More CAT toppers at IIM-C and not IIM-A, B this year?

If you are wondering which Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) the Common Admission Test (CAT) 2012 toppers are heading to, here’s the news:

Toppers (100 percentilers) Converted
Areesh Mittal IIM-C
Anshul Garg IIM-C
Ravi Teja Palla IIM-C, L (Waitlisted for B)
Sumit Patil IIM-C, A, B, L
Siddharth Sharma IIM-C, B
Jaskaran Singh Sachdeva IIM-L (Waitlisted for C)
Harishwar Subramanian IIM-C, L (Waitlisted for A,B)
Rahul Saran* IIM-C, A, L

* Based on information made available by a coaching institute

If there is one common thread that binds them, it is the fact that most of them have converted their calls from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C). Only one topper, Jaskaran has not converted the IIM-C call but has been ranked 8 in the waitlist. Most of them have also converted calls from IIM Lucknow.

However, if you take a look at the list of final converts of IIM-A and B, only two toppers each have been able to convert these calls. The list also reveals that only 25% of the toppers gunning for a seat at the IIM-A and B have made it to these institutes. So, what makes A and B out of reach? The answers possibly lie in the admission criteria of IIM-A, B and C.

IIM Ahmedabad:

At IIM-A, in the second round after the shortlisting of candidates for the Personal Interview (PI) round , 70% weightage is given to the PI score which includes performance in the PI, academic performance and achievements, extra-curricular activities and post-degree work experience. CAT scores get a weightage of 30%. According to topper Ravi, who couldn’t make it to IIM-A, “The weightage of the attributes under the 70% component is not disclosed to the candidates which makes it difficult to know where one loses out.”

This is what IIM-A says on its website:

Disclosure of information about the admission process is driven by concerns which at times conflict with each other. The IIM-A would like the admission process to be transparent. At the same time, IIM-A would wish to protect the privacy of individual candidates and confidentiality of the process to prevent abuse. Based on these considerations, the performance of an individual is not made available to any other person. Similarly, the performance of candidates in Personal Interview including assessment of attributes mentioned under paragraph 4 above is not disclosed to anyone to prevent exercise of undue pressure on the panelists participating in the admission/selection process. IIM-A exercises its own discretion in disclosing weights assigned to diverse sets of attributes mentioned under paragraph 4 above . To ensure that the perceived lack of transparency does not in any way affect the candidates negatively, adequate care is taken in formation of panel, development of objective criteria for assessment, random allocation of candidates to a panel and other such measures.

Arnab Laha, former chairperson admissions, IIM-A, thinks that too much stress is laid on CAT scores. He says, “A huge amount of effort is spent on taking CAT while graduation takes a back seat. In many cases, candidates are not good with the fundamentals of their graduation degree. Hence, they tend to lose out in the interview.”

IIM Bangalore:

IIM-B has a more elaborate mechanism.

In the pre-PI phase where the candidates are shortlisted for the PI, this is how the components and the weightages stack up:

Components Weight
CAT score 20
Class X score 15
Class XII score 10
Graduation score 15
Work Experience/ Professional Course 5

During the PI phase, the following table lists the components and weight:

Components Weight
Written note content 7.5
Written note style 7.5
Interview score 20
Work experience* 10

* This score is obtained by multiplying the quality of work experience (on a scale of 5) and multiplied with the work experience score in the pre-PI phase.

The scores in the PI phase are then added to the pre-PI phase scores to arrive at a final aggregate scores and ranks, based on which the calls are given out. The process clearly lays less emphasis on CAT scores and a higher stress on other factors.

Another point raised by toppers Ravi and Jaskaran is the normalisation of the class X and XII scores based on the 90th percentile obtained in that board for the past two years. According to them, there are two problems here:

  1. Candidates who have given their class X and XII exams recently tend to have higher scores as opposed to people who have a higher work experience and have given their class X and XII exams long time ago. Boards such as CBSE have made scoring a little easier in the last few years which puts the old-timers as at a slight disadvantage.
  2. Also, the database of class X and XII scores of all CAT applicants of the past two years is used for identifying the 90th percentile score for each X and XII board. This might also lead to incorrect results as the applicant pool for CAT is very small compared to the students which give the exams in each of these boards.

Jayadev M, chairperson admissions, IIM-B, says, “We consider the academic track record, work experience and quality, written note and interview scores while selecting the candidates. This may not have been very good in case of the candidates who could not convert their calls.”

IIM-B offers further clarification on its website:

Since IIM-B follows a comprehensive multi-criteria process at the pre-PI stage, it is able to identify many candidates for the PI who have an excellent academic record and work experience but who, while doing well enough in their CAT to be in the first shortlist, may have narrowly missed the high score that would have been required if CAT alone was the basis for the PI shortlist. Such candidates effectively replace candidates who have only a high CAT score but score poorly in terms of their past academic record and work experience. IIM-B emphasises consistent and high performance in past academics.

Incidentally, CAT toppers could not make it to IIM-B last year as well. Infact, some of them did not even get a call from the institute.

IIM Calcutta

IIM Calcutta

Now, let us see what factors are at play in the admission process of IIM-C:

To shortlist candidates for the PI stage, the components alongwith the weightages are given below:

Components Weight
CAT scores 77
Class X marks 10
Class XII marks 10
Gender Diversity 03

For the final selection after the PI, class X and XII marks are not considered. The components are distributed as follows:

Components Weight
CAT scores 35
PI 44
Written Ability Test (WAT) 10
Work experience 08

Although, we do have the academic scores of all the CAT toppers, in the absence of parameters to assess the attributes in most cases, since many of them are subjective in nature, it would not be fair to bring out an individual assessment of all the toppers. However, if one compares the admission processes at these three b-schools, past academic performance plays a critical role at IIM-A and B in the final selection process, but does not play a part after the interview at IIM-C. This could be one of the factors which goes against some of the toppers. Moreover, IIM-C allots a higher weightage of 35 to the CAT scores, whereas IIM-A and B allot 30 and 20 respectively. Similarly, IIM Lucknow gives a weightage of 38 to the CAT scores. A combination of these factors is the likely reason why more CAT toppers convert their IIM-C and L calls.

PaGaLGuY also got in touch with Sanjeet Singh, chairperson admissions, IIM-C. While initially he dismissed the fact of all toppers converting their IIM-C calls as a mere coincidence, when told about the differences in the admission process of all the three IIMs, he admitted that the heavy stress on CAT scores may have resulted in toppers converting it.

Sharing his understanding of the admission process, Ravi further says, “IIM-B is about academic consistency whereas C gives more credence to CAT scores. IIM-A is somewhere in the middle where high scorers as well as consistent academics get admission.”

Harishwar Subramanian, who has been waitlisted for both IIM-A and B, thinks that the processes reward consistency. “I think both the institutes want to make sure that the CAT scores are not a flash in the pan and want candidates to be more consistent. However, too much stress is given to class X and XII scores which might not be fair. You cannot be judged for something which you did ten years back. However, the graduation scores are important to consider since one selects a particular stream because he/she is interested in it,” says Harishwar.

A mediocre performance on the interview day can also spoil for the candidates according to Jaskaran who has converted IIM Lucknow. “It is possible that you might just not have performed up to the mark on the interview day. That can also be a reason for non-selection. I was not too satisfied with my performance at IIM-A, B, had an average interview with C and was happy with L,” he concludes.