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CAT vs GRE: Decoding the Key Differences

Updated on 07 November, 2023

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

CAT and GRE are the two most widely accepted admission tests that need to be cleared while applying to an array of top MBA programs and leading global universities. Both CAT and GRE are highly competitive entrance examinations that help educational institutes gauge the academic prowess of applicants and make admission related decisions.


While GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) scores are considered for admission into various graduate, postgraduate and doctorate courses at Indian and foreign universities, the CAT (Common Admission Test) percentile is for aspirants who wish to pursue MBA from prestigious B-schools in India. This barebone understanding of “who should take these tests and for what purpose” might undermine the objective of this article but as we progress, we will layer by layer, critically analyze them. In the process, we shall also comprehensively look at GRE vs CAT differences to enable our readers to decide on the one that will take them closer to their desired professional journeys.

CAT vs GRE: Key differences

Eligibility1 year5 years
Max score300 (228 in 2020)340
Duration3 hours (2 hours n 2020 due to pandemic)

3 hours 45 minutes (GRE General Test)

2 hours 50 minutes (GRE Subject Test)

Eligibility criteriaA graduate with at least 50 % marks (general category)No as such requirement
Organizing bodyIndian Institute of Management (IIMs)Educational Testing Service (ETS)
SectionsQuantitative Ability, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, and Data Interpretation & Logical ReasoningQuantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing and Verbal Reasoning
Nature of testLinear test: The questions are pre-decided and don’t adapt to a candidate’s ability.Computer-adaptive test: It adapts to the ability of candidates and is dynamic.
When are the exams conducted?Once every yearRound the year

Cost of exam



INR 2200 for general category, INR 1100 for reserved category

USD 213 (INR 15,670 for GRE General Test)

USD 150 (INR 11,035 for GRE Subject Test)

Types of testsNo other type

GRE General Test: Knowledge of no specific field of study is measured.


GRE Subject Test: Knowledge of a specific subject such as Mathematics, Physics, Biology, and others is measured.

Key purpose of taking the testsAdmission to IIMs & other reputed B-schools in IndiaMS courses in the USA & also MBA courses abroad

Requirements to apply for CAT and GRE:

GRE eligibility

1. No specific age or educational qualifications are required to take the GRE.

2. Candidates have to produce their original passport as an ID proof at the test center. Therefore, a valid passport is required at the time of registration.

3.  Aadhar Card is also now being accepted as an ID proof.

CAT eligibility

1. A bachelor’s degree with 50% for general category (45% for reserved category) from a recognized university.

2. Professional degree (ICWA/CA/CS) with required percentage.

3. Aspirants who have completed bachelors in pandemic years (2020 & 2021) or are in their final semester/year can write a pass or promotion during their registration.  

GRE vs CAT syllabus

Quant section:

Twenty-six questions need to be attempted within 40 minutes. It is a mix of MCQs and non-MCQs.40 questions need to be attempted within 70 minutes. It only contains MCQs.

Topics covered in the section include Geometry, Probability, Algebra, Work and Time, Logarithms, Time-Speed-Distance, Binomial Theorem, Quadratic and Linear Equations, Square Root and Cube Root, Ratio and Proportion, Profit & Loss, and others.


CAT’s Quant section is difficult in comparison to GRE’s Quant.

Topics covered include Word Problems, Coordinate Geometry, Statistics, Interpretation of Data, Angle Measurements, Algebraic Expressions, Venn Diagrams, Sets Theory, Equations, and Inequalities among others.
No negative marking  for non-MCQs and negative marking for MCQs.No negative marking.

GRE Verbal Reasoning:  

Number of questions: 40

Time allotted: 60 minutes

The section contains three types of questions, namely Text Completion, Reading Comprehension and Sentence Equivalence.

It covers topics such as Subject-Verb Agreement, Tense, Idioms, Nouns-Adjectives-Pronouns, Pronoun Agreement, and others.

CAT Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension:

Number of questions: 26

Time allotted: 40 minutes

The section is a mix of MCQs and non-MCQs, with negative marking enabled only for non-MCQs. Topics covered include Para-jumbles, Reading Comprehension, Verbal Logic, Prepositions, Idioms, Tenses, Articles, Types of Clauses, Parts of Speech, Analogies and Antonyms among others.

GRE Analytical Writing:

Number of questions: 2

Time allotted: 60 minutes

The section measures a candidate’s ability to analyze and articulate a complex argument/idea while taking care of all the elements of written English. Thirty minutes are allotted each for the two writing tasks.

CAT Data Interpretation & Verbal Reasoning:

Number of questions: 26

Time allotted: 40 minutes

The section is a mix of MCQs and non-MCQs, with negative marking enabled for non-MCQSs. Topics covered include Binary Logic, Family Tree, Direction Sense, Proposition, Blood Relations, Syllogisms, Data Sufficiency, Bar & Line Graphs, Coding-Decoding, Puzzles, Series, Venn Diagram, Pie Charts, and others.

The challenges faced to prepare both exams

There are many challenges that need to be addressed while preparing for both CAT and GRE exams. The subject of Math presumably poses a challenge. Another thing which is challenging is the grammatical mistakes that happen.  

The application fees

The cost of the application fees for CAT is INR 2,200. The cost of GRE exam is INR 15,595.86

CAT percentile to GRE score comparison

The two exams are beyond comparable when it comes to the calculation of the scores. CAT exam reports out percentile which is used to measure your performance among all the other test takers. For example, 90 percentiles do not mean you get 90/100 marks. It means you did better than the 90% of the takers.  

GRE score is more absolute, i.e., if you score 320/340, it means you answered 20 questions wrong.  

Scope after the exam

The scope of CAT participants is mainly for MBA aspirants. If you are looking to study in the most prestigious colleges and get an MBA, then scoring a better percentile in CAT exam is the best way.  

GRE on the other side opens various options of other master’s degree courses which applies to colleges and universities out of India as well.   


Which test is more difficult, CAT or GRE?

Several aspirants consider CAT as more difficult because of its Quant section. Also, because of the nature of the exam CAT is believed to be tougher.

What is the validity of CAT and GRE?

While CAT scores are valid for a year, GRE scores are valid for five years.

What is the syllabus of CAT?

CAT comprises three sections, namely–Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Quantitative section, and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning.

What is the syllabus of GRE?

GRE comprises three sections, namely– Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing and Verbal Reasoning.

Is CAT preparation enough for GRE?

CAT is almost enough for GRE aspirants. The Verbal option may need a bit of practice.


Can CAT be cracked in 3 months?

The usual preparation time for CAT is 6-8 months. With hard work and determination, CAT can also be cracked in 3 months.

Is GRE a competitive exam?

GRE is not a competitive exam, but a certain percentile is required for college applications.

How can I prepare for GRE and CAT simultaneously?

GRE is more focused on the vocabulary part and CAT is more on the Quantitative part. The preparation for GRE can be done while prepping for the quant of CAT. Grasping new words every day and building that vocabulary is always a bonus.

How should I prepare for the GRE?

As a fresh applicant, you can start preparing for your GRE by focusing on the following things:

1. Building your vocabulary

2. Grasping mathematical concepts that may be asked

3. Learning basic strategies for GRE maths

4. Plan your approach towards verbal questions and essays

Is GRE math hard?

The vocabulary of GRE can be challenging. GRE math comprises of elementary algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and basic data interpretation. It can be challenging when dealing with any and every kind of possible combination of questions.

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

We are a dedicated team of study-abroad experts, ensuring intensive research and comprehensive information in each of our blogs. With every piece written, we aim at simplifying the overseas education process for all. Our diverse experience as journalists, content writers, editors, content strategists, and marketers helps create the most relevant and authentic blogs for our readers.

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