‘Don’t think about your CAT scores’ By Himadri Das, Chairperson Admissions – International Management Institute (IMI)

Once upon a time, not very long ago, it was possible for you to step out of a test centre after taking the CAT and predict within a few hours, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, what your CAT score was going to be. You could then decide which B-schools to apply to based on your predicted CAT scores.
All you had to do was to look at historical CAT cut-offs for these B-schools and if your predicted CAT scores indicated you were in contention, then you applied, else you saved yourself the application fee. You also did not need to waste money and apply to B-schools lower down just as a back-up if you were confident about your CAT score prediction.
This prediction was no rocket science. You had a decent feel of how many questions you answered correctly and informed your coaching institute about this. They would compile this information from many candidates and calculate a percentile score that would be a fairly good approximation of your actual CAT score.
However, things have changed. Last year CAT went high-tech and the test was conducted online on multiple dates. The same applies this year with even more test taking dates than last year. CAT now has a large question bank with questions of different complexity levels. The day you take the test, a randomly generated set of questions from this heterogeneous bank gets selected. On some days the test may have more questions of high complexity and on some days it might have more questions of low complexity. This necessitates the process of normalisation, where your score is adjusted either upwards or downwards based on the complexity level of the test you took.
If you end up taking a high complexity level test, your score will get normalised upwards. On the other hand, if you take a low complexity test, your score will get normalised downwards. This means that any kind of predictability of your CAT score after taking the test goes out the window.
Consider what happened to Ashima Chatterjee and Naresh Singh (names changed) who took the online CAT last year. They both came out of their CAT centres feeling very low thinking that they would have to be very lucky to even touch the 90 percentile level. They had been targeting their dream B-school in Delhi which had a historical cut-off of 95 percentile. They had already applied to this B-school before taking the CAT and were regretting having done so as the application fee would be wasted.
When the CAT scores were declared they jumped with joy to see 98 percentile scores. They are now first year students in their dream Bschool in Delhi.
So what do you do? After taking the CAT do not think about what score you will get. Apply to a wide range of B-schools with different historical cut-offs ranging from high to not so high and then keep your fingers crossed. Good luck!

The writer is a professor and chairperson,
admissions, International Management
Institute (IMI), Delhi

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