CAT Score vs CAT Percentile: The CAT 2019 exam is nearly six months away and students can be found with their noses deep into mounds of books. Every year, students from a variety of academic backgrounds and different capacities try their hand at this tricky exam called the CAT exam. There are fresh graduates, there are retakers and then there are students who come with an existing work experience and see having an MBA degree as adding another feather to their cap. Students, then, resort to various ways of preparing for this highly competitive exam. Some resort to Online CAT Coaching, some prefer traditional coachings and others prepare by themselves.

CAT Score vs CAT Percentile

However, before aspirants start preparing for the CAT exam, they must be familiar with the CAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus and also the CAT Score vs CAT Percentile method. This process is one which most students are not too clear with and which is of high importance, especially for calculating scores for securing admissions in the IIMs.

Before introducing you to the entire CAT Score vs CAT Percentile concept, we would like you to comprehend the entire CAT 2019 Exam Pattern.

  • The CAT 2019 is a computer-based exam to be completed within a duration of three hours.
  • CAT exam is divided into 3 main sections of 60 minutes each
  • The 3 sections in CAT exam 2019 are – Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC); Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR); Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
  • There are also sub-sections within each section of the CAT exam.
  • Candidates are not allowed to move between one section to another during the 1 hour assigned to the particular section.
  • The questions in CAT 2019 exam pattern will be divided into Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) where you need to pick out 1 correct answer choice out of 4; then there are Non-MCQs where you have to type in the correct answer on the computer screen.
  • Each correct answer in CAT exam pattern will be awarded 3 marks whether it is MCQ or Non-MCQ
  • Each wrong answer for MCQ in CAT exam 2019 will be imposed a penalty of 1/3 negative mark (-1 mark)
  • There is no penalty of negative marking on wrong answers to Non-MCQs in CAT 2019 exam pattern.
  • Notably, with the addition of 25% + Non-MCQs, the chances of having increased Percentile in the CAT exam have increased.
Sections MCQs Non-MCQs Total Questions Total Marks Time allotted
VARC 24 10 34 102 60 minutes
DI/LR 24 8 32 96 60 minutes
QA 27 7 34 102 60 minutes
Total 75 25 100 300 180 minutes

CAT Score vs CAT Percentile: Objective

The common confusion which generally prevails amid the CAT aspirants is regarding the relation between CAT Score and CAT Percentile, why CAT Scores are presented in Percentile format and how and why the CAT Percentile points to ones’ position among all the applicants as per their rankings. However, if both of them go hand in hand, why are they presented in two different ways?

Putting it forth directly, there is no one single method for entrance exams like CAT where one can figure out the exact score to waltz into the elite list of the 99 percentile league. Therefore, the percentile is evaluated on the basis of difficulty level of the exam of the particular year of the CAT exam.

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What is the CAT Score?

CAT Score is the total score obtained by the candidate in the CAT Exam. Sectional papers of the candidates are summed and arranged in descending order of the respective marks. This leads to the calculation of the CAT Percentile.

What is  CAT Percentile?

A percentile is a unit used to measure the percentage of students below or above a student in the merit list. A CAT Percentile decides the rank of an aspirant seeking admission in the reputed management institutes of the country based on their performance in the CAT exam, relative to the rest of the aspirants who’ve appeared for the same CAT exam in the same year.

The overall CAT scores can be both sorted and calculated using the calculation process given below:

CAT Percentile = [1 – (Your Rank in CAT 2019/Total Number of Candidates taking CAT 2019)] * 100

For Example,

If the total number of candidates who will be appearing for CAT 2019 exam is 1, 00,000 and you score a CAT rank 2019 of 3,500 then your CAT percentile will be calculated as below:

Your CAT 2019 Percentile = [1 – (3500/1, 00,000)] * 100 = 96.5

The above percentile means that 96.5 percent of the students writing the CAT exam shall have the CAT score below you.

Please note that no candidate can score an absolute 100 percentile in the CAT exam because the CAT Percentile indicates the percentage of students you are ahead of, including yourself. Also, the CAT percentile is calculated up to three decimal places and then rounded off to the next closest possible number.

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What are the Raw Scores and Scaled Scores in the CAT Exam?

Before year 2015, the CAT exam was conducted across various slots. Presently, the CAT exam is conducted across two slots on the same day. Since replicating the level of difficulty in all the slots is impossible, the conducting authority of the CAT does a process of ‘Normalization’ in order to maintain equality and fairness for all the exam-takers.

Post normalisation of the scores using the equi-percentile method, candidates are given a scaled score. This scaled score might be more or less than the actual CAT score depending upon the performance of the fellow candidates.

Notably, a psychometrically-sound approach is used for the scoring process for all CAT candidates.

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Raw Scores are equated

Notably, Equating is a statistical process used to adjust scores on two or more alternate forms of an assessment so that the scores may be used interchangeably. Industry standard processes are used for equating.

Scaling of Raw scores

To ensure appropriate interpretation of an equated raw score, scores must be placed on a common scale or metric. To achieve scaled scores, linear transformation is used. This method used for the test forms vary in difficulty terms and allows score to scale. To consider this method mathematically, we take two different test forms X and Y.

The IIM scaling model is as follows:

Sectional Scores = 0 to 150

Total Exam Score = 0 to 450

There are four scaled scores presented for each candidate: an overall scaled score and three separate scaled scores for each section. However, overall scaled score is not the direct addition of sectional scaled scores. Overall scaled score is based on raw overall score and is independent of sectional scaled score.

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What is the Normalisation Process?

As per the IIMs, the normalization process followed by CAT promises justice when it comes to being fair and equal in performances across multiple sessions. IIMs clearly mention, ‘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 the normalisation process is to evaluate any kind of variations in terms of the difficulty level of the question papers across various sessions. This is exactly the factor which is used to determine CAT Score vs. Percentile. In the normalisation process, students are scaled on the basis of test slots, location, scale differences among other factors. On combining these scores, a scaled score is obtained which is subsequently converted into percentile. The official process states, “The Normalization process shall adjust for location and scale differences of score distributions across different forms. After normalization across different forms, the scores shall be further normalized across different sections. The scaled scores obtained by this process shall be converted into percentiles for purposes of shortlisting.”

Now, an accurate example could be that when CAT Scaled Score is 123.36, the CAT percentile can be 95.08. Similarly, if the CAT scaled score is 124.42, the CAT percentile would be 95.3 and so on.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that if a candidate scores 95 percentile or above in the CAT 2019 exam, he/she can receive calls from the top B-schools.


In life, we should always look before we leap in order to make safe and beneficial choices in life. Same is with the CAT exam. Unless you understand the basic concepts of the CAT exam, which also includes the aforementioned CAT Normalisation Process, you would not be able to calculate as to how much score you would need to get that seat in your favourite B-school. Now that you have managed to get a hang of the same, march on and clear CAT 2019 exam with flying colours!