Apart from the — how many questions should I answer to score a 99 percentile on the CAT — question, one of the questions that I get asked to answer most frequently both from my students as well as people on Quora is the one that is more or less framed as follows:
I have X% in X , Y% in XII and Z% in GRAD, will I get a call from the IIMs?
Given that this is such a popular question, I think it is time to dedicate a post to the same.
The first hurdles are not your Marks but your SECTIONAL and OVERALL Percentile!
Even before your Marks come into the play the first level of screening will be to eliminate all candidates who do not fulfil the minimum requirements in terms of overall and sectional percentiles.
So even if you have an overall percentile of 97 or 98 but do not clear any one of the sectional cut-offs, you are straightaway eliminated at this stage. The table below gives you a snapshot of the cut-offs for the six OLD IIMs.
The first three numbers represent the sectional percentiles and the last one the overall percentile. Once you clear this hurdle you will move on to the next stage.
The shortlisting criteria of various IIMs for a first call
By now you would know that whether you get a shortlist from your dreamed of IIM are depends on more than just your CAT score. What are the other elements that play a crucial part in the shortlisting process?
- X Marks
- XII Marks
- Graduation Marks
- Work Experience
- Education Diversity
- Gender Diversity
Each of the colleges gives different weights to each of these components. Some colleges might not use some components. The table below summarises the weightage/marks given to different components of your profile.
Some points to note that are specific to some of the colleges.
IIM-Ahmedabad Shortlisting Criteria
As you can see from the table above there is no numerical weightage given to Education Diversity. Instead of giving marks to applicants from different streams, IIM-A uses a slightly different process:
- The various graduation disciplines are divided into 7 categories
- The top 100 students or 1% of applicants (whichever is fewer), are shortlisted based on their Composite Score – (Academic Rating).30 + Normalised CAT Score).70
- This shortlist does not differentiate between GEN, NC-OBC, SC, ST or DA categories
The IIM-A process thus ensures that the best commerce student or doctor or lawyer compete with the best engineer.
So if 9000 people belonging to a particular stream appear for the CAT, then the 90 top students from that stream will get a call for the WAT-PI round. The highest percentile in a particular education stream can be 97 but the topper will still get a call provided he/she clears all the sectional cut-offs.
IIM-Ahmedabad gives no weightage for work experience at any stage. So all that matters is how you do well in your PI, it does not make a difference whether you are a fresher or a working professional.
IIM-Bangalore Shortlisting Criteria
Unlike IIM-A , IIM-B gives weightage both to work experience and to Gender Diversity.
- The weightage of 5 for work experience is calculated as follows:
- The marks for work experience = 5*(number of months of work experience)/36.
- If you have more than 36 months you will get 5 marks
- Gender diversity plays a role only in the first call .
- For the Final Call the 1 mark allocated to women applicants will be removed and the remaining 35 marks will be for your WAT and PI.
IIM-Kolkata Shortlisting Criteria
While work experience and education diversity play no role in the first call, they play a role in the final call with a weightage of 8 and 3 respectively.
IIM-Lucknow Shortlisting Criteria
There is no change from the First Call to the second call. There are 50 marks in total for all the components in the first call, to this 50 marks will be added for the WAT and PI to arrive at a final score.
IIM Indore Shortlisting Criteria
While graduation marks along with work experience and education diversity have no role to play in the first call, the final call will give a 15% weightage to graduation marks.
IIM Kozhikode Shortlisting Criteria
While there is a 5% weightage for Gender and Education Diversity, a candidate cannot get marks for both. He/she can get marks only for one of the two. So girls who are commerce graduates DO NOT end up getting an outsized advantage.
Also, X, XII & Graduation Marks will have no role to play in the final call. Work experience, which does not have a role to play int the first call, will have a weightage in the final call.
How is the CAT Score used in the shortlisting process of the IIMs?
Your CAT Score is first normalised — divided by the highest CAT Score among the applicants — and then multiplied by the weightage or marks given to CAT Score, which is different for each IIM and is indicated in the table above.
In a very easy CAT, the scores are all very close to each other and hence when divided by the highest score and then the multiplied by the weightage or marks, differences between scores are further reduced.
Hence on an easy CAT a higher percentile will not necessarily make a very huge difference as will the other components, whereas on a difficult CAT on which the marks will be more widespread, CAT scores will end up having a huge impact.
I suppose this explains why at times we hear statements such as CAT is very tough my friend did not get a call even at 99.XY. It is not because of a tough CAT but because of an easy CAT and other components of the profile.
How are marks across boards and streams made comparable?
This is usually a big concern for aspirants since different boards and different streams are known to award marks with varying degrees of generosity — the most generous being the ones, in my opinion, in the south of the country and most frugal ones belonging to the east!
Obviously something so obvious will be something that even the IIMs take cognisance of and each of them uses a different method to normalise the marks across boards and streams.
How do they equate scores across boards and streams?
IIM-A uses the marks of all the applicants that they have from the previous years’s to arrive at specific slabs for specific streams at both XII and Graduation Levels.
The classification is an exhaustive one to give short summary:
- AC – 1: Bachelors in Sciences
- AC – 2: Bachelors in Arts, Law , Education
- AC – 3: Bachelors in Commerce, Economics, Hotel Management, Business Administration
- AC- 4: Bachelors in Engineering and Architecture
- AC -5: Anything apart from 1 to 7
- AC – 6: Medicine
- AC – 7: CA, ICWA, CS
Please note that there is no distinction made across boards but only across streams.
Other IIMs use different method use the standard normalisation process based on mean and standard deviation of the scores of all applicants.
How much of an impact will X, XII and Grad marks have on getting a shortlist?
While our parents had told us all along how important X and XII marks will be in “settling down” in life, they never really told us much about the importance of Graduation marks. To a certain extent even they, like us, assumed that life will more or less be settled after getting into a good engineering college (by the way there is nothing called settling down, only sediment settles down).
But given the selection criteria of the IIMs and the additional weightage given for educational diversity, it might turn out that one stands a better chance had one not chosen engineering in the first place. And if one did, one should have ensured a percentage above 80%.
As you can see from the table above, almost all colleges barring IIM-L, which gives no weightage to X marks, give weightage to X and XII marks.
Each IIM has a different marks at different slabs. For example, IIM-A has the following slabs for X:
- 90 and above – 10 marks; 80 to 90 – 8 marks; 70 to 80 – 5 marks; 60 to 70 – 3 marks; 55 to 60 – 2 marks; less than 55 – 1 mark
All colleges barring IIM-C and K start at slabs of 90 and above. Since these days getting above 90 in X and XII has become quite common, those who get below a 90 in X and XII will have a tough chance getting a first call since they will be dropping valuable points.
The biggest differentiator can end up being Graduation Marks since some of us were good students until till we reached graduation!
So if you have a Graduation CGPA or percentage that is less than 80% then a WAT-GD-PI call from
- IIM-A or IIM-B is ruled out even with very high CAT percentiles
- IIM-C most definitely since there is no weightage
- IIM-L is definitely possible since the weightage is quite low
- IIM-I most definitely since there is no weightage
- IIM-K is possible since the weightage is moderate
The table below summarizes a calls you can expect for most of the typcial Academic profiles.
If two out of three among X, XII and Graduation are below 80 then I am afraid there is only a very slim chance of getting a call from any one of the old IIMs.
Incase there is a combination I have missed out on, say 80-90-70, you can deduce it from the table and the analysis provided. You have to do at least some DI!
Can Work Experience can compensate for a slightly lower CAT Score?
If you look at the weightage for CAT Scores, it is lower in the case of the IIMs Bangalore, Lucknow and Indore, with IIM-B having the least weightage at 20%. Of the three of these, Indore does not have weightage for work experience.
So those who have work experience of two years and above (and good acads) can get a call from IIM-Bangalore and Lucknow at a CAT percentile between 98 and 99.
In fact we have had a girl candidate with 4 years of experience, a good academic profile and belonging to the General Category get a call from B at 96.5 percentile.
Which IIMs are freshers most likely to get a call from?
Freshers are with a good academic profile are likely to get a first call from all IIMs except IIM-B. Given the very low weightage for CAT Score — 20% — it is impossible to get in without work experience since all other things end (X, XII, Grad) up being equal for most candidates.
Freshers with not so good academic profile — 80-80-70 — can still get calls from IIM-C, IIM-L and IIM-K.
The shortlisting criteria of various IIMs for a final call
The criteria for the final call will more or less remain the same with a few changes coming in here and there. Some b-schools bring in weightage for work experience in the final call stage and others remove weightage for some components such as Gender Diversity from the final stage.
But we will be running ahead of ourselves if we are discussing those elements at this stage. It is best that we cross the bridge when we get to it.
There might be changes this year
Later this year, the IIMs will annoucne their criteria for the 2017-2019 batch.Apart from IIM-B, most of the IIMs have tended to make some changes or the other every year. So do not treat the criteria as set in stone!
To learn more about the criteria of other premier colleges you can visit: http://www.imsindia.com/test-analysis-2015/CAT/institute-cutoffs-at-glance.html
Do not worry about what you can’t change, control and change what you can
This post wasn’t intended to demotivate test-takers rather, as I had mentioned earlier, it has stemmed from a lot of queries posted by aspirants.
Some of you might feel dejected at this point of time that — Oh I didn’t know that IIM-A will not be possible! What’s the point if I can get a call only from one or two old IIMs?
Just take a breather and ask this question to yourself — What is the goal?
- To get into IIM-A or to build a great career?
Getting into IIM-A might be much easier than surviving IIM-A!
- Do you know that a number of students (sometimes as high as 20) from reputable graduation colleges drop out after the first trimester at IIM-A being unable to handle the heat!
- Do you know that big consulting firms such as McKinsey barely give shortlists to candidates who are not from IITs or NITs.
We have to always play with the cards we are dealt. We have to always play the current round well. There is no point wishing for other cards or trying to undo other rounds, both are exercises in futility.
So what is it that you can control and change?
- Your X, XII or Grad Marks — NO.
- Your preparation towards getting a great Cat Score – YES.
And remember there is always FMS — the b-school with a fee of Rs. 20, 000 and average salary in excess of Rs.15,00,000 — that does not consider X, XII, Grad marks or work experience both for the first call and the final call. The only scores that matters for FMS are the CAT Score and WAT-PI Scores.
It is crunch time, NOW
I hope all the readers of this blog are aware that crunch time has started.
A lot of aspirants waste a year and get it on a second or third attempt since they do not bring their A-game early on. They still operate in the college mentality and believe that they can pull it off by getting semi-serious and taking all mocks from September.
Only after trying and failing a few times do they put in their all. Cracking the IIMs and getting that awesome salary is not tough but it is defeintiely not going to be as easy as getting a 90 or a 9 in your engineering. The CAT is a different kettle of fish alltogether.
Those who succeed not just on the CAT(or GMAT) but also at a premier b-school and in their professional life later are those who are willing to plan, prep and put their best foot forward.
I’ll leave you with a story of one of the best students I have had in recent times. A fresher in his third year of engineering, he had enrolled for the GMAT with us last year and attended most of the classes diligently. Each and everything I told him, right from reading the GMAT blog to planning the mocks he followed to the T. After every Mock he brought his laptop along to discuss how he could get better; he was not late even for a single appointment. He was taking the exam in Bangalore and so before he left to take the exam, he came to me to discuss a bit of the mental part of test-taking with me.
Three days later texted me saying he got a 760!
I asked him whether he was applying to the ISB YLP program and he said he was planning to work for three years and then apply to premier MBA programs abroad; he was not looking at any school in India.
For some reason throughout these 3-4 months, I had not asked him which college he was from. Listening to this career plans, I asked him and he replied that he was from IIT-Madras!
Given the stereotypes surrounding IITians’ ablity (and hence their attitude towards coaching centres) and their attitude, it had not even remotely occurred to me that he might be from IIT-M. I thought he was a bright student from CEG, SRM or SSN.
If an IITian can be so diligent, organised and focussed about his prep, I am sure many of you reading this blog should also do the same.