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NMAT 2013 vs CAT 2012 – A Qualitative Comparison

NMAT 2013 vs CAT 2012 – A Qualitative Comparison

gaurav.dave ,  15-Oct-12

Having appeared for NMAT and CAT in the space of 3 days, I felt that a good way to analyse both exams would be compare their entire experience at one place so as to give students a suitable frame of reference. Here, I have looked at the two exams, their structure and difficulty level, their exam players, the experience etc while appearing for the test and even hours after the test.

I appeared for NMAT on 11th October in the 9:00 a.m. slot and CAT on 13th October in the 10:00 a.m. slot. I cannot disclose actual questions or chapters due to the respective non-disclosure agreements. However, I will try and give you a feel of both exams.

However, please note that some of my views here under “Recommendations” are purely personal and you may have to apply them in your exam keeping your preparation level in mind.





Check-in Process

1)      Admit Card Mail + 1 Valid ID card needed

2)      Biometrics includes photograph and fingerprint

3)      Bags and valuables not allowed in the test lab. Only a wallet allowed.

4)      Lenient in terms of frisking

1)      Confirmation Mail + 2 Valid ID cards needed

2)      Biometrics includes photograph and signature on a digital pad

3)      Bags and valuables not allowed in the test lab.

4)      Very strict in terms of frisking.

1)      Where I suggest carrying 2 ID cards for CAT, I would recommend carrying 3 for NMAT. It helps to have an extra ID

2)      Try to carry an ID that shows your face AND sign clearly. The CAT authorities will accept an ID only if it shows your face clearly. Also, the NMAT authorities check your sign on biometrics vs ID card. They made me sign on the digital pad thrice because they could not match my signature with the one on my PAN card.

3)      Carry only as much stuff as you really need


1)      5 minutes – after the tutorial and just before the test

1)      2 minutes – before the tutorial and test

1)      Both the non-disclosure agreements more or less say the same thing. Make it a point to read them quickly and accept them at the earliest


1)      15 minutes

1)      13 minutes

1)      Both the tutorials give you an overview of the screens and features that you will encounter during the exam. An added advantage of the NMAT tutorial is that at the end of the tutorial, you can try the functionalities of the review screen using the slides of the tutorial. Since time saved in the tutorial does not get added to the exam, utilize this time to go through the tutorials well

Section Order and Selection

1)      2 sections with no choice in selection.


1)      3 sections with a choice in selecting section order

2)      There is a separate screen that allows you to pre-determine the order in which you will attempt all 3 sections.

3)      The screen gives you 6 combinations of section orders and you have click on the one that suits you the best.

4)      If you do not select the section order within 3 minutes, the system automatically starts the test using the first section order given.

1)      NMAT has been more student-friendly in the sense that it has allowed the student to decide first-hand what order he/she wants to attempt the sections in.

2)      There is a section order screen which has a time limit of 3 minutes. This screen gives you 6 combinations: VA-QA-LR, QA-LR-VA, VA-LR-QA etc. You can select any combination that you want. The sections will be displayed as per your selection

3)      If you do not select within 3 minutes, the system selects the default option i.e. VA-QA-LR

4)      Also, once you select the section and start the test, you cannot change the order midway. So, if you select VQ-QA-LR and during VA, you feel you want to attempt LR second, it will not be possible.


1)      Section 1 – QA + DI – 30 questions – 70 minutes

2)      Section 2 – VA + LR – 30 questions – 70 minutes

1)      QA – 48 questions – 60 minutes

2)      VA – 32 questions – 22 minutes

3)      LR – 40 questions – 38 minutes

1)      Unlike CAT, since you know the structure in terms of subject area beforehand because of the breakup given by the NMAT authorities, you can plan and prepare accordingly. In CAT, you won’t know how much time to spend on DI and how much on QA

2)      However, this year, the DI and LR breakup and questions types in section I and II have been similar to last year, so you can plan some part of your attempts beforehand.

Negative Marking

1)      Yes, but undisclosed

1)      No

1)      CAT clearly wants a focus on accuracy and attempts based on whether you are confident of what you know.

2)      NMAT obviously wants you to attempt all questions (like MHCET) because of the no-negative marking policy.

3)      For questions where you are not sure in NMAT, “flag” the question and in the last 2-3 minutes, randomly mark those questions. Don’t waste time on those questions initially.

Termination of Section

1)      Not allowed before the scheduled time lapses

1)      Lapse of schedule time

2)      Completion of questions

1)      Unlike CAT, if you finish your section slightly earlier than allowed in NMAT, you CAN end that section and move to the next section.

2)      However, your time saved in this section does not get added to the subsequent section.

3)      So, in case you save time on, say, Verbal Ability, it is a better idea to review your questions. You will anyways lose the spare time by ending.


1)      No breaks allowed 30 minutes prior to and during the exam

1)      Breaks allowed but they are timed. Any time that you use in the break gets deducted from that section

1)      For CAT, it makes sense to take your water and toilet breaks well in advance.

2)      For NMAT, though the Pearson authorities were slightly more lenient and allowed people to take water and toilet breaks even 10-15 minutes before the exam, it may not be wise to take a chance.

3)      In NMAT, if you manage to end section 1 or section 2 with more than 5 minutes to spare (unlikely), you could use it to take a break.

4)      In NMAT, you are allowed breaks, but you do lose time. Keep that in mind.

Group Questions

1)      Number of questions in the set declared beforehand

2)      All questions seen one below the other on the right hand side of the screen

1)      Number of questions in the set NOT declared beforehand

2)      Each question seen on a fresh page

1)      As is evident, CAT scores more than NMAT in this regard. In NMAT, when you start a group question, you don’t know how many questions that set has. This makes “attempt planning” virtually impossible.

2)      For each question, you need to use the “Next” and “Previous” buttons. This harms you if the latter questions of a set are easier or multiple questions are related to each other e.g. if calculating data for question 1 can help solve question 4 as well.

3)      In CAT, since you can see all questions together, you can decide whether you want to attempt all the questions or some or skip the set altogether.

4)      Also, one disadvantage of the NMAT player is that if the data in the question extends either horizontally or vertically, you cannot move to the next question till you scroll the bar in the required direction. One set in my paper had a data bar that was redundant to the questions in the set, but I had to scroll the bar each time to “see” that bar and then move to the next question. It may not waste too much time, but is surely an irritant.

Highlighting in RCs

1)      Allowed in CAT

1)      Not allowed in NMAT

1)      Since highlighting is not allowed in the NMAT RCs, finding relevant data may become slightly more difficult. You may need to practice NMAT RCs accordingly.

Section End Warnings

1)      5 minutes before the end of each section and 1 minute before the end of each section

1)      5 minutes before the end of each section

1)      Since NMAT gives only one warning i.e. 5 minutes before the section is scheduled to end, you will have to keep a tab of when approximately 2 minutes are left. This will help in marking the questions you haven’t attempted

Difficulty Level

1)      Challenging compared to last year

1)      Same as last year

1)      I found CAT 2012 more challenging compared to last year with a better quality of questions and a couple of innovative sets in LR.

2)      I felt NMAT 2013 was similar to my NMAT 2012 exam in nearly all respects.


1)      25 in section I with approximately 21-22 correct (I assume)

2)      30 in section II with approximately 26 correct (Again. Assumption)

3)      55 in all


1)      42 out of 48 in QA

2)      36 out of 40 in LR

3)      32 out of 32 in VA

4)      116 out of 120 in all

1)      For CAT, I would suggest anywhere between 19-21 attempts with 17+ correct in section I and 25 -26 attempts in section II with 22+ correct

2)      For NMAT, try to attempt all 120 questions


Please note that the last two points above (in RED) depict my personal performance and opinions and as such, should not be taken very rigidly. Please look at your actual exam and then take a decision. You can use these as a guideline.

Wish you all the very best!

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