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What exactly is the difference between CAT Score and Percentile?

Nov 24, 2017 14:55 IST
What exactly is the difference between CAT Score and Percentile?
What exactly is the difference between CAT Score and Percentile?

The common confusion that prevails in CAT is about the relation between score and percentile. So, what exactly is the difference between percentile and score, and why CAT score is presented in percentile format? CAT percentile points to your position among all the CAT applicants, based on which your ranking gets decided. However, if both the terminologies direct toward the same meaning, why they are presented in two different ways?

We have come up with a detailed analysis on this riddle, which will help you to understand the basic difference between percentile and score, and also their importance in sealing your fate.

CAT Score Vs Percentile

To put it straight, there’s no particular method for entrance tests such as CAT where you could figure out the exact score you need to achieve to fit into the elite list of 99 percentile league. Percentile is evaluated on the basis of difficulty level of the exam of that particular year. Nevertheless, let’s begin with the CAT Score Vs Percentile data from the past year (2016) to get a comprehensive idea about how much should you score to get a call from premier MBA institutes.

What exactly is percentile?

Let’s delve into the matter of percentile and its meaning before we jump into the comparison of CAT Score and Percentile. A percentile is a unit used to measure the percentage of students below or above you in the merit list. For instance, if you have got 80 percentile in your CAT exam that means 80% of students who appeared in the exam scored less than you. Therefore, candidates securing 80 percentile or above indicates their position in the top 20 percent of the applicants who gave the exam. To make it more clear, if 2 lakh students appeared in the CAT exam, approximately 40,000 candidates (20%) would come under the 80 to 100 percentile range. Hence, the percentile secured as per marks is suggestive of your position and doesn’t exactly tell about the marks you score in the test.

IIMs’ scaling and normalization process – Things to Know

CAT follows a smart scaling and normalization process for scoring to determine the merit of candidates appearing for the same exam in numerous sessions. This scoring process was planned after IIMs came with the computer-based mode of CAT way back in the year, 2009. In the initial years of its implementation, CAT was held in the gap of 20 days in two slots each. And, normalization process was followed to evaluate the performance of candidates across sessions.

As per the words of IIMs, the normalization process followed by CAT makes sure to do justice when it comes to measure fairness and equity in performance across multiple sessions. IIMs clearly mentions, “The process of Normalization is an established practice for comparing candidate scores across multiple Forms and is similar to those being adopted in other large educational selection tests conducted in India, such as Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). For normalization across sections, we shall use the percentile equivalence”.

GATE’s take on normalization line of concept is to evaluate any variation in terms of the difficulty levels of the question papers across various sessions. This is exactly the factor that is used to determine CAT score Vs Percentile. The normalization process is based on the primary supposition that in every multiple session CAT paper, the ability of candidates is without any change whatsoever.

Let’s try to comprehend the CAT scoring system to get the idea of percentile more clearly. Now, the CAT paper comprises 100 questions and follows a marking scheme wherein 3 marks are awarded for every correct answer and 1 negative mark for a wrong answer.

The original score that candidates secure in the CAT exam is not based on this typical marking system all due to the normalization process that is the essential part of the process. There’s the catch! According to some experts the impact of normalization process is not too much as CAT exam is now held in two slots in a single day only. Therefore, the scaled score in the CAT score card remains too close to the actual marks obtained by the candidate.

CAT Score Vs Percentile 2016

Now, let’s take a look at the last year’s CAT scaled scores and the percentiles associated with it. Generally, prestigious B-schools select candidates who get around 80 percentile and above in CAT, here is a list of the top ranges of percentiles as per the actual normalized score of CAT candidates in 2016.

The four slots of CAT percentiles based on which we are presenting thr actual CAT Score Vs Percentile data are as follows:

  • 95.01 percentile and above

  • 90.01 to 95 percentile

  • 85.01 to 90 percentile

  • 80 to 85 percentile

Now, it was seen that when the CAT scaled score was 123.36, the CAT percentile appeared to be 95.08. Similarly, if the CAT scaled score was 124.42, the CAT percentile was 95.3, and so on.

Now it’s quite clear that if you get 95 percentile or above in CAT, you will get calls from the top B-schools.

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