I often get asked by students: “What percentile do I need to get into the IIMs?” OR ” How do I get to a XX percentile?” OR “Is it true that only 99+ percentilers make it to the IIMs?”. This post is dedicated to all the test-takers who seek answers to these or related questions.
First things first: let us understand the meaning of percentile. Percentile is defined as the percentage of students who scored less than (or sometimes less than or equal to) you in a given test. So a 100 percentile would mean you are the topper, an XX percentile would mean XX% of the test-takers scored less than you in the test while a 0 percentile would mean you have got the least score in the test.
So, to get a 100 percentile – you need to get 100% of the students to score less than you. And frankly speaking there is NO way, as a mortal human being, that you can control the performance of so many other test-takers. You can only control your own performance i.e. maximise your score and perform better than as many test-takers as possible in any given test. And on test day – if you happen to have performed better than all other students – you will be the 100 percentiler:-)
If you understand this basic logic, you will realise that you should not go after getting a specific percentile – you should just focus on maximising your scores. So, if you are scoring 100 in a SimCAT right now, think of how you could make it 110; if you are scoring 180 – think of how you could make it 200 and so on. Push your limits – and score as high as possible in any test you take. This approach will by itself take care of your percentile as percentile is just an outcome of your score.
Obviously, the level of difficulty of test will also influence how much you score in a test. But if your approach had been to maximise your score, believe it or not you would have maximised your percentile as well.
Is it true that you need to score a 99%ile in CAT to get into the IIMs?
Firstly, there are 20 IIMs now…so the answer to this question is a definite NO. I know of enough students with a moderate 10th/12th background but a sufficiently high CAT percentile getting IIM calls and then converting them. And conversely, I also know of students with either a good academic profile but a relatively low CAT percentile having made it to the IIMs. Obviously, with a poor academic background or a relatively low CAT percentile or both, one may have a lesser chance of making it to some of the IIMs but the probability is definitely not ZERO. So, go ahead and maximise your CAT score and thereby your CAT percentile and thereby your chances of making it to the IIMs irrespective of your background thus far.
What is a good percentile: The Math vs the Myth
Let us do a simple calculation for General Category students – we know that 50% of the seats are reserved for other categories. (A similar logic would also apply to all other categories).
With 2000 (General Category) seats in the IIMs and a little less than 2 L test takers, it is clear that more than 1% of the test-takers from General Category get into the IIMs. So, it may seem obvious that you need to have at least 99%ile as the overall cut-off(assuming the top 1 percentile has no students from other categories).
However, for 2000 seats, at least 10000 test-takers get calls (assuming a moderate 1:5 seat:call ratio). This brings down the percentile cut-off for just the General category further down to 95%.
Now, the IIMs need you to be equally competent across all 3 sections and not all 95+ percentilers would have scored equally well across the 3 sections – so to get the 10000 test-takers who have scored equally well across all the sections the overall cut-offs need to go below 95%ile as well – how much below could be anybody’s guess.
The IIMs are looking for gender and academic diversity – and both the gender as well as academic streams are not equally distributed in the total population (The higher percentilers tend to have a majority of engineer males;-)). So, to have gender and academic diversity the percentile cutoffs will further go down – at least for the non-engineering streams and the female engineers.
Learning: You do not need a 99%ile to get into the IIMs – the percentile required depends on your academic stream, your gender, your academic profile(10th/12th/Grad marks) and work experience. Non-engineers may have lower cut-offs than engineers, females may have lower cut-offs than males and working professionals may get in with lower scores compared to graduates. Each of the IIMs have their own selection criteria and every student has a decent chance of making to at least a few of the IIMs provided he does sufficiently well in the CAT – sufficient enough for his category, stream and profile.
I strongly recommend that at this stage, one must not think too much about the required percentile based on his/her background – just focus on maximising your scores in any given test on any given day. This approach will by itself take care of the percentile, as the percentile is only an outcome of the score.
To end this blog, let me share with you the least percentile at which a student secured at least 1 IIM call based on CAT 2015 scores. These are not an indication of the minimum percentile to get into the IIMs but definitely a reinforcement off the fact that students with lower percentiles do have a chance of securing IIM calls.
Disclaimer: The above data is purely based on CAT 2015 scores of past IMS students who secured calls from at least 1 IIM and is only for representative purpose. These percentiles vary from year to year and readers should exercise discretion while interpreting the above data.
May the percentiles be with you:-)