XAT Demystified – Part I

The next big exam for most IIM aspirants is XAT (Xavier Aptitude Test) – the gateway to XLRI Jamshedpur and 147 other institutes that include names like S.P.Jain, XIM Bhubaneshwar, MICA, TAPMI, GIM Panaji, LIBA, K.J. Somaiya, Welingkar, Great Lakes Chennai, IIFM Bhopal and IMT Ghaziabad.

Know the test

  1. XAT is a paper-based test with 2 parts: Part I. Objective Questions and Part II. Subjective with an Essay to be written
  2. As per the FAQ section on the XAT  website, this year the duration of the test will be three and a half hours (3 ½) i.e. from 10:00am to 1:30pm. (Last year it was a 3 hour test with 150 minutes for the objective part and 30 minutes for the essay)
  3. The objective part of the test has four sections (i) Verbal and Logical Ability (ii) Decision Making (iii) Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation (iv) General Knowledge. As per the latest notification, the first 3 sections will have 72 questions to be solved in 170 min. GK will have 25 question and the time allotted for the GK and Essay section will be 35 minutes.
  4. The marks of General Knowledge will not be used for determining the percentile and cut off at first stage of selection.
  5. Over the years, the number of questions per section has varied as follows:
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Verbal and Logical Ability


28 30 32


Decision Making


24 25 25


Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation


31 36 28




83 91 85


General Knowledge


20 30

  1. The questions in the four sections are in the MCQ format with 5 options each.
  2. Marking system: Each question carries 1 mark (except in 2011 when the test had differential marking).
  3. Negative marking: The instruction page last year stated “You MAY BE penalized one fourth of the allotted marks for every incorrect response” (don’t read too much into the difference between may be and will be).  As per the latest notification, a student can skip up to a total of 12 questions in the first 3 sections. Beyond this every skipped question will attract a penalty of 0.05 marks per question. In other words, you need to attempt a minimum of 60 questions out of 72 to avoid negative marking. Also, GK questions will not have negative marking. 
  4. There are no sectional time-limits – you can attempt the first 3 sections in any order.
  5. Level of Difficulty of the Test: In past XAT papers, students would end up solving only half the questions – leading to very low score ranges. This year the level of difficulty of the test will be watered down to ensure that the best students (top 100) are able to answer all questions in 170 minutes while other students are able to significantly increase their number of attempts. What this implies is that students with a sound conceptual base should be able to score significantly high scores in this test.  All the questions in GK will be “General” in nature rather than “Specific”.


The “Syllabus” – What to prepare for XAT ?ADMAT

If you have been preparing for CAT – then you are already on the right track in your preparation for XAT.  However, as the test structure above indicates you will need to additionally prepare for the Decision Making (DM), Essay and General Knowledge(GK) sections – the DM section is important to secure your GD/PI call while the Essay and GK sections are important for the second stage of the selection process.  Let us have a look at what has been appearing in the various sections in the recent years:

  1. Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation

A quick look at this section over the last 3 years shows that Geometry, Modern Maths and Data Interpretation have had the highest weightage in this section.   A topic like probability that has seldom appeared in past CAT papers is a regular feature in this test.  A few questions from Quantitative Ability have also been asked in the “Data Sufficiency format”.  Majority of the questions (70-80%) ranged from medium to high level of difficulty – and after the recent CAT experience, I would not be surprised if students find this section to be slightly tougher than the CAT.  The Data Interpretation questions have been fairly complex over the years and with no calculator to mitigate your pain – you cannot overly depend on this area to take you across the sectional cut-off.  Almost every year you have had at least one calculation-based DI set with data in a Table and/or Graph format. DI sets with non-standard formats have also regularly appeared in past XAT papers. Find below a break-up of the XAT Quantitative Ability section over the past 3 years:

XAT Quant

How to prepare for XAT – Quant-DI?

Brush up concepts across ALL areas of Math – you should be able to solve the easy to medium level questions of difficulty even if they belong to your areas of weakness – and all questions if they belong to your areas of strength.  Solve the Quant-DI sections of all the past year XAT papers (XAT 2010 to XAT 2015 available on the official XAT site. As you solve them, you may come across areas where you need to brush up concepts or learn new ones. For these areas, you may do well to practice more questions of a decent level of difficulty from resources like section tests, CAT 500 and CAT mock tests. For topics like probability – you can do well to go through the relevant posts on http://cat100percentile.com/tag/probability/ .  After solving all the XAT papers, move on to take the XAT mock tests provided to you.  A test every 4 to 5 days should be a good frequency. After every test, analyse your performance in the same and work on at least a couple of identified areas of weakness.

In the next post, I will elaborate on the other areas assessed in this test as well as your preparation strategy for the same.


12 thoughts on “XAT Demystified – Part I

  1. Dear Sir

    I must thank you for your posts. In limited time available before CAT, it definitely helped a lot. And now with almost a month left for XAT I am sure your posts and feedback can be very instrumental for performance in XAT. I have couple of doubts wrt preparation strategy , can I please call in the evening to discuss the same ?


      • Sir, I am finding the level of MOCK XATs to be slightly tough, especially in case of QA/DI.
        With the level of difficulty expected to be lesser as compared to before, is it still advisable to spend time on these Qs or should I solve easier Qs from our SIS to improve speed for the D-DAY and wait for the 2 MOCKs on actual pattern?

        P.S. Will request to please come up with an article on TISS too. There is not too much clarity with respect to its overall pattern and important areas to focus on.


      • We are providing 2 extra mocks based on the new XAT pattern…you can still solve the others with a view to maximise your scores therein. and yeah practice with easier Qs is Ok if you believe it helps you build speed.


  2. Hi Sir, Out of the proctored SIMCATs, Take-Home SIMCATs, Concept Builder(Which Level), Section Tests, Area Tests- which is the most relevant for XAT Preparation? I mean which one should be done thoroughly for XAT Level Questions? Also, Is it possible for IMS to release a book like CAT 500 specifically for XAT as well just like it has done for the Decision Making Section? This would really help a lot.


    • I would suggest you to take the Section tests, Area tests and the XAT mock tests being provided by IMS – if you still have time, then you can solve the questions from Take-home SimCATs as well. Do solve past XAT papers as well.I don’t think we will release a book this year, but thanks for the suggestion.


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