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CAT Marks vs Percentile

Common Admission Test or CAT is one of the most popular MBA entrance tests in the country and needs no introduction. CAT is conducted once every year for admission into some of the top B-Schools in the country. When you talk about CAT, a term that you usually get to hear is CAT Percentile. So let’s understand what a percentile means.

A Percentile is a reflection of how you have performed across test takers. For instance, the 90th percentile reflects that your test score is greater than 90% of the test takers. The higher the percentile the better. Both the CAT Marks and Percentile are different parameters that play a vital role in qualifying for the CAT exam. The CAT score is evaluated on the basis of CAT Marks whereas the CAT Percentile is the total percentage of candidates who secured less than or equal to a specific candidate’s score. This brings us to the question,

How much do you need to score in CAT to get a 99%ile?

If we look at the trend in the last few years, you will see that an overall 99th percentile was achieved by attempting roughly 45 to 50% of the paper correctly to reach the top 1 percent. But let’s not overlook the fact that acing the CAT exam also requires you to clear the sectional cut-offs.

Raw Score for 99%

  Overall Raw Score
CAT 2014 190
CAT 2015 175-177
CAT 2016 153
CAT 2017 173
CAT 2018 155
CAT 2019 160
CAT 2020 105-110
CAT 2021 97-99

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

The VARC section as the name suggests covers Reading Comprehension and areas from Verbal Ability like Para Jumbles, Para Summary, and Find odd sentence out. There were a total of 24 questions in this section in CAT 2021 out of which 16 questions were from RC passages and the remaining 8 questions were from VA. To get the 99th percentile in this section, you needed to get around 13 questions correct. If VARC is not your forte, then your focus should be to get about 8 to 10 questions right with practice. This will easily place you at a 90+ percentile, and you can maximize your score through your stronger section.

  90th Percentile 95th Percentile 99th Percentile
CAT 2015 56 64 78
CAT 2016 52 62 75
CAT 2017 50 58 73
CAT 2018 53 62 75
CAT 2019 50 57 65
CAT 2020 30 35 42-44
CAT 2021 28-30 32-35 37-39

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

This section has created fear among test-takers in the last few years. If you compare the scores, you need to score relatively less here to get the 99th percentile. You only need to get 9 to 10 questions correct to enter the 99th percentile. There are four sets in this section. The sets are data-based reasoning sets and call for a knack for data and logical thinking. To do well in this section, you need a sound strategy and should steer clear of panic in case of a difficult DILR section.

  90th Percentile 95th Percentile 99th Percentile
CAT 2015 38 44 56
CAT 2016 28 36 43
CAT 2017 28 35 45
CAT 2018 27 34 44
CAT 2019 32 39 48
CAT 2020 26 29 34
CAT 2021 21-23 25-27 27-30

Quantitative Aptitude

The level of difficulty of the Quantitative Aptitude exam is highly varying in CAT. To be able to perform well in this section, along with the knowledge and practice a student needs presence of mind. He or she should be able to ascertain the level of difficulty of the section and accordingly focus on the number of attempts. If the section is difficult then, you need to prioritize accuracy and if the section is easy you need to prioritize speed. As you can see in the data shared below, in CAT 2017, when the section was easy, the raw score needed for the 99th percentile soared to 78. Similarly, in CAT 2018, when the section was difficult, the 99th percentile was achieved at a raw score of 51.

If you consider Quant as your nemesis, then your target should be to get at least 8 to 9 questions right in the paper to get the 90th percentile. Remember you are dealing with Quant here and not Math so the target is easily achievable with sufficient practice.

  90th Percentile 95th Percentile 99th Percentile
CAT 2015 46 62 67
CAT 2016 36 42 50
CAT 2017 52 65 78
CAT 2018 34 41 51
CAT 2019 33 43 55
CAT 2020 24-27 30-33 40-44
CAT 2021 25-27 31-33 40-42

Number of Questions to attempt in CAT 2022

Following the past year's trends, candidates can infer an estimated number of questions that they must answer correctly to get a good percentile. Here is an overview for CAT 2022-

Sections Total Questions Per Section Number of Questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension 24 11-13
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning 20 8-10
Quantitative Ability 22 13-15
Total no of Questions 66 32-38

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