CAT Strat
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How to plan a GMAT attempt along with a CAT re-take

In the aftermath of the CAT, a lot of aspirants who did not make it will be contemplating their next move and the GMAT as an option will be looming large on the horizon. I feel that for those aspirants who have a good profile and are aiming at top-tier colleges, the GMAT should definitely be an option to consider.

Is it worth spending $250 on the GMAT if you are looking at colleges only in India?

This is maybe the first question to answer — What options does the GMAT give you in India? As most of you would agree, the best options via the GMAT in India are ISB and SPJIMR.

Even among the two ISB is considered too expensive by most aspirants. I feel that while that is definitely true, if one only looks at fee, the ROI becomes better if one considers the fact that it is a one-year course; you will be earning for a year if you do a 1-year MBA at ISB as opposed to a 2-year program, so if we subtract the savings of a year then the net ISB fee will come down by 10L (assuming you manage to get a 15L job and save 10L). This still makes ISB around 5-8L costlier than the old IIMs but that is to a certain extent compensated by the international faculty and learning at ISB. Also, the purely financial ROI for an MBA is better calculated over the longer-term, say 10 years, and not just your first salary. For those with 3 or more years of work experience, ISB definitely offers a wider range of roles since the average work experience is about 4.8 years.

SPJIMR takes the GMAT for its flagship course and the cut-off for a profile based call is a 650 and a 720 will more or less guarantee a score-based call.

It is anyways unwise to put all eggs once again into the CAT basket, so you should be taking other tests.

When should you take the GMAT if you are planning a CAT re-take?

The most important part of cracking both the GMAT and the CAT in the same year is the timing of the two tests. I believe that even if one has scored above a 95 percentile on the CAT and is looking at a re-take, a successful re-take — a percentile well in excess of 98 — one should take at the least 12-15 proctored tests. Proctored tests usually start by the end of June, so a CAT re-take prep should start no later than 15-July.

One thing that I would absolutely advise against is taking both GMAT and CAT Mocks simultaneously since they are as different as chalk and cheese or to be more precise Test Match and T20 cricket respectively. Playing a test match like the GMAT followed by a T20 like the CAT is definitely not going to help you ace both.

In most such cases, where aspirants are preparing for both tests even after July, I have seen that one of the two tests goes for a toss. There will always be exceptions but I am talking about the ideal way to prep to ensure that you crack both the tests.

So if you are planning to do both GMAT and CAT in one year, you should finish the GMAT by June-end or July first week and then begin your CAT Prep.

How is the GMAT different from the CAT?

By the test match analogy, it will be clear that the GMAT is a different kettle of fish altogether. The VERBAL on the GMAT is of a tougher level than the CAT with Grammar accounting for a third of the questions. The RC and CR as well are very different in terms of the technique required when compared to the way they are tested on Indian tests.

Also in terms of timing, the Verbal section on the CAT has 34 questions in 60 minutes, making the average time available per question 1min. 45 sec whereas on the GMAT it is 36 questions in 65 minutes at 1 min. 49 sec per question. The crucial catch though is that on the GMAT you have to answer every question and move on — no skipping, no coming back, while on the CAT you need not answer all questions, 25-28 attempts with a good accuracy will ensure that you clear the cut-off.

In essence, the GMAT Verbal is tougher than the CAT and would need some solid prep before you attain some mastery.

The Math on the GMAT, while much narrower in terms of the number of concepts to be covered, involves a higher amount of reasoning in that it comprises of 18-19 Data Sufficiency questions.

Most importantly the GMAT is a very structured test, which means that your scores will not fluctuate wildly during the Mocks, as is sometimes the case with CAT, especially on the Verbal section.

This also means that you need not take as many Mocks for the GMAT as you need to do for the CAT since the former is an adaptive test and you need not train to handle varying sectional and overall difficulty levels to ensure that you clear the cut-off in all conditions.

Do you need training for the GMAT?

I feel that GMAT Verbal is something for which almost all Indian test-takers need to take training if they intend to crack scores in excess of 720 over a 3-month period.

Even so, the best way to determine whether you need coaching is to take a GMAT Official Computer-Based Mock by downloading the software from or the Diagnostic Test from any copy of the GMAT Official Guide (learn how to convert the OG Diagnostic Test to the 800 scale here)

If you score a 680 and above and it is the first time you are taking a full-length GMAT Mock, you will not need training. You can do your prep by going through all the posts on this GMAT blog that I run. It covers advanced concepts and strategies for all question types in Quant and Verbal.

If you score below 680 I suggest taking up a Verbal only program; IMS students can connect with their nearest IMS center for the same.

You should book your slot first before starting your prep

Whether we like it or not we function better under well-defined deadlines. If you do not book your GMAT slot right now and decide to do the same only after your prep then you will prep but not in all earnestness. Your prep will only really pick up steam once you enter June and invariably there will end up being a month or two of overlap between your GMAT and CAT Prep.

Your chances of cracking both the GMAT and the CAT in the same year hinge a lot on how well you utilize the months of April and May.

If you are looking at international applications or ISB, take up admissions consulting assistance

Most Indian aspirants have a tough time framing answers and making a strong application when it comes to filling up the forms of schools such as ISB and international schools.

The form does not have a major impact in the selection process of Indian b-schools since the form usually comes after the WAT-GD-PI shortlist is announced on the basis of test-scores but in the case of ISB and international schools, the shortlist is given on the basis of the score and a strong application form.

If you have friends who have made it to ISB and top international schools and will be willing to take out time to help you out extensively with your essays then you would not need any professional help. Else, I suggest taking admissions consulting assistance to help you select the right schools abroad, evaluate your profile in-depth, enable you to come up with answers and edit your essays as well.

To get your profile evaluated for an international application you can write to

All of you will know that good planning is half the job done. The idea of this post was to help you do the same. Over the years I have seen that students kind of go into a hibernation-mode post the CAT to wake up only in June-July, all kicked and pumped up to crack both tests.

As most of my students know I took the GMAT for the second time in June 2017 and scored a 770 (my first attempt in 2008 yielded a 750)

From my personal experience of taking and teaching for these tests, I know that each test deserves to be respected and prepared for in its own right. Relying on a carry-over of prep from one test to the other is not going to result in great scores and there is no point in taking a test that costs $250 if one does not prep for it with the focus it deserves.


  1. Abhijit Mondal says

    My academics are average-10th-81, 12th-74.3(78.4% as per board norms), btech-78%(8.55 dgpa)..As i am hard-pressed of time and not very much interested in my current work, I am planning to leave my job by the end of june to prepare for CAT 2018.I have 2 yrs of work exp right now.Though my target is cat2018,I still want to have some other option left for the worst situation.So, I am also interested for GMAT. Can you please tell me how can i prepare for gmat and my profile for mba in Abroad.Will that gap in in profile affect mba admission in abroad?will 2 yrs work exp suffce to get a decent college in abroad?
    Interest-football, archeological study of Anicient India.I do not have much exta-cur achievements to show-case


    • Hi Abhijit,

      An MBA abroad is pretty expensive, almost twice as much as it costs here, at the minimum. Scholarships are hard to come by unless you get an exceptional score – 750 or above.

      The average age at schools abroad is around 26-28 and two years for work ex is slightly on the lower side.

      So I wouldn’t suggest it as an option.

      You will be better off taking more Indian tests as a back up – IIFT, XAT, NMAT and SNAP.

      All the best!


    • Chitrang Negi says

      As you are planning to quit your job, have you thought about the consequences about quitting, I have also put in my papers and am preparing for CAT 2018. Will quitting affect our profile at the interviews?


  2. Manan Singh says

    Hi Sir,
    Thank you for this post.
    I had given CAT 17 and attained a percentile of 99.6 but couldn’t convert my calls. Now I’m focused ton GMAT till July mid and then intend to prep for CAT 2018. My profile is 10th – 95 12th – 92.2 and BE – 70.
    Will I be able to get top b schools abroad if I manage a high GMAT score given my graduation scores are low?


    • Hi Manan,

      Thanks for writing in.

      Graduation marks might be a really big factor if you are a fresher and are looking at MIM programs (I am assuming this since you haven’t mentioned anything about the work-ex).

      For MiM programs what matters is the width of your profile — extracurriculars, positions of responsibility etc.

      If it is MBA programs you are looking at then unlike India programs, one parameter such as Grad Marks, will not weaken your profile. you can make it up with a good GMAT Score.

      Hope this clarifies.

      All the best!


  3. Ashutosh Bhole says

    Hello Sir,
    A nice article to give insight about how to prepare for both the exams. I wanted to know whether it is good to go for GMAT in mid of September, and the prepare for CAT there onwards. Also approximately how many hours of preparation is required for GMAT, if I have to plan for ISB.
    My profile : 10th: 88, 12: 83, B.Tech: 77% (8.55 percentile), and have around 3 yrs of work experience in Symantec/Veritas.

    Ashutosh Bhole


    • Hi Ashutosh,

      Ideally, if it is your first attempt for the CAT, then you should have started your CAT Prep from June onwards.

      GMAT Prep will require about 300 hours at the least or more (depending on your existing knowledge and skills)

      Concept Review – 75 hours, OG Practice – 100 hours, Quant Review – 30 hours, Verbal Review – 30 hours, Testing & Analysis – 40 hours, Score Improvement Practice – 40 hours

      The ISB deadline is 15-Sep, which means that you will have to take your test by end-August and spend a good 2-weeks on your ISB Essays (their selection process is similar to an international school in which the application essays are given a lot of weightage; a good score alone will not get you a call).

      Assuming that the GMAT Prep has taken care of your basics and application till a particular level, you would need to then take at least 20-25 mocks in the 10 weeks leading up to the CAT. It is possible provided, you do not take any leave for your GMAT Prep and take can take two weeks off in October for your CAT Prep.

      Hope this clarifies.

      All the best!


  4. says

    Hello Sir

    I took CAT last year and scored 95.3 percentile. My profile is 10th – 94% 12th – 78% and B. Tech – 7.46/10. I have two years of work experience in Mahindra and Mahindra(Automobile).
    I am planning to give GMAT this year for ISB and re take CAT. I am also working currently and will leave my job by end of August.

    Please suggest me if I can give GMAT by end of August and then start preparations for CAT. Will that be a feasible plan.


    • Hi Pawan,

      Since your Grad marks are below 80%, you will have to score above 720 on the GMAT.

      To do a GMAT and a CAT together at this stage is not impossible given that you have a 95 on the CAT.

      If someone with an 85 has asked the same questions I would have asked the person to go easy on the GMAT and do only the CAT.

      What will be crucial is how you plan the 3 months of your CAT prep. You have to figure out exactly where you are going to get that extra 4.5 percentile from. The strategy cannot be to do everything better or to study harder. It has to be very specific — I need to get better at choosing questions in QA, I have no specific strategy to solve Summary questions, I need to master advanced theorems in Geometry such as the mid-point theorem.

      Hope this clarifies.

      All the best!


  5. YASH BHARTIA says



    • Hi Yash,

      For GMAT Prep strategies you can visit my blog

      For improving on CAT Quant, this blog itself has a lot of posts on the same, you can go through them.

      If you get a good score, 750-760, you can get a scholarship in the form of a tuition fee waiver.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!



  6. Apurva says

    Hi Sir

    I am going to appear for CAT retake this year. This will be my third attempt. I have 2 years of work experience in family business.General Category
    Xth 83.4 XIIth 75.8 Engineering 62.93 is my academics.
    I did take part in many Extra Curricular Activities. I am willing to take GMAT so that i can apply for both Indian and Abroad colleges.
    So with my profile will i be able to get calls from ISB or any other top B schools?
    How should i start preparing for GMAT if i focus only on preparation?
    Which books should i refer?
    Please Guide me


    • Hi Apurva,

      Both ISB and S.P.Jain, the premier schools accepting the GMAT place a premium on grad marks in their admission process. To compensate for your poor grad marks you have to score a 720 or above to prove your academic credentials. The other good school accepting the GMAT into which you can get admission with your current profile and a lower GMAT score is Great Lakes in Chennai.

      In terms of a preparation plan for GMAT just visit the All About GMAT section on blog

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  7. Hi Tony
    My marks – SSC 89.27 , HSC 90.77 , & Finance) 90.33 . I am currently working with EY (13 months). My aim is CAT2018 but time being a constraint, I am unable to put in that many efforts that will lead me to a top college & I do not plan on leaving my job anytime soon. I am focusing on NMAT too. Looking at my profile, could you please guide me as to what college/exam I should focus on? I am unable to get any clarity.


  8. Ashwini Kumar says

    Hi Sir,

    I gave IMS Diagnostic test and scored 570 with 36 Quant and 31 Verbal. Is it practical for me to reach 700+ score? I have enrolled in IMS’s GMAT course and gave diagnostic test to gauge my level.



    • Hi Ashwini,

      The best way to judge your current capability is to take an Official MBA.COM test under test conditions since no other test or brand has the exact scoring algorithm of the GMAC; so take that test.

      On average a jump of up to 100 points is possible depending on where you start.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


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