It was as though my Quant score had decided who I was.


This is a very unforgiving system and it can do a lot of damage to your self-esteem.


As of today, I have worked with a few hundred clients and reviewed more MBA applications than I care to remember. Each time I talk to my clients, I realize how talented every person is – how unique their stories are, how strong their motivation to do an MBA and how clear their goals.
And I am glad I am helping them present their case to a different, more forgiving MBA admission system. By taking the GMAT and going a different route, they are at least given a chance to talk about who they are and what they want from life.


By the way, it is a myth that the GMAT is accepted only by “foreign” MBA programs. One of my colleagues took the CAT 4 years in a row with fluctuating and frustrating results. His percentiles fluctuated between 78 and 94. Finally, he took the GMAT in 2008, got a modest 640 but made it to his dream school: MICA, ranked #1 for marketing and communication programs.


If your goal is to get a management education, you should seriously consider taking the GMAT and applying to a set of programs that look beyond your score report.


You can do SO MUCH MORE with a GMAT score!

The GMAT is a test that has tremendous acceptability. Not only is the GMAT score valid for 5 years (so you can take the test now and apply to programs when you are ready) but it is accepted as an eligibility criterion for a lot of programs in India and abroad. Here is a sample of the variety of programs you can apply to with a GMAT score:
MBA in India
MBA abroad
Masters in Management (MIM) abroad
Specialized Masters programs (Information Systems, Marketing, Analytics, Supply Chain Management, Finance etc.)
Fellowship/PhD programs in India and abroad
Tata Administrative Services

The GMAT is also a universally accepted test – so, whether you are looking at studying Information Systems in Australia, luxury marketing in France or manufacturing in China, the GMAT is your best bet.


The GMAT is a FAR more learnable test than the CAT is!


I took the CAT again last year just to experience it online (yeah, the last time I took it, it was paper-based. Nothing like a test going online to make you feel old!) and to see how much has changed. I even harbored dreams of getting 100 percentile again and converting it into a hat trick. But normalization played its cruel trick and I ended up with 99.96 percentile. (Yes, I know some of you are gnashing your teeth in fury at my modesty or lack thereof!)


Yet, comparing the two tests, I would say that it is a LOT EASIER to prepare for the GMAT.


Here are 5 reasons why this is so:

1. The GMAT tests you mostly on logic, strategy and only a finite set of skills. No terrible topics like logarithms or the binomial theorem.
2. The GMAT is a heavily pattern-based test – so you don’t get any nasty surprises on test day.
3. There are literally hundreds of official GMAT questions for you to practice – you don’t have to rely on poorly worded question sets with dubious answer keys downloaded off the net.
4. You get 4 full-length official tests, each of which you can take multiple times to hone your test-taking skills & time management.
5. The GMAT is conducted by the same body year after year – so there is none of the unpredictability or ambiguity that scoring and normalization trends bring.

My advice to all of you considering a management education is to take a step back, identify whether you are barking up the wrong tree, and if you are, move on to the right one.

All the best! 🙂
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