A look at the scoring and ranking methodology.

The IIMs heaved a sigh of relief when CAT (Common Admission Test) 2010, the second computer-based exam held over a 20-day testing window in October-November last year, went off smoothly. Everything was in place: back-ups, fire-fighting mechanisms in case of those infamous “technical glitches” (like in 2009) and a fool-proof testing process.

Reports of a CAT result “leak”, where students reportedly logged on to the website and cleverly toyed around with the 2009 URL links to substitute 2010 and got hold of their score-cards, created a flutter. Despite this, the CAT 2010 results too have been a smooth affair.

After initial glitches with servers — bound to happen if over two lakh impatient students log on at the same time — results started trickling in.

Trends

Himanshu Rai, Director of IIM-Lucknow (which is conducting CAT this year), observes that this year eight male candidates hit the 100 percentile mark. All eight, Prof. Rai told The Hindu, were engineering graduates. This, of course, is reflective of IIM classrooms where a majority of students have been engineers in recent decades. These include candidates from Mumbai (two) and one each from Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Indore. Of these, four have work experience of over 24 months. Only one among them is currently a student.

Then there are those who missed by a whisker. In the next best slot, that is students who scored 99.99 percentiles, are 19 candidates. In an encouraging trend this year, for the first time two of these 99.99 percentilers are girls. However, here too, all are engineering graduates.

A day after the results were out, IIMs also put up scoring methodology of the CAT on its official website (www.catiim.in)

In addition to this, as the individual lists from the 11 IIMs trickle in, each IIM has uploaded documents that indicate what went into shortlisting these candidates and individual cut-offs.

Clarity on how ranks are computed

Explaining the methodology, IIMs stated that no candidate answered 100 per cent correctly in all three sections and no candidate achieved the top theoretical score. Each correct answer was awarded three points and a point was reduced for a wrong answer, in order to curb easy and random guesses from taking the lead.

The much-talked about, and much-misunderstood, statistical process of normalisation of scores of candidates who took tests over 20 days (each day offering a new set of questions) too has been explained. Prometric – the U.S. Agency that implemented the testing process – too had put this up on its website.

Equating is a psychometric process to adjust difference in difficulty so that scores from different test forms are comparable on a common metric and therefore fair to candidates testing across multiple days.

“The equating process was designed with three phases: exam creation, post-equating, and scaling,” the website explains. Post-equating, scores are scaled. Though the number as presented to candidates is placed on a common scale for ease of interpretation, the position of candidates in the score distribution does not change, it points out. With these scaled scores, ranks are computed.

With the total scale scores arranged in rank order from the lowest to highest, in 100 equally-sized groups, a table with the total scale scores to percentile ranks will be created.

This ranked list allows identification of candidates from the highest performers at the very top of the list to the lower performers in the middle and low end of the scale.

Four new IIMs at Ranchi, Rohtak, Raipur and Tiruchi are working on having a common admission process. However, as of January 14, only Ranchi had released its list that shortlisted around 1,000 students.

It is not yet clear whether the other ‘new' IIMs — most of them have a class strength of around 60 each this year — will be releasing separate lists or not.

Besides the IIMs, over 100 MBA institutes use CAT scores for their admission process.

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