A Strategy For XAT

The Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT) is probably the second most important MBA entrance exam after CAT. Though SNAP and NMAT compete very closely with XAT in terms of the number of people writing the exam, the fact that XLRI Jamshedpur (which is in the top 5 management institutes in the country) and a few other institutes select students ONLY on the basis of XAT, makes this exam a coveted exam to crack.


XAT Pattern

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

The below table gives the pattern along with number of questions for this year,

Part I*

  • MCQs (No of Choices per question) : 5
  • Negative Marking : ¼
S no Section XAT 2017

# Qns

1 Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning 24
2 Decision Making 21
3 Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation 27
Total 72

*Marking for unattempted questions is – 0.05 marks (The negative marks only from the 13th unattempted questions)

Part II

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

XAT Exam Strategy for 2017

One cannot attempt a Competitive Exam without a proper strategy to tackle the vagaries of the exam. The Strategy would typically be aimed at ensuring two main points.

  1. Reading every question in the paper so that one doesn’t miss out on sitters
  2. Maximising scores to get the best percentile possible.

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

S no. Section No of Questions Time Allotted (in min) Expected Attempts
Quick Review 3- 5
1 VA & LR 24 40 16-20
2 DM 21 45 16-19
3 QA & DI 27 55 12-15
4 Buffer   25 6-8
  Total 72 170 50 – 60


Buffer time should be used to give to that section to maximise 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

Traditionally XAT has been an exam where the cutoffs in individual sections were pretty low. It is expected that the same may be true this year too.

The table below gives the cutoffs for each of the sections for the XAT 2016 year. The marks required to cross the cutoff in each of the sections has been as low as 8 (85%ile), 7 (80%ile) and 9 (90%ile) for each of the respective sections of VA &LA, DM and QA&DI.


  VA & LA DM QA &DI Total
XLRI (HRM) 85%ile 80%ile 70%ile 90%ile
XLRI (BM) 80%ile 80%ile 90%ile 94%ile
XLRI (Global) 80%ile 80%ile 90%ile 90%ile
XIMB 80%ile 80%ile 80%ile 88%ile



Verbal Ability (VA) & Logical Reasoning(LR) – 24 Qns, 40 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 – 10 – 11 ( 3 passages)

Divide the 40 minutes into two portions of 20 minutes and 20 minutes. In the first 20 minutes, try to complete all the questions in the Verbal and Reasoning area.

The 20 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 18 and ideally closer to 21/22!

Even with a strike rate of 70%, one can get about 12 correct and 6 wrong (out of 18) and can get 10+. 

Decision Making (DM) – 21 Qns, 45 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 21 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!

As a strategy, solve all Logical Ability questions first so that 5 to 6 questions in about 10 to 12 minutes are there in the kitty!

By giving 45 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 2 to 3 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.

The strike rate in DM may not be more than 60% for a lot of students. Every question/set appears as if one is getting the right answer! However, even with a 60% strike rate, getting about 10 marks is NOT difficult.


Quantitative Ability (QA) & Data Interpretation (DI) – 27 Qns, 55 Min

Of the 27 questions expected, closer to 20/21 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 25 minutes 6 – 7
DI 15 minutes 4 – 5
QA Round 2 15 minutes 3 – 4
55 minutes 13 – 16


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 20/21 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!

The DI sets can be cracked by giving about 15 minutes to the possible 2 sets (3 sets sometimes).

Unlike the other two sections, in QADI, one should not attempt too many questions as selecting the ones that may be solvable and getting accuracy right, would be the right way to go about QADI section!

Even if one attempts ONLY around 10 to 12 questions in 55 to 60 minutes, and get 90% strike rate (which is possible), one can get 8+/9+ score and get more than 90%ile.

Buffer: The buffer time should be used to go through the sets or questions that one was not able to read/solve in the first round!


Part II  – GK & Essay (35 Min)

In Part II of the paper, there is expected to be 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 three years were

XAT 2016: Technology and Nature are Natural Enemies

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

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

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


Points to Remember for XAT

  • XAT is a paper and pencil test
  • Marking on the OMR sheet is with BLUE or BLACK pen
  • Be careful in marking the answers, you cannot erase once you have marked
  • Ideal case would be to mark all answers at the end of each section


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 at https://goo.gl/forms/it0OsBb3GsL5EuQ03

Wish you all the best for XAT 2017!

VistaMind will bring you the Analysis and Cutoffs of the paper once the exam is done on the 8th of Jan 2017!


To view the article on XAT New Paper Pattern, please click here.


About the Author:

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the CEO of VistaMind Education. VistaMind is the only National Level Training institute, which prepares students for CAT through LIVE ONLINE CLASSES. For more information, write to info@vistamind.com OR Visit cat.vistamind.com.

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.



Arunavh Krishnan

Is there any negative marking for GK ? If not, could you please specify the source of information (couldn’t find any thing clear on the XAT2017 exam pattern released by XLRI).