How To Set A Target Score For CAT 2014

The CAT is a week away and one question we keep getting asked is what score should I target. While percentiles are all that matter, the question is not entirely invalid in terms of its relevance to setting score-based milestones to evaluate your performance during the 170 minutes come test-day. The best way to go about it though is by looking at what the numbers from this year’s SimCATs tell us. We will be looking at data from SimCAT 8 onwards from when the new pattern fully took effect.

What is the SCORE RANGE that a 99 percentile can take?

Crossing the 99the percentile overall is a pre-requisite for general category students aiming for a call from the old IIMs. So what is the range of scores translated into a 99th percentile on SimCATs 8 to 13?

A range of close to 74 marks! Even if we discount SimCAT 8 since the pattern had just changed and test-takers were yet to find their feet, the range is still 50 marks. On SimCAT 12,which was the toughest of the lot, it was was low as 127. The average score for a 99 it turns out is a 150.

Lets us look at the range at other percentile levels (excluding SimCAT 8).

Percentile Score Range Average
99 127-177 150
97 115-163 136
95 105-150 126
90 91-133 112
85 83-120 102
80 77-108 93

Sectional Scores and Percentiles

What do things look like at a sectional level at the various percentile ranges.

Percentile QA – DI

Score Range




Score Range



99 78-111 90 62-86 75
95 63-90 74 53-73 63
90 55-77 64 45-64 55
85 49-68 58 40-58 49
80 44-61 52 32-54 45

How Do You Set Targets For Yourself?

As you can see the score required for a particular percentile depends on the paper you get. One of the benchmarks you can use is the average scores at various percentiles as per the
data above. From the scores you can calculate the number of attempts you would need to achieve your desired percentile.

How Not To Use Target Scores

While the average for a 99 in QA-DI is a score of 90, it does not mean that on test-day, if at the end of your QA-DI section you you estimate your score to be less than 90, you panic.

Quite often test-takers go in with a number in mind and when it does not happen they panic and they end up either allotting additional time to the section thereby jeopardising the other section or go into the other section with a negative mindset and perform poorly. Once the results are out that they realize that they had in fact performed well on the section they attempted first and a good performance on the second one would have meant a 99 plus percentile instead of a 98. More importantly they might miss out on a potential FMS convert and we don’t need to tell you how much that would cost!

So use the data above only as a reference, like the average score on a particular pitch. It does not mean that if you reach the average score in the 45th over you are going to take singles in the last five overs! Nor does it mean that you give up trying to save every single and bowl yourself to victory if you end up with a score slightly less than the average score.

I know it is the last week and most of you might be neck deep in prep but go watch Interstellar some time before your test-day, just to take the weight off your shoulders and shoot off into space.

All the best!

8 thoughts on “How To Set A Target Score For CAT 2014

  1. My avg score in section 2 is around 68-70 whereas in section 1 it is as low as 40-44. What percentile and colleges can I expect?

    • Hi Vartika,
      If you maintain your current level of performance then you can expect your percentile to be in the 93-97 range.

      The colleges depend on the category. For general category, calls from the IIMs will be tough but S.P.Jain, MDI, IITs are possbile.

      If you belong to the NC-OBC category you will get calls from the IIMs if your academics so far are above 80.

  2. If these estimations are based on performances in SIMCATs, which are taken on average by around 10K people, then wouldn’t the cutoffs be lower in the actual CAT? In the sense that, if 136 gets you 97 percentile in a SIMCAT, then surely you’d score a much higher percentile in the actual CAT, since there are more than 1.5L people writing the test? Or has this scaling already been taken into account here?
    Also, thanks a lot for all your articles. They’re extremely helpful!

    • The beauty of a percentile is that it is a relative measure. So as long as the data set is reasonably representative, and large enough to be statistically significant (even a thousand people is already a large enough sample, in practice), a percentile will not change significantly from 2000 to 200000 people, though the rank certainly will. Remember that of the many people being “added”, some will be above you as well as some below, just as in the existing population!

      It is possible however, that the score in the actual would be a little higher than in the last couple of sims, but that is for an entirely different reason. Towards the end of the season, a fair number of non-serious people have given up and stopped taking tests. However the serious ones are all still slugging it out in every sim. So the mass of test-takers has a higher concentration of “potential toppers” which might skew your percentile slightly downwards. It is a minor effect though; if you get a 90 in a sim, it might go to a 92 or 93 in the actual. Don’t rely on it 🙂


      • But even in the people being added, the number of non-serious test takers is likely to be far higher than those that are in it more seriously (Or so I would assume). And hence, even if your rank drops from say, 500 to around 2500, it’s still likely to be higher than 98%ile right?
        This, again is based on the assumption, that if you take around 10K students each from IMS, TIME and CL and add in a bunch of others, you’d still have around 40K people who are seriously studying for CAT, and it’s unlikely that the extra 1L students are all seriously slogging at home.

        All this analysis is really just out of curiosity. As you said,it’s best not to rely on any of it and just focus on doing well on the day 🙂

    • Hi CK,

      Your percentile will go up by a few percentile points for the reasons J mentioned.

      But D-day brings in a certain amount of pressure. Some people perform exceedingly well under pressure since when it is the real thing they are fully switched on as opposed to when they take a test at home; others flag a bit under pressure.

      So given all of this it is always best to set the bar slightly higher.

      All the best for your CAT; hope you perform to the best of your abilities.


      • That’s very true. Anything can happen on D-Day.
        And thanks for the wishes :). It’s worth mentioning again that you guys are doing an amazing job with this blog!

  3. Pingback: 10 Things You Need To Do On CAT-Day | CAT-holics

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