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CAT Exam: A Guide to Marks & Percentile

Common Admission Test or CAT is one of the most popular MBA entrance test 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 Percentiles. So let us first understand what it 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. 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 at a score ranging from 153 to 175. This essentially means that you need to attempt 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

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 is a total of 34 questions in this section out of which 24 questions are from RC passages and the remaining 10 questions are from VA. To get the 99th percentile in this section, you need to get roughly 25 to 26 questions correct. If VARC is not your forte, then your focus should be to get about 19 to 22 questions right with practice. This will easily place you at a 90+ percentile, and you can maximize your score through your strength 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

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 eight to 10 questions correct to enter the 90th percentile club, and the 99th percentile club is not very far. There are eight 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

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 16 to 20 questions right in the paper. 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

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