Key Differences Between CAT and IIFT Written Test

"Replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity."

This quote very well sums up the advice we would like give to all MBA aspirants. Dispel the fear of various exams in your minds by asking the right questions. The question that this article will answer in a clear and comprehensive way is one question you all must have thought about many times: What is the difference between CAT and IIFT written test?

CAT is the most popular MBA entrance exam in our country and is conducted by IIMs for admissions in IIMs and other top B Schools all over the country. IIFT is conducted by NTA for admission in MBA programs of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.


Let's look at the major differences between these 2 exams:

Difference between CAT and IIFT Exam Pattern

The tests have differed mainly in terms of the key physical parameters like the number of sections, the number of questions, and extent of negative marking and of late, the mode of test conduct.

The number of sections in the IIFT test is six while the number of questions have varied almost every year. The maximum number of questions in the IIFT test has been 150 and has seen a dip to 114 in 2018; CAT has experimented with a wider range, from 60 to 185.

The format for CAT 2015 has been yet another surprise; 100 questions, three sections - Quantitative Ability-34, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension-34, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning- 32; 60 minutes for each section and test duration of 3 hours.

Suggested Action :
Download IIFT Previous Year Papers
Difference between CAT and IIFT Marking Scheme

Negative marking in CAT was undisclosed for a long time and now it has been stated as -1 for an incorrect answer for MCQ questions (+3 marks are awarded for a correct answer); in the IIFT written test, it has been 1/3.

Differential marks in each section is another feature of IIFT test; in CAT this happened only in select years like 2004.

Suggested Action :
Understanding the IIFT Exam Pattern
IIFT and CAT: Test Areas

The key differentiator in the IIFT test has been General Knowledge & Awareness section. Even though this section has lower weight in comparison to other sections, still it has a say in the final cut-offs. The number of questions from this section generally varies between 25-30 and questions carry 0.5 marks each.

The common areas in the two tests are Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension.

In terms of preparation, the areas mentioned above generally require similar efforts and approach as compared to CAT. All you need to do is pay some extra attention to paper pattern and important topics for IIFT and adopt some customizations. For example, the Quantitative Ability area of IIFT has consistently seen more questions on Modern Math, with topics like Probability, Permutations & Combinations (P&C), Sets, Functions (including maxima & minima) etc. Unlike CAT, where circles & triangles have been historically critical, IIFT has seen a dominant representation of Trigonometry (both height & distances and trigonometric expressions).

Key Learning:
  • Preparation for both the exams requires a similar approach and effort.
  • The main challenge is devising an exam strategy based on the exam pattern.
  • Taking mock tests based on IIFT and CAT will help you to tackle both the exams successfully.
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