How Many CAT Questions Should I Attempt to Score Within the 100 Percentile?

How many CAT questions should I attempt to score within the 100 percentile?-magoosh

How many CAT questions should I attempt to score within the 100 percentile? Between 80 and 100. Image by 3dman_eu.

For many test-takers studying for the CAT exam, scoring in the 100 percentile is the ultimate dream. Only a handful of top students score in the 100 percentile each year—and they often make the local news when they do! You may be asking, “How many CAT questions should I attempt to score within the 100 percentile?” in the hopes that next year, this could be you. The short answer is between 80 and 100.

And if you prepare well, you very well might score within that top percentile! Let’s take a look at the factors affecting how many questions you’ll want to attempt on the CAT to score within this very exclusive percentile.

CAT Scoring: How Many CAT Questions Should I Attempt to Score Within the 100 Percentile?

First of all, a quick note about percentiles. Percentile describes the percentage of students who scored lower than you on the exam. For example, if you’re in the 99 percentile, it means that 99 out of 100 test-takers scored lower than you. Technically, therefore, it should be impossible to have a 100 percentile—because that last test-taker in the 99 of 100 scenario is you!

The answer has to do with rounding. In 2014, for example, the 100 percentile included students scoring in the 99.991 percentile or higher. This means that they scored better than 99,991 students out of every 100,000—a pretty impressive feat that only nine out of every 100,000 achieve. But not, by any means, impossible to do. Since then, the scaled score for the 100 percentile is between 240 and 270.

And how does the CAT calculate this scaled score? You’ll get +3 points for every multiple-choice question (MCQ) and Type-in-the-Answer question (TITA) you answer correctly. You’ll lose -1 point for each MCQ you get wrong, but won’t lose any points for any you skip, or any TITAs you get wrong. The maximum score on the CAT is thus 300: 3 points on 100 questions. However, you won’t need to score anywhere near 300 to get into the 100 percentile on the CAT!

CAT Answer Accuracy: How Many CAT Questions Should I Attempt to Score Within the 100 Percentile?

If you can answer every question perfectly, you’d need to answer 80 questions out of 100 (80*3 = 240) and skip the rest on the CAT. However, you can’t count on answering with 100% accuracy. In 2016, one student scoring in this percentile answered 81 out of 100 questions. Another answered 86.

Yet they both scored within the 100 percentile. How is this possible? In all likelihood, the students had different accuracy scores. While this isn’t an official score that the CAT will give you, it is a score you can calculate to see how many questions you should attempt on test day to score within your desired score range. To get it, take a recent practice test (or several, averaging the results), and divide the number of correct answers by the number of total questions attempted. Multiply by 100; this is your accuracy score to check on the table below.

CAT Percentiles: How Many CAT Questions Should I Attempt to Score Within the 100 Percentile?

240 total (scaled score) marks needed.

Percentage AccurateQuestions AttemptedCorrect AnswersIncorrect Answers
100%80800
95%96824
90%93849
85%1008515

*Scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

A Note on Composite vs. In-Section Scores

Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are said to prefer applicants to have relatively even scores (or at least, not wildly disparate scores) in the three sections. While we’ve only looked at the composite, or overall score, here, the in-section scores are important to keep in mind, too.

However, because scoring in the 100 percentile requires so many accurate answers, it’s almost impossible to reach this percentile without relatively even scores across the sections. For example, one student scoring in the 100 percentile in 2016 scored 96.27 (scaled) in Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, 68.16 in Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and 77.25 in quantitative ability. On the other hand, another student achieving the same percentile scored 86.15, 60.44, and 73.5, respectively. (You’ll notice that this latter score doesn’t quite hit 240—this is because percentiles can shift depending on the applicant pool, and we’re erring on the side of caution when it comes to percentile predictions, looking at data from the past few years.)

By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

No comments yet.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply