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GMAT Quant vs CAT Quant: An analysis

Last updated on: November 4, 2011 17:30 IST

GMAT Quant vs CAT Quant: An analysis



Are you appearing for CAT and GMAT this year? Want to know what is the difference between the two? Ashish N of EducationAisle decodes it right here.

Aspirants of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), who have already appeared for Common Admission Test (conducted for admission to Indian Institutes of Management) often wonder how much incremental effort they need to put in, during the course of preparation for GMAT Quant.

Most such candidates do acknowledge that the Verbal on GMAT is significantly different from Verbal on CAT; however, when it comes to GMAT Quant, a sense of complacency seems to prevail, since GMAT aspirants are under the impression that they are already (over) prepared for GMAT Quant, courtesy their CAT preparation.

GMAT Quant is perceived as relatively easy and hence, GMAT aspirants, often to their eventual dismay, do not put due effort in preparation for GMAT Quant. In this article, we explore some of the differences.

Ashish N is the faculty at the prominent Bangalore based GMAT training institute EducationAisle ( He is an alumnus of Indian School of Business (ISB, Hyderabad) and scored in the 99th percentile on GMAT.


GMAT Quant is fundamentally different from CAT Quant

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While in general, Quant questions on CAT tend to be complex, Quant questions on GMAT tend to be tricky.

A lot of how GMAT Quant is structured really is reflective of GMAT's overall philosophy. Pragmatic exam to the core, GMAT does not test you on advanced topics, lengthy calculations and complex formulae.

In fact, almost anything that requires rote learning finds itself out of favor of GMAT's test setters. For that reason, even Geometric Progression and Compound Interest do not find a place on GMAT.

While the course curriculum comprises very simple concepts, what is tested is whether the test-taker really understands those concepts well enough to apply them.

So, the complexity of GMAT Quant is not in formulae or calculations, but in the application. Prime numbers, for instance, can have significant applications. For example, following is a part of the Question that appeared on GMAT:

Does the integer k have a factor p such that 1 < p < k ?

While this problem statement seems quite complex, a person with a thorough understanding of basics of Number systems would quickly understand that all this question is just asking for, is whether k is a prime number.

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Data Sufficiency, an untamed beast

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More than one-third of the questions in GMAT Quant belong to Data Sufficiency type, whereas this question may or may not appear at all in CAT.

GMAT's philosophy behind such questions is that in real life scenario, managers have to often assess whether they have enough data points to make an informed decision. This is not a new concept but a question type that is often the bugbear of GMAT test-takers.

For Data Sufficiency, the problem statement comprises some data and a question. Test takers have to ascertain whether the data provided is sufficient to answer the question; hence the name "Data Sufficiency".

An example of how tricky these questions can get:

If the drama club and music club are combined, what percent of the combined membership will be male?

(1) Of the 16 members of the drama club, 15 are male

(2) Of the 20 members of the music club, 10 are male

At the face of it, this seems a pretty simple question and one would tend to calculate the percentage of males in the combined membership as (15+10)/(16+20) = 69.4%.

But then, the way we have calculated 69.4% has a significant built in assumption: No members of drama club are also members of music club and vice-versa.

However, there is really nothing in the question to suggest that this assumption holds good!! As it turns out, we cannot arrive at a definitive answer based upon the information provided!!

Most students who have not had exposure to GMAT Quant need extensive practice on Data Sufficiency, to prepare themselves for this question category.

Questions like these re-iterate the fact that while the concepts tested on GMAT are pretty mundane, the devil lies in the traps that GMAT so deftly lays out.

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GMAT, a 'relative grading' exam

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If you think GMAT Quant is too simple for you, guess what; it is simple for most others as well.

With GMAT being a relative grading exam, you do not really get incremental grades for something that most others would also do well. The "killer score" that you are looking for, would be an outcome of solving questions that most others cannot.

Quant, your area of strength? If you consider Quant as your area of strength, good for you!! But then, how on earth can you ever afford to ignore it?

GMAT as an exam is all about capitalising on your strengths and building up on your weaknesses. After all, in areas of weaknesses, one is anyway unlikely to score phenomenally; so in areas of strengths, one should try to maximize and make up for areas of weakness.

Imagine this: You (obviously) don't score great in your area of weakness, and you don't score phenomenally in your areas of strengths, just because you were too complacent or too confident....figure your score.

A sense of self-gratification seems to plague many Indian test-takers, for we, for various reasons, are led to believe that Indians are naturally gifted in Mathematics.

Surprise, surprise!! That myth stands busted: Statistics reveal that Chinese score significantly better than Indians do, on GMAT Quant. GMAT test takers should be rest assured that they would not be served a great GMAT Quant score on a platter; not the least because of genetics, self-confidence or prior CAT preparation.

Intensive focus on the concepts, complemented by extensive practice of GMAT questions, is the only key to a great GMAT Quant score.


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