Key Differences Between IIFT And CAT

Though CAT is done and dusted, aspirants would also be gearing up to take several other competitive exams for the top B-Schools in the country. One of the prominent exams on every aspirant’s list would be the IIFT exam, due this year on the 2nd of December, 2018. The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, founded in 1963, selects its students through its own exams and further processes conducted for those who clear the exams. This exam is different from the CAT in both its syllabus, exam pattern, and marking system.

Exam Pattern

IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade):

Time duration = 2 hours

No of questions = Not fixed (120–150 questions)

Negative marking = 1/3

Maximum Marks = 100 Marks

Mode of paper = Paper-Pencil mode (can switch between sections as per convenience)

NB: Till 2016, the paper had 4 sections (Verbal, DILR, Quant and GK), with each section having its own sectional cutoff. In IIFT 2017, the sections were split into 6 sections (Verbal was split into Reading Comprehension and Grammar and DILR into Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning.) Each of the sections had individual cutoffs, so, all in all, there were 6 sectional cutoffs to clear along with the overall cutoff of around 36 for the general category. read more..

Total no. of seats = (Delhi campus: 170, Kolkata campus: 140). Till last year, the exams were held to select candidates only for the Delhi and Kolkata campuses.

CAT (Common Aptitude Test):

Time duration = 3 hours (Can’t switch another section before 60 min.)

No of questions = 100 ( Each question of 3 marks)

[Verbal 34, DILR 32 and Quant 34]

Negative marking = 1 mark

Maximum Marks = 300 Marks

Mode of paper = Computer Based Exam read more..

Total no of seats = Approx 10000 Seats in different IIMs along with the seats in other colleges such as MDI, SPJIMR,JBIMS etc. that accept CAT scores.

Section CAT IIFT
English Language Inferential Based Fact Based
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning Logical & Tricky Calculation Intensive
Quantitative Ability Direct & Indirect Questions More of Direct Questions
General Knowledge Indirect Passage-Based Questions


Fig1 : Some differences in the kind of questions asked in CAT and IIFT


Some miscellaneous points to be kept in mind in order to ace the IIFT exam:

  • Unlike the CAT, IIFT does not allow calculators in the examination hall. The Data Interpretation section of the paper is quite a calculation intensive, and to clear the cutoffs one needs to be very well prepared in mental calculations and approximations without the aid of a calculator.
  • IIFT has about 120-140 questions to be solved in two hours, while the CAT has 100 questions with a time of 3 hours. Thus, for the IIFT examination, one has to be very good and quick in question selection and time management based on one’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Since the IIFT exam is offline, it requires that you have enough practice to fill the OMR sheet and manage the time accordingly. Sometimes, students find the solutions for most of the questions and are not able to fill the OMR sheet completely. You may either solve the questions and immediately mark the answer or spare last 10 minutes to fill the answer sheet according to your convenience.
  • Read the instructions carefully. For other examinations, the pattern is more or less a standard one with few changes over time. But the pattern of the IIFT exam is solely at the discretion of the institute itself, which is why it is subject to frequent- and sometimes dramatic changes- which can be easily ignored if the instructions are not read carefully before attempting the paper. This happened last year, with quite a few students missing out on the sectional cutoffs because they failed to read the instructions and thus did not notice how the sections had been tweaked.

IIFT is a much more intense competition to an aspirant in general, as only 1500 odd students will get the interview call out of 60-70,000 aspirants and most of them will be serious aspirants with work experience and strong profiles. Getting the call is tougher than conversion owing to high overlap in the final list with other premier B-Schools of India. However, this is only a motivation to prepare harder and get a chance to be a part of one of the top B-Schools of the country with its unique flagship program in international business. All the best!

Also read –

10 Points To Remember Before Attempting Your IIFT Exam – Soman Pochhali, IIFT 99.04 Percentiler

‘I Kept Switching Sections To Maintain My Pace’ – Aashay Doshi, 99.99%ile In IIFT