The Common Admission Test (CAT) is an all-India test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as an entrance exam for the management programmes of its seven business schools. About 300,000 students take CAT every year for about 1500 seats in the IIMs. This is said to make the IIMs more selective than the Ivy League Universities.
The test is multiple-choice based with roughly one-fourth negative-mark penalties for wrong answers, and traditionally comprises three sections that span the domains of arithmetical problem solving, geometry, statistics, data interpretation, logical reasoning, puzzles, and English language skills. It is held in the month November and December each year. The test duration was two hours prior to year 2006, but since 2006, it has been extended to two and a half hours. The total number of questions has varied from 180 (prior to year 2000) to 150 (from 2001 to 2003) and has gradually decreased to 75 (in 2006 and 2007). However, in 2009 the number of questions increased once again and became 90 (40 in Verbal Ability and 25 each in Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation). This trend has seen the CAT evolve from a speed-based test to an exam that evaluates fundamental abilities of candidates in the aforementioned areas.
The CAT is the first step for admission to the IIMs. After the test, by the second week of January next year, the IIMs declare exam scores and put up a list of candidates who are eligible for the next stage of a group discussion and an individual interview. The scores are relative and are calculated on a percentile basis for individual sections as well as for the total. Candidates invited for the next stage usually possess total scores that are in excess of 99 percentile and, more importantly, also possess balanced high scores across all the individual sections.