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CAT 99 percentilers are not even eligible to appear for IIM interviews !

Got a 99 percentile in CAT? Already dreaming to be in one of the top IIMs and have a story just like that of Chetan Bhagat’s ‘2 states’? Can’t blame you because you have every right to dream after being among the top 1% of students who appeared for the prestigious CAT exam. I am very sorry to say this but your dreams and hopes may be shattered. The reason for this would be the infamous ‘shortlisting criteria of IIMs’.

Now if you guys don’t have an idea of what I am talking about, then let me just give you a quick intro of the CAT . CAT(Common admission test) is the entrance exam for getting into IIMs(Indian Institute of Management) and other prestigious institutes around the country for their business administration programs (MBA,PGDM etc.). Every year, approximately 1.8 to 2 lakhs students appear for the exam and aspire to get into top IIMs. Final year college students, fresh graduates, or already employed people make the pool of the candidates appearing for this paper.

So, a 99 percentile is considered to be a really good percentile (this means 99% students are behind you and just 1% are ahead). And candidates scoring above 99 percentile are considered to be the toppers of the exam (at least the coaching institutes call them that).

All the IIMs in total have 3265 seats. Three of the IIMs, the older ones, namely IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA), IIM Bangalore(IIMB) and IIM Calcutta(IIMC) are considered to be the top IIMs of the lot and these three are even considered as the best B schools of the nation. IIMA,IIMB and IIMC combined have 1229 seats (with only 620 seats for General Category candidates).

For these 1229 seats allocation, first the candidates are called at IIMs for Personal interview and Written ability tests, and then on basis of their performance in these, they are either finally allotted seats or are rejected. For 1229 seats, somewhere around 2500-3000 students are given calls for interviews.

If you have scored a 99 percentile, you would be approximately in the top 1800-2000 students. If 99.50, then you would be in top 900-1000 students all over India.

Enough with the facts and the stats, now the interesting part (the twist in the tale) –

Many candidates with 99+ percentiles, never even get a call from IIMs (any of them, not even the new ones). The reason being–IIMs say these students have a ‘poor profile’. Just imagine, you have worked really hard, gave it your all for a year or two and even achieved an excellent result in a national level exam. But the institute not even calls you for an interview because your ‘12th class marks are not good enough’ (85+ is considered ‘decent’), ‘your 10th class marks aren’t good enough’ or maybe ‘you underperformed in college’ (less than 75%). A guy with 90% in 10th, 90% in 12th and 80% in grad stand a way better chance of getting a IIM call at as low as 90-95 percentile( which is by the way rank 10,000 -20,000 all over India) in CAT than you who have scored a 99 percentile (rank 2000 all over India). These are some shocking facts but they are 100% true.

Rank under 2000 in CAT, fighting for 1229 seats, and you are not even being called for an interview. And a guy/girl with rank 10000-20000 is called !? A big LOL.

So, it doesn’t matter if your passion is in management, if you have not performed well in your 10th class or 12th class or college (when you probably never even heard of CAT), each and every gate to a top IIM is closed. IIMs have nothing to do with your CAT result, all they want from you is a perfect past. (Sorry for this analogy, but this is like a girl to whom you have just proposed saying “ I can’t be with you because you didn’t keep your ex happy !“. You deserve her and she deserves you, but she just have some very illogical reasons to not be with you :P )

The drama doesn’t end here. There’s more spice to this.

Even if by god’s grace, you are shortlisted for the interviews, IIMs grace marks are going to peg you back again. If you are a engineering graduate, and you are competing with a non-engineer graduate for the same seat, the non-engineer graduate will be given 5 marks out of 100 for free ( yes, free, free ,free!). Moreover, if you are a girl, you will be given 5-10 marks extra in the name of ‘gender diversity’. If you are fresh out of college and belled the CAT, and are competing with a guy with work experience, the guy/girl with work experience will be given 5-10 extra marks ( only this point makes logical sense because work ex helps in MBA).

So, even if you score a 99.99 or even a 100 , you might still be behind a girl who has done her major in arts , have good 10th,12th marks and secured as low as 90 percentile in CAT (There are live examples of these every year).

I personally know two 99.99 percentilers who were never even called by any of IIM A/B/C for their interviews. Is this fair? A guy who wants to undo his past deeds in 10th/12th/ and college by performing exceptionally well in a national level exam is not even allowed to sit for interviews!? Is this what is called justice? What was the point of appearing for the exam in the first place? 10th,12th, grad marks are something you cannot change, and even then why is a candidate judged only on the basis of these? Why is a candidate not even given a chance to explain why he has a poor past? Doesn’t every person have a diverse set of skills or does it depend on the candidate having an engineering background or not? Why is such a bias against GEMs( General Engineer Males) ? IIMs are impervious to these set of questions and they will continue doing so.

Frustrated candidates only have the option to either settle for Okayish B schools here India, or move abroad to achieve their goals in foreign colleges. And then we say, ‘Why is there a huge amount of brain drain from our country?’

The scenario is not likely to change in upcoming years, it is expected to get worse.

So, my future advice to MBA aspirants,

1. Please have a look at the shortlisting and selection criteria of all IIMs before even applying to CAT or even deciding to appear for CAT. Only if you have a strong profile, and your main aim is to get into IIMs, then appear for the exam.

2. Consider non-IIMs. Apart from IIMs, there are other top B schools in the country who are a strong competition to the IIMs in terms of placements and other factors as well. FMS, XLRI , IIFT, MDI are to name a few.

3. Prepare not just for CAT, but give equal weightage to other MBA entrances like XAT, IIFT, SNAP, NMAT etc. You would not end up disappointed.

4. Don’t quit your job for the sole purpose of preparing for CAT. CAT is very unpredictable and might leave you in tears if you don’t crack it.

5. Visit some links below to get abreast of the conditions of the aspirants who scored high and are undone by the shortlisting criteria. Decide for your future accordingly.




The snapshots of some frustrated victims of the criteria are attached below. Now is the time the truth be told to the world behind ‘prestigious IIMs’. All the very best to everyone with their lives.


Chinmay Gunthey

(99.70 percentiler, CAT 2016)

( No calls from any of the IIMs)

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