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April 20 2024

Which one is easier to crack?

The two most common exams that MBA Aspirants attempt every year are CAT and NMAT. It’s not surprising that a lot of people want a clearer picture of the differences and similarities between the two exams. In this article, we shall delve deep into all the details of how NMAT and CAT are different, and what points aspirants need to keep in mind while preparing for these two exams.

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What is the pattern of CAT and NMAT:

Expected pattern of CAT:

CAT has a total of 66 questions divided into 3 sections, and a Time limit of 120 minutes:

  1. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), 40 minutes
  2. Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), 40 minutes
  3. Quantitative abilities (QA), 40 minutes

A brief description of the sections is given below:

  • The total marks for CAT 2024 will be 198
  • Each question will carry 3 marks

  • There will be a negative marking of -1 for every wrong answer

  • There will be no deduction of marks for skipping questions

  • Some questions in the QA section will be non-MCQ. 

  • There will be no negative marking for non-MCQ questions


No. of questions Difficulty level


24 Moderate – difficult


Moderate – difficult

QA 22


In the VARC section, out of the 24 questions, 8 questions are from Verbal ability, and 18 questions are from RC i.e. 4 sets of RC. DILR, you get questions from both the DI and LR section. In QA, all questions are based on basic topics covered in most competitive exams.


Syllabus of NMAT: 

In NMAT, you have 108  questions with 3 sections  namely:

  • Language skills - 28 minutes
  • Quantitative skills - 52 minutes
  • Logical Reasoning - 40 minutes
Sections: No. of questions Difficulty level
Language skills 36 Easy-moderate
Quantitative skills  36 Easy-moderate
Logical Reasoning 36 Easy


Now let's get into the detailed comparison of NMAT vs CAT differences to get a better understanding of both exams:

What are the major differences between NMAT & CAT:

Difficulty levels:

As you can see from the tables mentioned above, the difficulty levels of both exams are very different. NMAT is way easier than CAT, and most of the candidates who prepare for CAT can easily attempt NMAT. So, if you are well prepared for CAT, NMAT should not be an issue. Apart from some minor topics, most topics also remain the same for both exams. However, the only point of distinction is that NMAT is a speed-based test, while CAT is not.

This is also a reason why NMAT by GMAC is easier because the focus is more on solving quickly with high accuracy, than the technique used to solve them. This is why it’s not guaranteed that if you score well in CAT, you will score well in NMAT too. We shall discuss the strategies to deal with these exams in detail later in the points below.

Also read: NMAT difficulty level

Types of questions:

  • Question Types:
    • Mix of TITA (Type in the Answer) and MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) style questions.
    • In the VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) section, there's a higher proportion of TITA-style questions.
  • TITA Questions:
    • Candidates need to type the answer instead of selecting from options.
    • No negative marking for incorrect answers.
    • Encourages critical thinking and precise calculation.
  • Question Types:
    • Only MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions).
    • No TITA-style questions.
  • MCQs:
    • Candidates select the correct answer from provided options.
    • Negative marking may apply for incorrect answers in some cases.
    • Requires careful consideration and elimination of answer choices.
  • TITA vs. MCQs:
    • CAT includes both TITA and MCQs, while NMAT exclusively features MCQs.
    • TITA questions in CAT offer the opportunity to avoid negative marking by abstaining from incorrect answers.
    • MCQs in both exams require candidates to select the correct answer from provided options, with potential negative marking for incorrect responses in some cases.

The table below shows the differences in the sectional question pattern of CAT vs NMAT:


VARC – 24 Questions

(TITA – 2 to 4 questions MCQs – 20 to 22 questions)

VA – 36 questions

(All MCQs)

DILR – 20 questions

 (Mix of MCQs and Non-MCQs questions)

LR – 36 questions

(All MCQs)

QA – 22 questions

(Mix of MCQs and Non-MCQs questions)

QA – 36 questions

(All MCQs)


Marking scheme:

CAT awards 3 marks for each correct answer. So with 66 questions, the total marks add up to 198.

In NMAT, you get 3 marks for each correct answer. With 108 questions, you get a total of 360 marks.

The marks are also scaled down in NMAT, which is not the case in CAT.

Negative marking:

NMAT has no negative marking for wrong answers which is a blessing! CAT has a negative 1 marking scheme for every wrong answer (except for TITA questions). This is why you can freely mark answers for NMAT and maximize your attempts. In CAT, you have to carefully select your questions and answer them, every mark counts! This is a huge difference in CAT vs NMAT that aspirants need to consider while forming their strategy to crack these exams.

Sectional Differences:

Let's see what are the sectional differences in CAT vs NMAT:

  • In the case of CAT, we have DI along with logical reasoning; while in NMAT, DI questions come along with the Quants section.
  • The time allotted for each section in CAT is the same i.e. 40 minutes for each section (adding up to 120minutes in total). For NMAT, the time allotted is different for each section, especially for Verbal the time is way less( mentioned in the table below). The difficulty levels also differ a lot for each section.

Verbal section: In CAT, you will find that the difficulty level of VARC and LRDI is usually moderate to high (leaning towards high), while for NMAT it’s usually easy to moderate (leaning towards easy.) For CAT, VARC focuses majorly on passages and para-jumbles, while there might be some surprises once in a while. For NMAT, the Language skills section is highly focused on vocabulary (synonyms, antonyms, fillups, etc.)

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation: If we talk about Logical reasoning, the questions in CAT are usually not simple and have a complicated solutions to them. For NMAT, most of them can be solved through simple shortcuts or calculations and are very scoring. The DI section also is very scoring for NMAT, but for CAT it can take up a lot of time to decode the question itself.

Quantitative ability: For Quants, both exams do get easy-level questions, CAT does tend to have a mix of both easy and moderate, while NMAT quants can be solved very easily if your basics and concepts are clear.

Mode of exam: 

Both exams are conducted once a year through an online mode. However, there are some slight differences in the mode of the exam. CAT is conducted only on one day with 3 slots. The place and time both are predetermined, and you cannot make any changes to that. . You can give 3 attempts in NMAT, with a 75-day window between the two exams.

You can also choose your own place and time for the exam. The NMAT season starts from September – October and goes on till December, within which you can give your three attempts. But according to the recent notification, NMIMS Mumbai will accept only first-attempt scores. The table below gives a good look at all the major differences between CAT vs NMAT.


No. of Sections covered

3 Sections:

  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • Quantitative Ability(QA)

3 Section:

  • Language skills
  • Quantitative skills
  • Logical Reasoning
Sectional Time limit
  • VARC - 40 Minutes 
  • DILR - 40 minutes 
  • QA - 40 minutes
  • LS - 28 minutes
  • QS - 52 minutes
  • LR - 40 minutes
Exam Mode Online Online
No. of Questions 66 108
Type of questions MCQs and Non- MCQs (TITA) MCQs
Marks for each question 3 marks 3 mark
Total Marks 198 marks 324 marks
Duration 120 minutes 120 minutes
Negative marking -1 No negative marking
The use of an online calculator allowed Yes No


Strategy to solve:

Here comes an important and interesting part. Although the topics might be similar, the strategy to attempt both these exams is very different! The questions in CAT require intellectual selection and careful solving. Since the difficulty of the questions is higher, you may take more time to solve them (optimal time), but you have to get it right. Getting too many wrong answers just for the sake of solving will land you in trouble.


On the other hand, NMAT is a speed-based test. You have to be very fast in attempting your questions! But accuracy is also very important if you want to score 220+. So how do you manage both speed and accuracy? Learn quick calculations and shortcuts! Be so well versed with the basics and concepts that you don’t waste time thinking over which topics the question belongs to.

The NMAT syllabus is also a little different from that of the CAT syllabus. NMAT logical reasoning is different from that of CAT. There are some topics in the NMAT syllabus that is not there in the CAT logical reasoning syllabus. Thus, the way you prepare for both exams is pretty different. Just keep in mind, the difficulty level of questions is not enough, you also have to know what each exam demands and prepare for it accordingly.

Colleges you can apply to:

Let’s also have a look at what colleges are covered under which exams. While CAT has all the IIM under it, along with a huge number of top Non-IIM colleges like FMS, SP Jain, etc; NMAT is usually pursued to get into NMIMS Mumbai. There are also some other Tier-3 colleges that you can apply to through NMAT.

Also read: Top Non-IIM colleges accepting CAT

So, which one is easier?

It's not completely black and white. If you prepare well for CAT, NMAT should definitely not be a problem in terms of the topics and knowledge. However, both exams demand different strategies, planning, and focus, and you need to frame your mindset in that manner when you attempt these papers.

Although you should not forget that the CAT syllabus and NMAT syllabus are not exactly the same. The best way, as we’ve mentioned in all our articles, is to keep giving mocks! That’s the only way you get the required practice and keep making yourself better and better till the actual exam day arrives. Remember, keep practicing, and don’t give up.

Click here to take CAT and NMAT mocks

Also Read: Tips to crack XAT

Related Tags
CAT vs NMAT difference
Anisha Mukhija

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