Predicting CAT Percentiles: Why Coaching Centers Are Screwing It Up – ARKS Srinivas

Every year, right after CAT (and other exams), various Training centers post their analysis of the exam and make predictions of the scores & percentiles. As most CAT aspirants can tell you, predictions are usually way off.

In many cases training centers are racing to post their analysis and prediction the earliest without doing the necessary in depth analysis or perhaps without the intellectual capacity to do so.

CAT 2015

Percentile Actual Score VistaMind TIME Bulls Eye
99.9 210 201 (-9) NA NA
99.5 194 190 (-4) NA 180 (-14)
99 180 181 (+1) 166 (-14) 150 (-30)
97 156 162 (+6) NA 130 (-26)
95 143 142 (-1) 133 (-10) 118 (-25)
90 124 123 (-1) NA 100 (-24)

In other cases, Training centers are giving up on prediction and making vague and useless statements like attempt 20Q with 90% accuracy for a good score. Lets see some data

Here is what some other National Level trainers are saying?


Byju’s Classes

Verbal DI/LA QA Total
27-28 16 26-27 65
70% accuracy for a 98%ile

Really, that is all the data that they provide for a student who wishes to know where they stand. Ok. If I take 65 attempts and 70% accuracy (45-46 correct) and apply negative marking (say 12 of 19 errors have negative marks) then I get a score of 126 for 98%ile. As the table shows 126 marks get you close to 90%ile not 98.

Career Launcher

CL does even better. Here is what they said on CAT day.

VA: 26 attempts at 80-85% accuracy

DI: 20 attempts at 85-90% accuracy

QA: 28-30 attempts at 85-90% accuracy

And if you do that, you get a GOOD Score. No Idea what CL means by good score. Your guess is as good as mine.


Why is prediction a very difficult science?

No access to Question paper

In case of a paper and pencil test, a student can get the question paper home and then test it out against a answer key made by experts. So we can get a score that is reasonably accurate. Of course actual accuracy of the score depends on accuracy of the key and keys posted by different experts can vary as can be seen in XAT 2016 exam. But in case of online exams, one cannot even access a question paper post exam, which makes score calculation guesswork.

Scaling of scores

Thankfully CAT this year was conducted only in two slots unlike multiple slots in the past. However, the Question paper for both the slots was different and hence scaling is used to bring all students onto one scale. From an analysis and prediction point of view this requires a very good analysis of relative difficulty level of the paper in each slot.

Score to Percentile conversion: Sectional and Overall

This is perhaps the toughest part. Scores in each section vary depending on number of Qs, time available, student allocation of time and relative difficulty. Even something like order of sections can affect the scoring patterns. To get a reasonable idea, one has to consider past data, factor in changes in exam pattern, relative difficulty level etc.

Ok, I get it. Prediction is difficult. So what? Why does prediction matter anyway?

Some students look at predictions just to get an idea of how they have done, for satisfaction. But for most student’s predictions matter, because they have to apply to Bschools. And a lot of good Bschools put in a application last date, which is before the results come out. And Bschool applications cost a lot of money. A student may end up spending a cool 10 to 15k on Bschools where he/she doesn’t have a chance (over prediction) of miss out on a good Bschool because a training center under predicted his/her score.

And surprisingly, many other institutes that claim to be so special and so successful have simply abdicated their responsibility by giving vague predictions like attempt 28-80 Qs with 85-90% accuracy to get a good score? Come on, you have 100s of trainers, tens of thousands of students (for feedback). Surely you can do better that.

How does VistaMind get it right?

No substitute for Experience. VM trainers have trained students for CAT for over 15 years with great success, having sent 1000s of students to the IIMs and top Bschools.

Write the bloody exam. Too many so-called experts are doing what we call as armchair analysis. It is easy to advise students to attempt X Qs at 90% accuracy. Unless you take the test, understand the difficulty level and time pressure, one can’t get it right. VistaMind faculty write the exam every year, to get a real feel of the exam and then do the analysis. Gut feel + Data.

Take the time, do it right. Too many Institutes and experts are in tearing hurry to post the analysis. Be the first to post online, try to get website hits, acquire student data and cross sell products. And in doing so, they make colossal errors: they get the key wrong, their predictions are way off. Please note, they end up demotivating students (Or giving them false hopes). Students who base their B school applications on that basis lose out badly.


ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.



Shashank Banka

CL did make a decent prediction through its CL Predictor… It had predicted 99.5 at around 180 and you may argue that 99.5 is at 194 but then that’s not the case since 194 is the scaled score and marks in English have been increased to give a greater weightage.. So in my opinion 194 scaled score is around 185 raw score.. I have scored 99.92 at 220 scaled score and let me tell you , there is no way my raw score is in excess of 200 which is what CL predicted…. A few did screw it up but not all….

PS: Not a CL stakeholder in any capacity whatsoever


Dear Shashank, Career Launcher is definitely one of the better ones. Infact, GP has been completely involved in the Test Prep and CL as a company is now focusing on Test Prep much more than they did last few years. I am glad that they are doing!

Ram Shree

Srini Sir, Good attempt to shift focus on vistamind. But do let me cite this fact, Prediction can be exact and it can not be. Last year IMS has predicted TISS HRM cut off as 76/100. and actual cutoff turn out exactly 76/100. Is that mean IMS is best trainer? obviously not. every one has their own pro and cons, you too. first two reasons are irrelevant every training institute send their experts to take actual CAT, experience? then IMS, TIME is 20+ yrs and CL is almost 20yrs old. I am agree with last reason but dosnt matter. I think those who seriously prepare CAT, Mock test itself help them to decide which college to apply. Sir instead of this I would have loved to read about How score is scaled in CAT. TIME tried in his mock but it was way different than actual CAT.

*Not proponent of any one of above mentioned names.
*Just wanted to share one thing is Customer has changed now.One must focus on customer only like starbucks.

Plz excuse inappropriate word if any.


Dear Ram, Thanks for a detailed reply. And more importantly for reading through the article. There are two issues here.
Let’s understand the importance of predicting the Cutoff for CAT!
CAT is the written test to almost all the top institutes in the country. Each institute takes anywhere between Rs 1000/- to Rs 1500/- for the application form. Getting at least an approximate idea about where your percentile would fall and at what percentile you would probably get what Institutes, is of paramount for students writing CAT. Else, they end up wasting a lot of money.
But, if you realise the basic contention is NOT in the ability to predict alone (which definitely is the case with many many institutes in the country and less so on TIME or CL or IMS – incidentally these are people I have worked with and have a very high regard for), but “In many cases training centers are racing to post their analysis and prediction the earliest without doing the necessary in depth analysis”. The first analysis is what most students see and get easily influenced (many definitely do Ram, the sad truth). The contention is this that the scramble to be first is making the analysis a mockery and in many cases hurting students. Incidentally, some of the institutes I have named above have had some excellent ability to give the right advise. Is it dwindling? And these institutes have the maximum students and hence it is also our endeavour to ensure that they give enough importance to the cutoffs so that the students are benefitted. Yes, there is definitely a purpose in this article and that is to project ourselves as an alternative! I am sure that each one of you are MBA aspirants! Why should this be a surprise?
Lastly, we were the first to publish on both & ON “How scores are scaled in CAT” ! Please do read!
And keep the comments on! It gives us idea as to what you want to read!

Ram Shree

1. Agree on money that get wasted on b-school applications
2. We want best alternatives, So we look forward to see you catering best things for students. I am a rural guy, wasted 0.5Lakh in TIME(I do not bother to take name,though my professional etiquette do not allow me) I could not spend that much time later to study. though I am in a college which is in top 0.5%, I simply lost th opportunity to get my dream B school Cz my CATalyst was bad (Yes I was weak at my aptitude but my Attitude was the way better that of 89 in the class) any way. Sir I respect your efforts and intentions but my humble request is “Education is Evolution”, evolve/transform the careers, help the needy.

discourse has took different direction but at last would say that
” Deliver the best”
All the best sir