According to the SMART goal setting theory, it is important for our goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. It is important to clearly define our goals especially in a competitive environment like the CAT so that we know exactly in which direction to work. Many of you might have set a target to score a 99 or a 99.5 or even a 99.9+ percentile in CAT 2022, but what score do you really need to fetch you that dream percentile? We aim to clear out this very doubt in this article with reliable data comparing CAT 2020 and CAT 2021 scores vs percentiles.
In CAT 2020, the total number of questions had reduced to 76 with the change in the exam pattern to a 2 hour paper. The number of questions further reduced to 66 in CAT 2021. This can be the reason for the slight dip in overall scores in CAT 2021. The number of questions is expected to range about the same in CAT 2022 as well and hence the overall score might increase or decrease slightly based on the difficulty level of the paper.
Each question in the CAT exam carries 3 marks for a right answer and 1 negative mark for a wrong answer. This applies to all MCQ questions while the TITA questions (wherein you have to type in the answer) carry no negative marking. Hence to get a 99.9 percentile in CAT 2021, one would have had to get about 42 questions correct, assuming only 2 negative marks. The slight difference in the difficulty level across the slots gets compensated by normalisation of scores, hence that should not be a point of contention.
Sectional scores are as important as the overall scores because most colleges have a sectional cutoff, failing which candidates would not receive a call no matter how high the overall percentile may be. Hence we have presented data for sectional scores vs percentiles in CAT for the years 2020 and 2021.
In VARC, as we can see from the below data that the scores went up slightly despite the reduction in the total number of questions. This could have been due to the reduced difficulty level in CAT 2021. Getting 15 questions right assuming no negative marketing would have fetched a 99 percentile in 2021. The full score vs percentile data for VARC is given in the table below.
In CAT 2021, getting a 99 percentile in DILR would have required you to get 11 questions correct assuming no negative marking. Usually DILR sets have 4 or 6 questions and hence attempting 2 to 3 sets with high accuracy can fetch you a 99+ percentile. However getting a 99.9 percentile in DILR would require you to get 14 out of 20 questions correct which can only be achieved by lots and lots of practice.
For Quantitative Aptitude, the scores have dipped quite a bit for 2021 compared to 2020. With the reduced number of questions, the difficulty level was also higher which led to people attempting lesser number of questions. Getting about 12 questions right in 40 minutes would have ensured you a 99 percentile while solving 16-17 questions correctly would have shot up your percentile to 99.9!
Also, as you might have seen there is a huge difference in scores of a 99.5 and a 99.9 percentiler while the difference of scores between a 98 and 99 percentiler is quite less compared to that. This is because as you keep getting in the high percentile brackets, the competition increases manifold. Hence, instead of aiming for percentiles in absolute numbers, the focus should be on improving the scores as they would need to increase by a much higher margin if you aim to increase your percentile even slightly after a certain point.
While the number of questions and the difficulty level may vary in CAT 2022, keeping these benchmarks in mind would help you during your preparation to know how much improvement you need. However during the exam, the focus should be on getting maximum questions right in less amount of time instead of being fixated on a fix score!