How Difficult is IIFT Exam as Compared to CAT?

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Vipra Shrivastava
Senior Manager - Content
Updated on Mar 23, 2023 18:08 IST

CAT vs IIFT - Both CAT exam and IIFT exam are high difficulty level tests, as compared to other MBA entrance exams. But which one is tougher? CAT or IIFT? Let's look at the differences and similarities between CAT and IIFT to know which one is tougher.


CAT exam is one of the most popular management entrance tests and is a gateway to admission in to over 1,300 B-Schools in India. On the other hand, IIFT exam is conducted by Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi for admission to its flagship programme, i.e. MBA in International Business. No other B-school accepts IIFT score for admission. Even though IIFT score is valid for admission to one institute only, thousands of MBA aspirants across the country appear for it every year, thus making it one of the top MBA entrance exams. Both CAT and IIFT entrance exam are equally challenging in their own way. Since they have different exam patterns, candidates need to adopt different preparation strategies.

IIFT vs CAT: Which is Tougher?

Talking about the difficulty level, both the exams are equally difficult. However, few test-takers find IIFT a little more challenging than CAT due to the additional General Knowledge section. IIFT exam is generally conducted within 7-10 days after the CAT exam, thus leaving very little time for preparation of General Knowledge section. However, if you study GK from early on, then it is pretty manageable.To help test-takers understand the similarities and difference between IIFT and CAT, Shiksha has listed down the difficulty level of both the exams. 

CAT vs IIFT Highlights

IIFT exam is conducted by the NTA on behalf of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Here are the key highlights of CAT and IIFT entrance exam which are also the differentiating factors:




Full Form

Common Admission Test

IIFT Entrance Exam

Conducting Body



Exam Date

November 26, 2023

Second week of December 2023

Exam Frequency



Number of applicants

Over 2 lakh

Under 50,000

Application Fee

INR 2,300 (Unreserved)

INR 1,150 (Reserved)

INR 2,500 (Unreserved)

INR 1,000 (Reserved)

Eligibility Criteria

Minimum 50% marks in graduation or equivalent (45% for reserved categories)

Minimum 50% marks in graduation or equivalent (45% for reserved categories)

Accepting colleges

IIMs, MDI, IMT, IIT, SPJIMR, FMS and over 1,200 other B-schools


Admission Process



IIFT Exam vs CAT Exam: Pattern  

The first thing to note about CAT and IIFT entrance exam is the differences between the two in terms of test structure and pattern.


IIFT exam

CAT exam

Duration of exam

2 hours

2 hours (Sectional time limit of 40 minutes)

Number of Questions



Marking scheme

  • 3 marks for each correct entry in Sections 1, 2 and 3.
  • 1.5 marks for each correct entry in Section 4

3 marks for every correct  entry

Negative marking

1/3 marks

1 mark

Maximum marks



Mode of exam




  1. English Comprehension
  2. Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation
  3. Quantitative Analysis
  4. General Awareness
  1. Verbal Abilty & Reading Comprehension
  2. Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning
  3. Quantitative Aptitude

Check: IIFT exam pattern

Check: CAT exam pattern

Section Wise Difficulty Level of CAT and IIFT

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension: The Verbal Ability section is of same difficulty level in both exams. The topics are also usually the same such as sentence correction, parajumbles, odd one out, etc. The Reading Comprehension (RC) passage in CAT is a mix of both inference-based and fact-based types. However, the RC passages in IIFT are fact-based. IIFT focuses more on vocabulary, making this section moderately difficult. The VARC section of CAT, on the other hand, varies between moderate to high.

Quantitative Aptitude: There is no major difference in the Quantitative Aptitude section of CAT and IIFT. Both are more or less similar. The difficulty level of this section in both the exams is easy to moderate.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning Section: Candidates appearing for IIFT need to be quick in their calculations as the exam is more calculation intensive. CAT, on the other hand, does not have questions where intensive calculation is required. The DILR section of CAT exam often turns out to be lengthy, which is not the case with IIFT exam.

CAT vs IIFT Syllabus

There is not much difference between CAT and IIFT exam syllabus as both are management aptitude tests. While both IIFT syllabus and CAT syllabus include all topics of Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, IIFT has an extra subject - General Awareness.

IIFT vs CAT: Syllabus and Difficulty Level 

Based on the questions papers of last few years of both IIFT and CAT, we have made an assessment of section wise difficulty level of both the exams. Check the tables below for details:

Quantitative Aptitude

Given below is the topic-wise difficulty level of Quantitative Aptitude section of CAT and IIFT exam:

Quantitative Aptitude Topics









Permutation and Combination



Heights and Distance












Coordinate Geometry







Given below is the topic-wise difficulty level of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section of CAT and IIFT exam:

DILR Topics






Family Tree



Seating Arrangement




Given below is the topic-wise difficulty level of Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension section of CAT and IIFT exam:

VARC Topics



Sentence Correction






Fill In the blanks



Reading Comprehension



Para Completion



Antonyms/ Synonyms



Critical Reasoning



Para jumbles




Download Free CAT Syllabus PDF Download Free IIFT Exam Syllabus PDF

Key Differences Between IIFT Exam and CAT Exam 

  • In CAT, there is sectional time limit which means candidates have to complete every section within the prescribed time limit. IIFT exam does not have sectional time limit.  
  • CAT has three sections and IIFT has four sections (an extra section of General Knowledge).
  • Total marks of CAT is 198, whereas total marks of IIFT is 300.
  • CAT score is accepted by all 20 IIMs, top MBA colleges in India and over 1,200 other B-Schools. IIFT entrance exam score is valid for admission to IIFT only.

Also Read:

CAT Preparation Tips and Strategy IIFT Preparation Tips and Strategy

One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to solve past years’ sample papers and question papers.

Candidates appearing for IIFT can have a look at IIFT past years’ question papers

Candidates appearing for CAT can view past years’ question papers.  

Try this IIFT Exam Mock Test to assess your preparation level and time-management skill.

Free IIFT Exam Mock Test

Try this CAT Mock Test, Powered by IMS, to assess your preparation level and time-management skill.

Free CAT Mock Test 1

Try second CAT Mock Test, Powered by IMS, to assess your preparation level and time-management skill.

Free CAT Mock Test 2

Read More:


Important FAQs on IIFT and CAT

Q: What is the difference between IIFT exam and CAT exam?

A: Some of the key differences between IIFT and CAT are listed below:
  • IIFT exam has General Awareness section while CAT exam doesn’t have it.
  • The marking schemes of both the exams are also different.
  • CAT exam is held in three slots whereas IIFT exam is held in only one slot. 
  • Difficulty level is high in both exams
  • IIFT has 110 questions to be solved in 2 hours, CAT has 66 questions to be solved in 2 hours
  • CAT has sectional time limit, IIFT doesn't have sectional time limit

Q: Is IIFT exam tougher than CAT?

A: Both the exam are of moderate to high difficulty level but in IIFT, candidates have to solve 110 questions in 120 minutes while in CAT, candidates have to solve 66 questions in 120 minutes. The Quantitative Aptitude section of IIFT is usually tough whereas in CAT, this section is moderate. Thus, for some candidates IIFT may come across as a tougher than CAT.

Q: Which MBA institutes accept IIFT exam score for admission?

A: IIFT exam score is accepted by only IIFT Delhi, IIFT Kolkata and IIFT Kakinada for admission to the MBA in International Business programme offered at all three campuses. The institute has launched MBA in Business Analytics programme too, for which IIFT exam score is valid.

Q: When is CAT exam held?

A: CAT exam is conducted on the last week of November. CAT 2022 was held on November 27. The CAT registration process  began on August 3 and ended on September 21, 2022. CAT 2023 exam will be held on November 26, 2023 and the registration process will begin in the first week of August 2023.

Q: Who conducts IIFT exam?

A: IIFT exam is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on behalf of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. The NTA conducts the entire process of IIFT entrance exam, from online registration till answer key and result announcement. Post the result announcemennt, NTA has no role. Candidate shortlisting, personal interiview, group discussion,cut off determination, etc. are done by the institute.

Q: Are the eligibility criteria of IIFT and CAT same?

A: Yes, the eligibility criteria of IIFT and CAT are same i.e. graduation with minimum 50 per cent aggregate. Final year candidates are also eligible to apply if the aggregate of their first and second year score is 50 per cent. For Reserved category candidates, the minimum score required for both CAT and IIFT is minimum 45 per cent in aggregate.

Q: Can I prepare for IIFT exam by studying CAT books?

A: Yes, since the syllabus of both the exams is same, CAT books are sufficient to prepare for IIFT exam as the syllabus is same for both exams. Candidates will have to only study GK separately for IIFT. However, the candidates must solve IIFT mock tests and sample papers to practice exam specific questions.

Q: How is CAT exam pattern different from IIFT pattern?

A:  CAT exam has 66 questions to be solved in 120 minutes while IIFT exam has 110 questions to solve in 120 minutes. The difference between CAT exam pattern and IIFT exam pattern is that of number of questions and marks allotment to each question.
CAT vs IIFT exam pattern
110 66
  • 3 marks for each correct entry in Sections 1, 2 and 3.
  • 1.5 marks for each correct entry in Section 4
3 marks for every correct  entry
1/3 marks 1 mark

Q: Is IIFT exam conducted in pen and paper mode?

A: No, IIFT exam is conducted in Computer Based Mode. Till 2018, IIFT was conducted in pen and paper mode, but in 2019, when NTA took over the responsibility to conduct the exam, it changed the test mode to computer based mode. Candidates have to visit a exam centre to appear for the test. At the exam centre, each candidate is alloted a computer system and candidates have to punch in their answers with the help of mouse pad.

Q: Which section of IIFT exam has maximum weightage?

A: In IIFT, the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) section has maximum weightage of 35 questions and 105 marks. In IIFT exam 2024, it is expected that the test pattern wil remain the same, thus in the upcoming exam too VARC will continue to have maximum weightage.

Q: Are the RC passages of IIFT exam tougher than CAT RC passages?

A: The Reading Comprehension (RC) passages of IIFT exam are often fact based unlike CAT in which the passages are inference based. Questions of fact based RC passages are easier to solve as you can note down the data while reading the passage. In inference based RC passages it is not possible to note down data. However, one can note down importtant sentences which can help them in answering the questions.

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About the Author
Vipra Shrivastava
Senior Manager - Content

Vipra is a massive Breaking Bad fan. When not watching crime drama series, she spends time in updating the list of places she wants to visit and people she wants to meet, but she is happiest in the company of dogs. ... Read Full Bio


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