XAT 2017 Preparation Tips And Strategies By A 99.12%iler – Namit Rastogi, XLRI Jamshedpur


Namit is a second-year student of Business management at XLRI Jamshedpur. He had scored 99.12%ile in XAT 2015. He will be specialising in Marketing and Operations and is a PPO holder from Vodafone.



How was your experience with XAT?


XAT is definitely one of the fairest exam one can write. XAT stands apart from all other MBA entrance exams. First of all, it administers the exact same paper to each and every aspirant . I simply don’t  understand how two candidates can be compared on the basis of two different papers altogether. Secondly, the pen and paper format gives every candidate a fair shot irrespective of his background. Thirdly, XAT has established a level of transparency which is unseen in the history of MBA entrance exams. Releasing the official answer keys, explanations of the questions and releasing the scanned copy of your OMR sheet are some of the steps they have taken to make the whole process transparent.  They even went to the extent of rechecking and revising the whole result in XAT 2015 , after some students complained of some discrepancy. I really admire that because they could have easily swept the whole issue under the rug but chose not to. It takes a lot of guts to accept your mistake and come up clean especially for an institute with such high repute.


How is XAT different from CAT? How does the difference impact your preparation and how do you manage that?


Although the basic preparation for both the exams is almost the same. But, you need to notch it up further to ace XAT. I have always believed that XAT is different from CAT in so many ways. Starting with the level of questions, XAT difficulty level has almost always been a bit higher than that of CAT. In the last few years, the gap has definitely increased with difficulty of CAT taking a dip. CAT has become more like a speed based test where your number of attempts, as well as, accuracy matters a lot. Whereas, XAT has maintained its stance over the years. It has been more about choosing the right questions and managing the three sections to clear individual cut offs. Even if you attempt, say half the paper, you still stand a chance if your accuracy is great. I remember attempting around 42-45 in XAT 2015 out of 84 questions and scored 99.12%ile with a score of 32.5. Although, XAT 2016 was a little easier as per the official notification; the cut-offs didn’t change much. And, I don’t expect them to change drastically in the coming years. So, for people like me who are a tad bit slower in attempting questions, XAT comes as a respite.

Decision Making section is another major difference in XAT. It’s a whole section dedicated to test the decision making and reasoning capabilities of future managers during different situations which they might face in real life. This could be a tricky section to deal with because of its subjective nature. You might find different options with varying level of correctness but you can mark only one.

Traditionally, XAT has always included a couple of topics of higher mathematics which are out of scope for CAT preparations. I prepared basics of these topics and it did help in attempting a question or two.     

Be prepared to face Critical reasoning questions, long passages and difficult vocabulary questions.


When did you start preparing for XAT? How did you prepare for different sections (including essay writing)?


I started preparing for XAT right after I was done with CAT. I prepared thoroughly throughout the month of December. From what I have observed, people have a tendency to relax after writing CAT. They are so exhausted due to CAT preparations that they give themselves  a lot of slack. In no time, you see yourself celebrating Christmas, then New year and then all of a sudden you see yourself sitting in the examination hall writing XAT on the first Sunday of the New year. I would strongly suggest you to avoid the trap. XAT requires some extra preparations which does take some time.

For Verbal Ability (VA), I focussed a lot on Vocabulary. I believe that Vocab does play an important role directly or indirectly in any MBA entrance exam. You will certainly find yourself in a lot of ease if you have a good Vocab. It took me around 7-8 months of continuous preparations to have a good Vocab which included reading books like Word Power Made Easy, 30 days to good Vocabulary, wordlists, newspaper articles etc. In the last month, all you can do is to start a random wordlist and dedicate half an hour daily to learn some words. It might help. Apart from that, I practised difficult Reading comprehensions majorly from various mocks available for free. Solving previous year XAT papers is a must.

For Decision Making & Analytical Reasoning section (DM-AR), I practised questions from previous year XAT papers. Apart from that, I had solved questions from mocks available online.

For Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation section (QA-DI), I focussed on the basics. Practice is the key in this section. Solve as much question as you can from any source. Also, do prepare basics of some higher mathematics as I had mentioned earlier. Sometimes, you might find a sitter in the paper from these sections. Solving previous year question paper is a must for understanding this section.

Essay writing section tries to look inside the mind of the aspirant and captures its valuable insights on various topics. It tests your skills of expressing your opinion on anything ranging from current affairs, social problems or anything abstract. Read as much as you can for preparing for this particular section. Try not be verbose but articulate your essay in a proper structure. Avoid grammatical errors, spelling mistakes etc.  


What are the different resources you used to prepare for the exam? Did you take any mocks? If yes, which ones?


Study material of a coaching institute, Previous year XAT papers, Books for Vocabulary and Free online material like wordlists, mocks etc. is what I had used.

Coaching institute study material helped me building the foundation. It cleared my basics which is necessary before you elevate to a higher level. I would like to urge each one of you to solve previous year’s XAT question papers. It helps you a great in understanding the structure of the paper and how to attempt it. Try and get hold of section wise cut-offs for the respective years. You’ll then observe that it is not that difficult to ace XAT provided you follow the right approach. The raw score for section wise cut-offs has been traditionally been low. All you need to do is pick the right questions to clear the basic cut-off of the section you are not that good at and maximise in your stronger section. I had scored 8 each in DM-AR and QA-DI section and 16.5 in VA. As you can see, my VA score was greater than the other two combined. I cleared cut-offs for both BM and HR.

Apart from that, practise anything you lay your hands on. There is no dearth of free material online. Use it wisely.

I didn’t appear for any XAT specific mocks. Though, I did write some Bullseye mocks for CAT which were available for free that year.


How did you manage to prepare for XAT and other exams within the same time frame?


Preparation of every MBA entrance exam is almost the same. You just tweak your strategy a bit according to the exam. There is almost a month gap between CAT and XAT and that is more than enough if you utilise properly.


Since it’s a paper-pencil test, does it affect the test-taking in any way? Any specific strategy for the same?


The best thing about the Paper-pencil paper is that it puts everyone on an equal footing which might not be the case with computer based exams. I feel dizzy when I look at the computer screen for a long time. Thus, for people like me paper-pencil test has been a relief. Also, you have the option to take a cursory glance at the paper with much ease. It helps you to decide what section or question to start with. Also, you can jump sections seamlessly. Be adaptive to use all these advantages to your strengths.  


What do you think you did right during test prep? What was it that you did right on Test Day?


I did a lot of work on getting my basics right. This helped me the most in scoring marks. For example, in QA-DI section you can easily clear the cut-offs of both BM and HR just by attempting the basic questions. These questions are framed to test the understanding of your concepts. Get your basics right before taking your preparations to the next level. Apart from that, solving previous year XAT papers was a good decision. It helped me in understanding XAT and what to expect out of it. One thing is for sure that XAT will always be a notch higher in difficulty than that of CAT. It’s what they are known for and XAT would never compromise on that aspect. Candidates usually get struck with difficult questions and unable to attempt the easier ones due to lack of time. This can be detrimental since each question has equal marks and it doesn’t really matter which one do you attempt. You just have to choose the right questions.

I kept myself calm on the test day. Solving previous year papers helped me in knowing that it’s okay to not try and attempt the whole paper. I didn’t panic and kept my focus on finding the right questions and maintaining accuracy.


What was your test prep strategy over the few months leading to XAT? (Last 3 months, last month, last 15 days). Was it a test series inclined one or a chapter by chapter strategy?


As I had mentioned earlier, I kept my focus on clearing the basics initially, In the last month, I focussed on solving previous year question papers thoroughly. And, in the last 15 days, I focussed on practising more questions and revising everything that I had done in the whole season.

It was more of  a chapter by chapter strategy initially which changed to a test series inclined strategy after I was done with the basics.


What was your strategy for the D-Day and what do you think you executed the Best on the D- Day?


In an attempt to maximise my attempts, I usually rush through the paper and make silly mistakes. I learnt about it while practising previous year papers. Thus, I decided to stay calm most importantly. I was heavily relying on accuracy as my speed of solving papers is not really good. Thus, focusing on accuracy was important. Clearing cut-offs of all the three sections is a must to get calls. Thus, I  devoted an appropriate amount of time to each section based on my previous experience of solving papers. I kept a little buffer time and used it accordingly to maximise score. Time constraint might not allow you to go through each RC and DI set for that matter. But, do look out for some doable questions which can be attempted by common sense or cursory reading. I took a calculated risk and marked some doable questions which turned out to be right in most cases. But, be careful while using this strategy as it can backfire easily.

I successfully executed almost everything I mentioned above. Although my accuracy did take a little hit but it was good enough to score 99%ile.


How did you prepare for the group discussion? What was the topic and how did you tackle the GD round?


I had about a month to prepare for GDPI. Thus, I tried reading anything and everything under the sun. I made a separate copy for making notes of everything I go through. In the end, I had a copy filled with almost 200 pages of data. Current affairs, economy, constitution, politics and many other things I could think of. I also prepared some basic HR related terms and Acts just to get an edge over the others. Prepare as much as you can if you get a call for it could be your only chance to step into this place. Your whole life might depend on this particular phase. I have seen people screwing up badly due to lack of preparations and then not getting a call ever after. Don’t let this chance go waste.

My GD topic for HR call was something on these lines: Incentives create a division in the organisation. I chipped in 4-5 times in between with decent points. Reading about HR related terms did help as I was able to use one of the point very well. The whole GD then revolved around that point for sometime which strengthened my case.

I don’t clearly remember my GD topic for BM. It was something on the lines: Should we distribute the wealth of the rich to the poor?. I remember having a decent GD. Although, my performance was not as good as it was during HR call.


What resources did you refer to while preparing for the essay writing? (Please mention the topic)


” Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen to understand. We only listen to refute or reply.”

I used to read newspaper and that I feel is enough to prepare for the essay. I went through a  few past year XAT essays to understand how to structure your essays well. One must focus on giving a right structure to the essay to make it look coherent. I also read about a  few random abstract topics available online.


How was the interview experience like? What was your preparation strategy and how did the interview turn out to be?


Interviews are the most unpredictable part of the whole selection process. Usually, a good amount of weightage is assigned to them and they can make or break the whole game. My interview experience for both BM and HR was quite different. For me, the HR panel was warm and humble. It felt more like they were sitting there to ‘select’ the candidate and not to ‘reject’ them. Whereas, it was the other way round during the BM interview where I as grilled left, right and centre. Although, I managed to dodge the bullet each time.

My HR interview was more about my previous work experience. Maybe, It was because I have worked in a Power Plant which by its very nature faces a lot of labour issues. They asked me about these issues and other business of my previous employer. My BM interview started with them asking questions from the questionnaire I had filled as a part of selection process. Then a detailed discussion regarding my stand during GD took place. Then I was asked some rapid fire round questions. They overall tone of the interview was somehow neutral to negative. Maybe, it was their way to ensure right candidate gets through the process. I tried to remain as much calm as I could.

As I had mentioned above, try and prepare anything and everything under the sun. From politics to economics to anything that you might think of. Because you don’t know what you might face on the D-day. It could be one of the most important career defining move of your life, you would obviously not want to get caught off guard. Start with preparing everything about yourself and things associated with you. Devote time to learn about your organisation. A wrong answer on these basic questions might set a negative tone to the whole interview. Prepare basic behavioural questions like your strengths, weakness, anything you did to show you are a team player etc.  Read about the course you are applying for and be clear with the reasons of choosing it. There is no dearth of areas you can read about. Try to drive your interview down the lane which you are comfortable with. I have seen the whole interviews revolving around Football, music or even puzzles for that matter. Reading previous year’s experiences might be of some help. I read about all different topics I could and noted down everything. In the end, I had a 200 pages notebook filled with notes to revise. It did help a lot during the interviews and GD as my knowledge on some economic issues was tested.  Prepare as much as you can for this could be the only chance you might get a call from XLRI. Just make sure at the end of the process you do not regret not preparing thoroughly even though there was plenty of time available. Just put in your efforts and leave the rest to destiny. All the best!


(This interview was sourced by our student team member Abhishek Tahlan)

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