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Meaning of a percentile

ARKS Srinivas answers the percentile queries of CAT aspirants.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2008 16:19 IST

We keep hearing that to get into the IIMs you need a 99 percentile (%ile). Students are generally disheartened when they score a 85%ile whereas if they get a 85 percentage in any exam one would normally be very happy. Unless, the clarity is there about what actually is a percentile?

How to interpret it? it would be difficult even to apply to various B-Schools based on your score. A percentile means the percentage of people below you. If you are a 90%ile person, it means there are 90 percent of people who scored less than you.

In other words, if you are a 90%iler then you are in the top 10 percent of the people. Similarly, if you have got a 99 percentile in the CAT exam, it means that you are in the top 1% of the people who have taken the exam. Last year CAT was written by close to 2,00,000 students.

The IIMs call about 3000 students after the Written Test Stage for the GD and Interview round. From among these 3000 students, about 1750 students are finally given admission to the IIMs from the seven IIMs. Now you can clearly see why getting in the top 2000 or 1% of the students (or 99 percentile) would be required to get into the IIMs. Though the IIMs and other institutes choose different criteria for choosing students while calling them for the GD and Interview round, the CAT score plays a major role in the same.

IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Calcutta have called students only on the basis of the percentiles that a student secured in the CAT exam. IIM Bangalore and the other IIMs also look at other criteria such as academic scores and work experience before short listing students for the GD and Interview round.

A quick glance at what would be your percentile depending on ranks. *Since there is not going to be a 99.999 percentile (the IIMs give only a two digit decimal for a percentile and hence give you a 100 percentile) As can be seen here, if about 2 lakh students write the CAT exam, then to be in the reckoning for an IIM call you should be getting in the 98.5 %ile range.

Though the IIMs require very high percentiles, other B-Schools including top ones such as MDI Gurgaon, IMT Ghaziabad, BIM Trichy, KJ Somaiyya and others require lesser percentiles. BIM Trichy has given calls at even less than 90%ile. In other words, if you are in the 20000th rank range, you still have a chance of getting into the top B-Schools.

(ARKS Srinivas, director T.I.M.E. Mumbai)