A Strategy For XAT 2016

XAT is known as probably one of the toughest MBA entrance exams in India (only in terms of difficulty of the paper). But the XAT and XLRI authorities seem to have decided to change this perception.

In a clear indication of reducing the difficulty level of the paper, the XAT authorities have put up a clear plan for XAT 2016.

The level of difficulty of the questions has also been carefully designed. In order to enable students to attempt as many questions as possible and encourage them to demonstrate all-round skills, the difficulty level of the questions has been brought down.


Also, the fact that they have announced the exact pattern of the paper, which can be found at http://xatonline.net.in/XAT_First_Page.pdf , the XAT paper, this time, would be anything but difficult.

XAT 2016 paper pattern: Key highlights

XAT paper divided into two parts – Part I and Part II

Part I*

  • Total Time Allotted : 170 minutes
  • MCQs (No of Choices per question): 5
  • Negative Marking : ¼
  • Marking for unattempted questions : – 0.05 marks
    • The above negative marks only from the 14th unattempted question
S no Section No of Questions
1 Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning 26
2 Decision Making 23
3 Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation 29
Total 78

*Though the actual sections are not given, the number of questions in the sections is certain. The above distribution of Areas and no of questions in each area is what VistaMind expects.

Part II

  • Total Time Allotted: 35 minutes
  • General Awareness: 25 questions
  • Essay Writing: 1 Essay
  • No Negative Marking

As has been clearly stated by the XAT authorities, the paper is so designed to ensure that 170 minutes are enough for the top 100 odd students to attempt all the questions. In other words, the paper is expected to be easy and there will hardly be more than 1/6th of the questions that can be categorized as difficult.

This also means that the cutoffs of individual sections, as well as the overall cutoffs for XLRI, would be higher!

XAT Exam Strategy for 2016

It is very important that one has a clear-cut aim (given the information already available on XAT) as to the number of attempts one has to make in the given time.

Given below is the Strategy for overall time division for the paper

S no. Section No of Questions Time Allotted (in min) Expected Attempts
1 VA & LR 26 50 22-23
2 DM 23 50 20-21
3 QA & DI 29 60 23-24
4 Buffer 10 2-3
  Total 78 170 65 – 71


Buffer time should be used to give to that section to maximize the score OR use that time to give it to that section so as to get the cutoffs (if in danger of not crossing the cutoff marks in a particular section)

Strategy for Individual Sections

It is important that individual section strategies are planned before one enters the exam hall. Given that there are a total of 170 minutes, only about 160 minutes of the time should be divided among sections and 10 minutes is left as a buffer, which can be used as given above.

Verbal Ability (VA) & Logical Reasoning(LR) – 29 Qns, 50 Min

Though the name of the section given is Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning, typically in XAT, there is hardly any Logical Reasoning as we have known in CAT. The VA in XAT typically includes Reading Comprehension (RC). Whereas LR typically includes Critical Reasoning (of the GMAT variety)

The first minute or two should be used for understanding how many RCs are in the paper.

This section of the XAT paper is expected to have the following types of questions

  • Vocabulary & Fill-in-the-blanks – 2 to 4
  • Para Jumbles – 2 to 3
  • Para Completion/Para Summary – 3 to 4
  • Critical Reasoning/Arguments – 2 to 3
  • Grammar – 0 to 2
  • Reading Comprehension – 14 – 15 ( 4 to 5 passages)

Divide the 50 minutes into two portions of 20 minutes and 30 minutes. In the first 20 minutes, try to complete all the questions in the Verbal and Reasoning area.

The 30 minutes to RC to be given depending on the number of passages. The passages are normally short and hence each RC may take about 5 to 8 minutes to solve.

While taking random guesses should be avoided, if you are able to eliminate some of the options, then it makes sense to go ahead and guess those questions.

A good attempt would be anywhere above 20 and ideally closer to 26!

Decision Making (DM) – 23 Qns, 50 Min

Decision Making (DM) section is a deceptively easy looking section. However, the cutoffs of the previous XAT papers have shown that many students fall for the seemingly easy sets that come in the XAT paper.

DM section is unique to XAT and has been one of the best sections to be given for an MBA entrance exam!

There are real life business issues, which are given in terms of Caselets and questions/problems asked as to how, as a manager, would one solve it!

Of the 23 questions, there may be 5 to 6 sets of Caselets and probably a few individual questions too. There is a possibility that Logical Ability (distribution, selection, etc.) sets may be given in this section!

By giving 50 minutes to this section, one should be able to attempt all sets and probably answer all questions (save a few which are uncrackable)!

Give each Caselet about 4 to 5 minutes before deciding whether to continue to skip. If you decide to solve, then another 4 to 5 minutes per set can easily be given.

Quantitative Ability (QA) & Data Interpretation (DI) – 29 Qns, 60 Min

Of the 29 questions expected, closer to 22/23 questions would be of QA and only around 6 to 7 questions are expected to be from DI. Hence, giving time to DI and QA separately is what is advisable.

The time division for this section can be given as under

Area Time Allotted Expected Attempts
QA Round 1 30 minutes 10 – 12
DI 10 minutes 4 – 6
QA Round 2 20 minutes 6 – 8
60 minutes 20 – 26


I recommend that the Quantitative Ability area should be done in TWO parts. In the first round, you should quickly go through each and every question, spend about 30 seconds, decide whether to do or not and proceed forward (either doing that or skipping). This way, one can go through almost all the 22/23 questions of QA and attempt all the easy questions.

In the Second round, you will be reading the question the second time and familiarity of the question can help one to solve the question better!


Part II  – GK & Essay (35 Min)

In the Part II of the paper, there is a GK section with 25 questions and an Essay to be written. The marks of Part II are taken only at the time of the Interview (for XLRI) and won’t be used at the shortlisting stage for the GDPI.

This year, the GK questions may not be specific questions and may have general questions with options, which require common sense to decide! One should finish the GK part in about 10 minutes and give 25 minutes for the Essay.

The Essay topics for the last two years were

XAT 2015: Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen to understand, we only listen to refute or reply

XAT 2014: Corruption is the root cause of economic slowdown in India

Clearly, there is no way one can expect a General topic Or an Economic topic in the actual exam.

The essay should be around 300 words with at least three paragraphs

  • Introduction to the topic while taking a stand
  • Pros & Cons of the Issue/topic while giving examples to support your stand
  • Conclusion based on a summary of the above arguments with concluding comments!

Final Word

After IIFT, CAT, NMAT & SNAP, XAT happens to the last of the mega MBA entrance exams for this season. Also, apart from XLRI, more than 150 institutes take the XAT scores including SPJain, XIM Bhubaneswar, LIBA, GIM etc.

Give it your best shot and make the most of the remaining few days for the XAT preparation.

You may want to take a free XAT Mock, VistaMind brings you exactly that. Please register here


Wish you all the best for XAT 2016!

ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.


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