The route to a management course after a rigorous one in engineering is nothing unique now. So, when the results of the Common Admission Test 2012 were announced on Wednesday, all eyes turned to IIT – Madras and the campus, with a host of toppers, did not disappoint.

“Yes, we literally burnt the midnight oil. That is because we study only at nights,” laughs Sumit Patil, a student of dual degree mechanical engineering, one of the ten students across the country to score a 100 percentile. The test is the gateway to prestigious B-schools across the country, including the Indian Institutes of Management.

“When I checked the results at 3.30 a.m., I saw I had scored 222/225 and for the first few seconds, I wondered where I lost the three marks as I had attempted all the questions,” says the student who hails from Pune. While Sumit has always been interested in mechanical engineering and chose IIT- Madras over IIT- Bombay for the course, his friend Harsha Varma, from Hyderabad, also a mechanical engineering student, who scored 99.98 percentile has similar interests too. “Engineering is fun,” he says. “Because the way it is taught here makes it fun, loaded with projects.

All the toppers had enrolled in coaching centres but no one seemed to have attended classes regularly. “There is nothing new that CAT expects from you. It is just class X mathematics,” says Anand Rao, who scored 99.99 percentile. The electrical engineering student from Chennai, an alumnus of P.S.B.B. (Nungambakkam), like all other toppers, is already placed in an MNC. Incidentally, many of these students do not have very enviable JEE scores

A common thread that runs across all these toppers is their interests in several other fields. While Harsha is quite proud of his interest in football, Sumit is the student head of mechanical engineering at the institute. Anand, on the other hand, is one of the editors of the institute’s newsletter. “CAT is not like JEE. Here you just need to be fast, and your basics have to be strong,” says Anand.

Among the toppers this time is also Tejasvi D with 99.98, also a dual degree mechanical engineering student, who has opted for a job at McKinsey and Co. “I just wanted to keep my options open,” she says about her reasons for taking the CAT exam. While IIT- Madras has nearly 20 students scoring over 99 percentile in the test, the number of girls is few. “It does not matter beyond a point,” says Tejasvi. “I am the only girl in my class in IIT. It has only made me more independent.”

Eight of the ten 100 percentilers are from the IITs. The quantitative section is still tough and so, engineering graduates find it easier to crack the test, explained Rajesh Balasubramanian, an IIT and IIM- Bangalore alumnus who trains students on competitive exams. Rajesh, who also attempted CAT this year, scored a 100 percentile, like last year.

Chennai, with just 85 aspirants scoring over 99 percentile, fared the worst among major cities. Mumbai has the highest number of students scoring 99 percentile at 180 followed by Delhi (168), Bangalore (157), Hyderabad (105) and Kolkata (92).

“The surge in the number of engineering colleges two decades ago in the State is the reason why there is a certain complacency among students when it comes to attempting the CAT and other tests. There is an assurance of a job, which is why parents here do not encourage their children to walk that extra mile,” said Mr Rajesh.