‘Avoiding Wrong Answers Is More Important Than Attempting The Magic Number Of Questions’ – Priyamvadha M., 98.37%ile In XAT

The oldest B-School of the country, XLRI has been ranked as one of the best B-Schools of India and ranked first among private B-schools.  Renowned for offering an education that encompasses business studies along with a holistic development of students through its vibrant committee culture, social initiatives and projects, it is not for no reason that corporate organizations make a beeline for hiring from XLRI.

In the run-up to XAT 2019,  current students of XLRI share with you the things that worked for them during their preparation and the tips and tricks that helped them fulfill their dream of studying at this prestigious institute

What was your XAT 2018 overall and sectional percentile? Apart from XAT, which other entrances you appeared for and what were your percentiles?

With a total percentile of 98.37, I secured my highest in the Verbal and Logical Ability section, (99.932) followed by Decision Making and Quantitative Ability in that order, both well enough to clear the cut-off. Though I was streamlined in what I wanted and took up only XAT, I did work through CAT type questions too to be exposed to different types of thinking. Your mileage may vary. It is more common for aspirants to prepare for many entrance tests simultaneously and that has its advantages, for example, SNAP and IIFT General Knowledge preparations can also help in answering XAT’s GK section.

What was your preparation strategy? Please share section-wise strategy in detail. 

Strategy: I identified my strength and weakness and tried to bridge the gap between the two by working more on the latter and reinforcing the former.

Quantitative Ability: This was not my strong area and I concentrated on solving different types of problems and trying to arrive at optimal ways to reach the same solution. If I couldn’t solve a relatively easier question, I went back to check which step of the thinking process I erred in and implemented it the next time. Think of it as a feedback loop.

Decision Making: This was not my weakness and solving past years’ questions helped immensely in trying to understand what the test expects from an aspirant. Comprehending the idea behind each question is key to ace this section.

Verbal and Logical Ability: XAT doesn’t shy away from giving poems to comprehend, and I’d suggest not restricting oneself to limited types of reading materials. Though editorials of leading newspapers help, simultaneous speed and understanding is imperative. Maximising the chances of getting answers right without having to re-read the passages for each question was my plan for this section.

Overall, I spent more time on QA and DM and ended each day’s preparation with quality time for V&LA to be consistent and to not lose touch. Reading the newspaper every day and checking out leading news sites helped me with GK. Attempting at least 4 essays a week will not only help with the writing part of XAT, but also with verbal ability and finally the written tests for the interviews of various B-Schools.

How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Please explain which one do you think is better?

I prepared on my own but signed up for mock tests. There is no best route for preparation and it majorly depends on what drives you: being in a classroom setting at a coaching centre or reinforcing concepts through online classes or trying to understand your own skills better. Coaching can help if you are struggling or are stuck in one section, or even to optimise what you are already good at. Self-study helps in forcing you to come up with different paths to the solution.

When did you start preparing for XAT? Please share in detail your month-wise preparation strategy for XAT in terms of 6 months, 3 months, 2 months, 1 month and last-minute strategy you followed.

I started preparing in October 2017 for XAT 2018 – for about 2 and a half months. After quickly brushing up key concepts, I signed up for mock tests in the first week. For the first 30 days, I was in the learning phase: how to approach a problem, formulae, concepts. Simultaneously taking up these tests helped me with my confidence level and broke the idea of being thorough with everything before even attempting a test. I used the next 20 days for correction in areas I was struggling in and trying to correct them. The next 10 days were spent on revisiting concepts and learning new ones and being exposed to more GK questions. Final leg was all about reducing the error rate and hitting the mark in limited time.

How did you balance your preparation with studies or job? Please share your timetable. 

I could allocate at least 3 hours and up to 4 hours depending on how long I had to work for each day. In the weekends where I had more time on hand, I allocated 2 to 3 hours just concentrating on areas where I wasn’t scoring well in, in the mock tests. For example, if I was not scoring well in Algebra, I’d revisit the concepts and solve more sample problems before taking the next mock test. The split up of time was usually 2:1.5:1 for QA, DM and V&LA.

What was the one thing that you did consistently during your preparation? Or What do you think one should do consistently during the preparation of XAT? According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?

The most important aspect of preparation is not letting complacency take over once you have identified your strengths. Reinforcing your easy areas can help in solving those questions faster. One should consistently prepare every day no matter how less (instead of nothing at all). I was more likely to spend well above 10 minutes even if my goal was just 10 minutes, once I got started with it.

What are the best study materials for XAT or other exams? Please name some books, or other study material (even newspaper/magazines) and online material you had referred to during preparation. In terms of online or offline materials, which one did you prefer and why?

I would recommend reading at least one all time classic from this list. Editorials of major sources like The Hindu or Economic Times can improve the comfort level with business parlance. There are many online resources available for free (which can be googled) having everyday news updates. Trying a few different sites and sticking to one or two on a regular basis would suffice for GK. Any best seller for QA can be used if you cover the major topics and work through the problems diligently. Online mock tests or lectures specifically aimed at Decision Making can greatly improve handling the section.

When did you start taking mock test and what was the frequency? How did you get it analysed and integrate it in your preparation?

I started taking mock tests a week after I started preparing and simultaneously kept at it for the whole duration of preparation. At least one mock test a week initially and increasing it to 2 to 3 a week enabled me to identify areas of improvement. The mock tests (online) I took had analysis and error rate displayed and solutions for all the questions at the end of each test and it made it that much easier to correct and continue.

How one with non-English background should prepare him/herself for the exam as the mode of the exam is only English? 

Concentrating on comprehending takes priority over improving vocabulary in that case. For someone from a non-English background, identifying where the key idea comes from in a long passage might prove challenging as compared to someone who has been comfortable with English all her life. Hence, while reading newspapers or reading materials, making a habit of forming possible questions and recognizing the difference in the usage of the language for each type of problem in QA might prove to be beneficial.

What was your exam day strategy in terms of question selection, time management, accuracy and sectional attempts/cutoffs? 

Taking lesser time and greater speed for the areas I was comfortable in and more time for the areas I wasn’t helped in balancing the scores. Accuracy comes with practice and not spending too much time on a single question mattered more than getting an ideal number of questions right. Taking 5 seconds to gauge the approach to solving a problem can be more useful than directly attempting and getting stuck halfway through and wasting those 4 minutes. Avoiding wrong answers is more important than attempting the magic number of questions and a negative of 0.05 is better than a negative of 0.25.

Preparing for XAT is a long and tiring process. How do you suggest one should keep his/her calm and confidence?

Tracking how far one has come along compared to when they started should be a motivating factor to keep the process going. Appreciating the improvement and not beating oneself up over mistakes can help in maintaining one’s cool. By recognizing that preparation is incremental in nature and by setting small short-term goals like excelling in that one weak area, the long-term goal of scoring well in XAT becomes more and more achievable.

What is your message for XAT 2019 aspirants?

XAT 2019 is the first step for the exciting 2 years at business school. Maintaining calm and being efficient helps not only in XAT but also in the entire course duration and the career after.

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