Cracking XAT 2012: The Ready Reckoner

(Photo credit: Anusheel Shrivastava)

The Xavier’s Admission Test (XAT) 2012 that paves the way for admissions to b-schools such as the XLRI School of Business and Human Resources – Jamshedpur, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research – Mumbai, Xavier’s Institute of Management – Bhubhaneswar and Goa Institute of Management is scheduled for January 8, 2012.

As XAT candidates prepare for the test, a bunch of top scorers from XLRI draw from their own experienced of acing the test and write the following set of helpful clues. Read on.


What is the format of the test and what were the sectional cutoffs previously?

XAT is one of the most unpredictable entrance tests around. One can never really predict the pattern of the paper or the scheme of negative marking. However, we can look at the XATs of the last two years to broadly understand what it is about.

Lets have a look at last two years XAT papers.

XAT 2010

The test was of two hours duration followed by an essay for 20 minutes. The topic for the essay was Earth provides enough to satisfy every mans need but not every mans greed.


Number of questions

Verbal and Logical Ability


Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability


Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making




The negative marking scheme changed compared to XAT 2009. In each section, 0.2 marks were deducted for the first six incorrect answers and for every wrong answer thereafter, 0.25 marks were deducted.

For the Human Resource Management Programme, XLRI had shortlisted around 650 applicants last year having more than 92.6 percentile in VA, 80.36 percentile in QA, 84.36 percentile in RA and overall 95.03 percentile for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview stage.

For the Business Management Programme, the institute shortlisted around 550 applicants having more than 90.13 percentile in VA, 91.31 percentile in QA, 90.01 percentile in RA and overall 98.02 percentile for the Personal Interview.

Download the XAT 2010 question paper.

XAT 2011

Its a well-known fact that XAT is one of the toughest exams for MBA admissions in India. XAT 2009 and XAT 2010 made for a really tough time for candidates. However when XAT 2011 kicked off, even the best prepared students found themselves perplexed. The test was of two-hours duration followed by analytical questions based on an excerpt from The wealth of the Nations for which candidates got another 20 minutes.

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with most unnecessary attention but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of man who have folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

Candidates were asked to critically analyse this using real life examples.


Number of questions

Verbal and Logical Ability


Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability


Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making




Total Marks: 253, more or less evenly divided between the three sections.

The negative marking scheme changed in XAT 2011 compared to XAT 2010. For every wrong answer, 25% of the marks allotted to that question were deducted.

For the Human Resource Management Programme, around 1,000 applicants having more than 85 percentile in VA, 70 percentile in QA, 75 percentile in AR and an overall 91 percentile were shortlisted for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview.

For the Business Management Programme, around 830 applicants having more than 70 percentile in VA, 90 percentile in QA, 80 percentile in AR, and overall 92 percentile were shortlisted for Personal Interview.

Download the XAT 2011 question paper.

As per the Chairman, Admission committee, The cutoffs were lowered to have a more diverse pool of candidates.

We had a chat with Sakshi Rastogi, Chinmay Kamat and Vasudha Srivastava (all XLRI BM Batch of 2011-13) and Anusheel Shrivastava (XLRI HRM Batch of 2011-13) about their experiences of cracking the XAT. Here are some excerpts from the chats.

What additional preparation does one need to do for XAT apart from what one has already done for CAT?

According to Sakshi, CAT and XAT have overall same syllabi but the level of difficulty is considerably higher in XAT. XAT has a peculiar pattern of questions, which is different from CAT or other exams. As such most of these questions are not tough but a candidate who is not aware of the XAT pattern or level may find them difficult to solve. Hence, solving previous XAT papers is necessary. I felt that the time given was very less when I took the XAT paper. So I think that it would really help to develop an eye for questions you have a higher probability of solving. One needs to manage time with accuracy with greater vigour in XAT. Going through the previous years’ XAT papers will help.

According to Vasudha, The questions in XAT are differently marked, unlike in the CAT. You should watch the marks a question carries while solving it. Especially in Quant, the difficulty level is too high and if one is able to solve a scoring question then it makes a lot of difference. Also, there is a separate section on Decision Making (DM) which is something unique to XAT. It contains caselets or business scenarios based on which questions are asked.

What sections should one focus on more?

According to Sakshi, It depends on your skills. I have always been more comfortable with Mathematics and good at it as well, so it helped my score to devote more time to the Quant section. I was able to choose those questions which were solvable in lesser time. Quantitative ability and Data Interpretation are clubbed together in XAT. I had practised this section well beforehand so I knew what kind of questions I could solve faster.a

According to Anusheel, I was aware that the cutoff of the verbal section is higher for the HRM course while for the BM course the Quant+DI section has a higher cutoff, hence I concentrated more on these two sections. However, clearing the LR/DM cutoff was equally important so I made sure that I had enough time for LR/DM after attempting Quant and verbal.

Do you need to be a champ at higher maths and vocabulary to crack the XAT?

According to Sakshi, Knowing higher maths always helps but it’s too late now to start it from scratch, so concentrate on increasing accuracy in your areas of strength instead. It is better to be thorough in probability as that is tested extensively in various questions in XAT. For verbal, if you are able to understand the reading comprehension passages and solve the questions then that is enough. Being good at vocabulary shall help only if you are lucky to get those words which you have learned, which isn’t likely.

According to Chinmay, There are a lot of questions to choose from in Quant and hence even if you are not proficient in higher maths you can still make up for it by correctly answering the other questions. An overall good vocabulary will be enough to clear the verbal section.

Says Anusheel, XAT RCs are notorious for being perplexing and bewildering. Candidates need to understand the ideas contained in the paragraphs rather than dryly reading through them. Reading a diverse set of articles will help a candidate be comfortable with the difficulty level of the RCs. Students should read articles from economics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, political science, life sciences, law, etc. You neednt be knowledgeable about these streams but should be comfortable with the terminology that appears in articles about these subjects.

Decision making caselets vs Analytical Reasoning caselets. Which ones make better sense to attempt?

Chinmay volunteered to answer this one. He said, Analytical Reasoning caselets are the kind of caselets that appear in most MBA entrance exams including in the CAT. In these caselets, there is greater emphasis on numbers, symbols and speed. The questions involve logical deductions and inferences based on calculations. The trick to crack these caselets is to jot down the numbers and observations, get your papers dirty, and try to reach towards an answer. Traditionally, folks who are good at quant and logical reasoning prefer to attack these caselets. Decision making caselets or business scenarios are very similar to a reading comprehension passage, except that the case is crisply defined. The main difference between these types of caselets and analytical reasoning caselets is that you can work out the answer without putting a pencil to paper. Getting to the answer and eliminating options can all be done mentally. These caselets also require you to think in multiple dimensions, exercise your sense of what is right and what is wrong in an industry context. If you have a brisk reading speed and the knack to correctly identify the root cause of any given problem, you will make a fortune off these caselets.

He added, In 2011, XAT had different marks for each question. So within a set, one question had 1 mark while the other had 3 marks and so on. In such a scenario, I attempted the easier questions across both kinds of caselets decision making and analytical. My suggestion would be to go through the previous years XAT papers and attempt the decision making caselets. Inspect your accuracy, and then decide whether you prefer them to analytical caselets. While attempting the actual paper, start with your preferred choice. Say, you prefer decision making cases, then start with those cases before moving to the analytical caselets.”

Anusheel had a word of advice for candidates as well, My final advice would be to not get afraid of the decision making cases and avoid them totally because of that fear. Do practice a few decision making cases from the previous papers and increase your familiarity with them. And then make a choice whether you want to attempt them first or not! The questions on decision making in XAT paper are comparatively easier. However, the logical reasoning questions are complicated and difficult to attempt. Its important that students select the right questions to answer. However please keep in mind that this time the XAT may have real life business cases. They dont require any business knowledge; however, some knowledge of common business terms and reasoning ability in social/economic/political/business situations will help you a lot. Reading books such as 101 Ethical Dilemmas by Martin Cohen will also help candidates to prepare better for this section.

How does one think about attempts and accuracy given the differential marking pattern?

Says Sakshi, The first task a candidate should do is to check whether there is progressive negative marking or not. XAT 2011 had no progressive negative marking. There was a flat 1/4 negative mark for each incorrectly answered question. In the past, XAT has had a scheme where for the first 6 wrong answers in a section you got penalized a certain amount of marks and this penalty doubled for each wrong answer after the sixth answer.”

“Whatever be the outcome, I suggest not changing your strategy drastically. In case of sections such as Quant (which are traditionally supposed to be difficult), avoid marking blindly if you have no clue about the answer. In verbal ability and reasoning sections, going for an answer instead of holding back may prove to be more beneficial.”

“I recommend that you analyse what your accuracy rate of ‘educated guesses’ is before taking the test. In case of incremental negative marking, take risks only in those sections where you have been doing well on ‘educated guesses’ in your mock tests. Do not tear your hair apart over this issue though. Prepare well enough. Flat negatives or incremental negatives should not matter.

How important is the essay in the overall process and what sources could one use to prepare for it?

According to Anusheel, The format of this part of the question paper may change like it did in XAT 2011, where candidates were asked to analyse a paragraph and cite their opinion using real life examples. This portion of the XAT lays emphasis on the candidates ability to comprehend and analyse the topic using coherent writing skills. Until now this section has not been used to make interview calls and is evaluated in the second stage of the admissions process. However candidates should not take it lightly, because you never know what unpredictable change XLRI might make this year.

Adding to Anusheel, Vasudha says, Usage of high-end vocabulary is no sure-shot way of cracking the essay. It is the quality of content — information and opinion — which really matters. The candidate should be able to put forth his opinion with convincing reasoning using an optimum number of words. Writing long essays with repetitive points will not help. The candidates should display a broad perspective of thinking and highlight both the pros and cons of their assertions. With sound reasoning, they can justify how the advantages of their suggested approach outweigh the negatives. The writing should not display any sort of prejudice or bias. Being aware of happenings around the world will help.”

“Reading editorial articles from reputed English dailies, cover stories of prominent business and political magazines can help along with practising essay writing.

Anything else?

According to Vasudha, XAT tests a candidate on multiple aspects. The whole objective of this examination is to gauge how prepared a candidate is to handle real and complex business problems. The test does not require prior knowledge of businesses, rather it tests a candidates ability to apply logic, common sense and learning from daily observations to solve problems. The candidates should approach the paper objectively and should not be concerned about things such as the difficulty level, unpredictability of the test, etc. An objective approach will make an on-the-face-of-it scary question seem easy and help you get those crucial marks necessary for clearing the cutoffs. XAT is more about persistence and hardcore drilling; don’t get disappointed if you are not able to solve some questions, they are supposed to be like that!

Anusheel, Chinmay, Sakshi and Vasudha wish XAT candidates on PaGaLGuY all the very best for the X-day.

Join the discussion on XAT and XLRI here.

The article was written exclusively for PaGaLGuY by the XLRI Jamshedpur’s External Linkages team.