Marks Required to Get 95 Percentile in CAT

marks required to get 95 percentile in cat-magoosh

Wondering what the marks required to get 95 percentile in CAT are? 140 or higher will give you a good chance. Image by geralt.

If you’re applying to the Indian Institutes of Management and are hoping to gain acceptance to the most competitive IIMs, you’re probably wondering what the marks required to get 95 percentile in CAT are. Percentiles vary from year to year because of changes in the applicant pool and the exam. However, 2015 test-takers in the 95 percentile scored around 140 overall. While this may seem difficult to achieve, more than 9,000 candidates reached this goal on the 2015 exam, so it’s certainly possible!

How Do CAT Percentiles Work?

When we discuss percentiles on exams, we’re describing the percentage of students who scored lower than you on the test. In this case, discussing the marks required to get 95 percentile in CAT, we’re referring to the marks required to score better than 95 percent of students taking the test. That means that if we gathered 100 CAT test-takers at random, you would need one of the five highest scores in the room (at least in theory)! So what might that score be? Let’s break down the CAT scoring system to better understand how to get into the top percentiles.

How is the CAT Scored?

The CAT consists of three sections, each of which takes one hour to complete.

  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension (34 questions)
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (32 questions)
  • Quantitative Ability (34 questions)

Test-takers gain three points for each question answered correctly. They lose one point for each wrong multiple-choice answer. Finally, they neither gain nor lose points for either answering non-multiple-choice questions wrong or for leaving multiple-choice questions blank.

With 100 questions, the CAT has a maximum score of 300. The minimum score will depend on the number of multiple-choice questions and non-multiple-choice questions on that year’s test. Unfortunately, the IIMs do not disclose this information.

To score 140 on the exam, you would have to answer approximately 47 questions correctly overall. However! That’s that’s only if you didn’t answer any items incorrectly. Furthermore, the marks required to reach the 95 percentile on the CAT are different for each section, as well.

Marks Required to Get 95 Percentile in CAT, By Section

While scoring around 140 will most likely get you the marks required to get 95 percentile in CAT, the marks needed to score in the 95 percentile in different sections vary. Because the IIMs do not release official marks-to-percentile tables, experts do their best to estimate the scores needed in these sections to reach the 95 percentile. To achieve this goal, test-takers most likely have to answer the most questions correctly in the Verbal and Reading Comprehension section, and the fewest in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section.

For the 2015 exam, India Today estimated that test-takers would need to do the following to hit the 95 percentile in the CAT sections.

  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension: Attempt 23-24 questions out of 34 and answer 80% of them correctly.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning: Attempt 16-17 questions out of 32 and answer 90% of them correctly.
  • Quantitative Ability: Attempt 19-20 questions out of 34 and answer 85% of them correctly.

Assuming maximum penalties—that is, assuming that all questions answered incorrectly were multiple choice—that would mean the following marks per section.

  • Verbal and Reading Comprehension: 50-52
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning: 41-44
  • Quantitative Ability: 45-48

Determining CAT Percentiles

Some websites and bloggers have attempted to pinpoint even more precise scores than this that would lead test-takers to the marks required to get 95 percentile in CAT. One predicts 50 in the Verbal and Reading Comprehension section, 38 in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section, and 45 in the Quantitative Ability section. Another favors 54 in the Verbal and Reading Comprehension section, 34 in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section, and 58 in the Quantitative Ability section. The reality is most likely somewhere between these estimates, within the ranges above.

As you can see, we can find ranges that would place you in the 95 percentile on the 2015 CAT. But we have to stress that we can’t tell you exactly how many questions you would have to answer correctly to achieve this percentile. That’s because some questions have wrong-answer penalties, while others don’t. Also, not answering a question altogether may affect your score differently than answering it incorrectly. In short, there are many different ways that test-takers can gain the same marks even while getting different numbers of questions correct.

Normalization and CAT Scores

Keep in mind that the marks needed to reach certain percentiles will differ between morning (“forenoon”) and afternoon sessions. This is because the exam questions themselves differ, as does the applicant pool. The IIMs use a process called “normalization” to arrive at the marks needed to place candidates within overall percentiles fairly. Normalization takes the difference in difficulty between the two tests into account. The testmakers do this by looking at the number of questions, and which questions, that students got wrong on the given exams. Therefore, it’s possible that (as in 2015) the marks needed to reach the top percentiles could differ by two points or even more, depending on which session you attended.

What Does This Mean for Scores on the 2016 CAT and Beyond?

The IIMs’ release of scores on the 2016 exam is right around the corner. Currently, it’s expected in the second week of January 2017. Thus, we don’t yet know what the percentiles will be. It will depend on whether the majority of candidates answered more or fewer questions correctly on the most recent exam than in 2015. Furthermore, the mark-percentile correlation will depend on the performance of the current pool of test-takers. It’s not yet known what marks on the 2016 exam will land you in the 95 percentile.

However, it’s unlikely that the marks-to-percentile conversion will be vastly different than in previous years. In the most likely scenario, 2016 test-takers with marks in the mid-100s will find themselves with competitive scores. This will also be true for future test-takers, if the exam format remains consistent.

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