GMAT or CAT: I am planning to go for GMAT instead of CAT because I have heard GMAT is easier, is that wise?

Very frequently, I see students opting for GMAT purely because they think CAT is tough. The reasoning goes like this – CAT is too competitive. With GMAT, I can get into a college with any score. This whole line of reasoning usually reminds me of the old Birbal story where Akbar sends Birbal on a trip to find the 10 biggest fools in the kingdom. A part of the story goes thus –

Birbal was coming back to the palace in the dark. He saw a man searching for something under a street lamp, and stopped to help him. 
‘What have you lost?’ asked Birbal.
‘A ring from my finger.’
As they could find nothing, Birbal naturally asked: ‘Are you sure you dropped it here?’
‘No,’ was the answer. ‘I dropped it over there, but it’s dark there and light here. I am searching where I can see.’ 

Many students’ most preferred reason for taking GMAT is the fact that they think it is easier than CAT. To put it bluntly, this is daft. This piece of daftness has been built on 3 wonderful myths.

Myth 1: Indian students totally crack GMAT and are among the best students in top global B-schools
The GMAT exam is not that easy. It is a myth that Indian students totally ‘crack’ the GMAT. Importantly, beyond getting a good GMAT score, one needs to write essays, and have a solid profile to have a crack at the best colleges,Graduating from one of the top 20 in the US is excellent, but there is no great honour in graduating from the 75th ranked school in the US. Because of law of large numbers, some of the best Indian students join the best B-schools in the US and do well there as well. These are the guys who score 750 in GMAT and are generally among the ones good enough to score 99.5 percentile in CAT as well.

Myth 2: With even a just-about-decent GMAT score, I can get into a good college
Think about this, is it going to be easier to get into the top 20 colleges in the US, than into the top 20 in India? Lot of people spend time and effort, get a middling 670 score and go nowhere with this. Unless you are a rockstar, a 670 is unlikely to secure a great admit. 670 pegs you at around the 83rd percentile. One-sixth of the total 2.4 lakh or so applicants have scored more than you. All other things being equal, you can hope to join a college that a student ranked 40,000th in the world can get into. Sorry to be blunt about this, but this is what the numbers say.

Myth 3: If I am taking the GMAT, I must be really ambitious (and cool). 
Cracking the GMAT suggests ambition, merely taking it, or worse just preparing for it conveys no such thing. Very often, students want to feed into the I-am-built-for-bigger-things story by joining some middling college with the ok-ish score they have.

For a large number (unfortunately very large number), merely planning to take the GMAT slakes a big part of their ambition. So, once this is I-am-going-to-try-for-an-MBA gig is done, they continue with their lives. In many ways, this is probably the lesser to the two evils.

Do the research
Now, I am not suggesting that people who take the GMAT do not know what they are doing. About 60% of the test-takers are serious, prepare well, plan well, know their chances, know the costs of doing an MBA in the US and generally go about this entire process with a level of seriousness. Be clear about why you are taking the GMAT and do sufficient research for this. Do not take the exam merely because it is easier than CAT.

Do not invite hubris
In many ways, the GMAT is far better structured to test what it aims to test than the CAT. The quality of questions (not the difficulty level), the adaptive engine, the level of feedback provided, the ability to distinguish between conceptual clarity and drill – in all these aspects the GMAT is head and shoulders above the CAT. I am a big fan of the GMAT exam and am often disappointed with how the CAT is conducted in our Country.

Merely designating GMAT as “easier than CAT” does a disservice to the exam, This attitude makes aspirants complacent even before they begin preparation and invites hubris.

Things to keep in mind while choosing between GMAT and CAT
There are many factors to consider while choosing between GMAT and CAT. The top few are given below – Click on this article to get more info

As far as India is concerned, the biggest fish is CAT
Give or take 90 out of the top 100 select based on CAT, with quite of a few of these selecting based only on CAT. This includes the IIMs (13 of these, soon to be 18), IITs, SP Jain, FMS, Bajaj, NITIE, MDI, IMT, among a great many others

For international MBAs, it is GMAT
Almost all universities in the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Europe select based on GMAT. In India ISB and Great Lakes select based on GMAT. All the IIMs (+ MDI, XLRI etc) use the GMAT score for admissions into their executive MBA programs.

CAT or GMAT, which one should I take?
There are two simple rules
1. If you want to do in India, take CAT. If you want to go abroad, take GMAT.
2. If you are a fresher, take CAT. If you have more than 8 years of experience, give preference to GMAT

If you have 2-4 years of experience, and not sure whether you want to do MBA in India or abroad, then the decision is even simpler. Take both….

India or abroad, Fresher or Experienced candidate – these are the two relevant factors to consider while choosing between GMAT and CAT. Easy or difficult is a far less important criterion.

Apologies if I have been harsh on this blog post. Best wishes for your entrance exam preparations – be it for GMAT or CAT.

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