CAT score and CAT percentile are different from each other and play an important role in IIM admission. Read below to differentiate between these two.

Difference between CAT score and CAT percentile

Among the many questions asked by CAT aspirants, the most frequently asked question is about the difference between CAT score and CAT percentile.

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CAT score and CAT percentile are two different scores and both are key factors in deciding your admission prospects into IIMs and other top B-schools.

CAT score

Refers to the total marks obtained by a candidate while the CAT percentile is a relative score viz the total number of candidates who qualify the exam.

CAT percentile

Plays an important role in the screening process for the first round of IIM admission, which consists of the Written Ability Test and Personal Interview (WAT-PI). Simply put, CAT percentile is a measure of obtaining the relative score by categorizing a candidate on the basis of their performance in comparison to other candidates. This relative scoring is done by analyzing cat exam marks and a few other parameters. CAT 2020 result is most likely to be announced in the first week of January 2021. To clearly understand the difference between the CAT score and percentile go through the passages below.

What is CAT score?

To get a clear idea of the CAT score, an understanding of the CAT 2020 scores and the marking scheme is required.

  • The CAT question paper comprises of 100 questions from four main sections – Quantitative Ability (34), Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (34) and Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation (32).
  • The total marks of the CAT exam are 300. For each correct answer, 3 marks are allotted and 1 mark is deducted for every incorrect answer.
  • There is no negative marking for unanswered questions and non-MCQs.
  • The CAT score refers to the total score obtained in the paper.
  • The sectional scores are totaled and classified in order to arrive at the total CAT score.

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What is CAT Percentile?

A candidate’s CAT percentile is the total percentage of candidates whose score is less than or equal to the candidate’s score. For instance, if your percentile is 99, it means that your performance was better than 99 percent of the total CAT test-takers that year. Or in other words, candidates scoring above 90 percentile will be among the top 10 percent of the students that took the exam that year.  

If you secure the first place among 1000 students in an exam, it indicates that 999 students scored less than you. Then your percentile will be calculated as 999/1000*100= 99.9.

Thus, CAT percentile does not refer to the actual performance in the CAT exam but compares a particular candidate’s performance with the other test-takers.

The percentile calculation for CAT 2020 will follow the same principle.

What is the scaled score in CAT?

CAT exam is held in two sessions – the forenoon session (9 am to 12 pm) and afternoon session (2:30 pm to 5:30 pm). As the question papers of both the sessions are a little different, the scores are scaled using a normalization process in order to ensure that the performances are compared in a fair manner.

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This scaled score could be more or less than the raw score.

The table below will help you differentiate between CAT score and CAT percentile:


CAT Score (out of 300)CAT Percentile


*The above figures are estimation, not actual representation

What is the Normalization of CAT score?

CAT normalization process is based on GATE scoring and this process is based on the assumption that the distribution of abilities of candidates is the same across all the sessions. The calculations are based on statistic equations.

In GATE, normalization takes into consideration all the different difficulty levels of the question papers across different sessions.

How is the overall CAT percentile calculated?

The CAT percentile is mapped against each sectional scaled score and overall scaled score. These six measurements are taken into account and each candidate’s CAT result-cum-scorecard will contain section-wise and overall scaled scores and percentiles.

It is important to remember that though the CAT percentile gives an indication of the candidates’ performance in comparison to the others, the CAT score (scaled) is used for arriving at the composite score which is used for shortlisting candidates for WAT-PI round of IIMs.

CAT composite score calculation

The composite score is calculated on the basis of certain parameters like:

  • CAT score (scaled)
  • Class 12 marks
  • Class 10 marks
  • Graduation score
  • Work Experience
  • Diversity (Gender)
  • Diversity (Academic)

Given below is the formula used by the IIMs for calculating CAT Composite Score.


CAT Score Formula

CAT Score Formula


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