CAT Exam Marks vs Percentile Explained

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is one of the most competitive examinations in India, serving as the gateway for candidates aspiring to secure admission in the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and several other top business schools in the country. However, one of the most perplexing aspects of the CAT results is the distinction between ‘marks’ and ‘percentile’. Here, we break down the intricate relationship between CAT marks and percentile and why understanding this difference is pivotal for aspirants.

CAT Exam Marks vs Percentile 2024

CAT Exam Marks 2024

‘Marks’ in the context of the CAT exam refer to the raw scores achieved by a candidate in each of the three sections: Quantitative Ability (QA), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC). The sum of these individual section scores gives the overall score of a candidate.

CAT Exam Percentile 2024

Percentile, a crucial term often misinterpreted, essentially showcases a candidate’s performance in comparison to others who took the same exam. If a candidate’s percentile is 90, it means that they have scored better than 90% of the candidates who appeared for the test.

How is CAT Exam Percentile 2024 Calculated?

To calculate a percentile for an individual section:

  • Determine Your Raw Score: This is the first step, and it involves finding out your actual score in the CAT exam. You can determine your raw score based on the number of correct answers after adjusting for negative marking.
  • Rank the Candidates: Rank all candidates based on their raw scores in descending order. If two or more candidates have the same score, they will have the same rank, and the next rank will be skipped accordingly

Calculate the CAT Percentile using the belew  following formula:

Percentile of a Candidate (P)=(Total number of candidates (N) – Rank of the candidate (R)/Total number of candidates (N))×100

The Intricate Relationship Between Marks and Percentile

It’s important to understand that there isn’t a direct linear relationship between marks and percentile. Two main reasons contribute to this:

  • Varied Difficulty Levels: The difficulty level of the CAT exam is not constant every year. Some years may have tougher questions, leading to lower average scores, while other years might be relatively easier, resulting in higher average scores. Thus, the same marks can correspond to different percentiles in different years.
  • Competition: The number and the caliber of candidates appearing for the CAT exam also play a role. If a majority of candidates perform exceptionally well in a particular year, then even a high score might fetch a lower percentile compared to another year where the majority didn’t score as high.

Why CAT Percentile is More Important than CAT Marks

The IIMs and other B-schools primarily use the percentile system for a reason. They aim to choose candidates based on relative performance rather than absolute marks. By doing so, these institutes ensure fairness, especially considering the varying difficulty levels of the exam from year to year.

A higher percentile indicates a stronger relative performance and therefore increases the chance of securing admission into the top business schools. For instance, a 99 percentile score is often considered the benchmark for securing a call from the top IIMs.


Understanding the difference between marks and percentile in the CAT exam is essential for aspirants not just from the point of exam strategy, but also to set realistic expectations and targets. It’s the relative performance that matters the most in CAT, so every aspirant should aim to outperform not just the exam but also their competition.

With dedicated preparation, the right mindset, and clarity about the examination’s scoring system, candidates can certainly set themselves up for success in the CAT.

CAT Exam Marks vs Percentile FAQs

Q: What is the difference between marks and percentile in the CAT exam?

A:Marks refer to the raw scores obtained by a candidate based on the number of correct and incorrect answers. Percentile, on the other hand, represents a candidate's performance in comparison to all other test-takers.

Q: Can the same marks lead to different percentiles in different years?

A:Yes, due to varying exam difficulty levels each year and differing performances of the candidates, the same marks can result in different percentiles in different years.

Q: Is there negative marking in the CAT exam?

A: Yes, for every incorrect Multiple Choice Question (MCQ), 1 mark is deducted. However, there is no negative marking for incorrect Typed Answer Questions (TITA).

Q: Is there a direct correlation between marks and percentile?

A:No, marks and percentile don't have a linear correlation. While marks determine the raw score, percentile is influenced by overall candidate performance, the exam's difficulty level, and the number of test-takers in a particular year.

Q: Can I estimate my percentile based on my raw score?

A:You can get a rough idea by looking at past trends, but exact percentiles can differ year-to-year due to varying factors like exam difficulty and candidate performance..

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