The score of a national-level management entrance exam is essential for admission to MBA courses in India. Numerous entrance exams like CAT, XAT, NMAT, CMAT, etc are conducted by various institutions to facilitate this process. Two tests of all the MBA entrance exams are known for its difficulty and acceptance level.

These are the Common Admission Test (CAT) and the Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT). Lakhs of MBA competitors appear for these exams to get into the best management institutes of India.

However, the difference in the total number of candidates appearing for CAT and XAT is vast. More than two lakh candidates sat for CAT 2019, the highest number for a management exam.

Let us examine the key differences between CAT and XAT.

Colleges accepting CAT Score vs XAT Score

The CAT is conducted by Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) and the XAT is organized by the XLRI-Xavier School of Management on behalf of the XAMI members. While over 150 institutes accept XAT scores, the number of colleges accepting CAT goes well beyond 500. Several institutes like IIMs, IITs, FMS, etc accept only the Common Admission Test scorecard for the shortlisting process.

To be eligible for admission in the XLRI Jamshedpur, a candidate has to appear for XAT. However, unlike all IIMs, some of the XAMI (XLRI Associate) members also accept CAT scores. Thus, aspirants seeking an opportunity to get shortlisted for IIMs and other top MBA colleges will have to appear for the CAT. Similarly, XLRI Jamshedpur only shortlists the candidates with XAT scores.

Question Paper

Difficulty Level

Let’s start with a similarity. Both CAT and XAT are not easy to clear. The overall difficulty level of the question paper remains between moderate to high.

Unique Sections

There are three sections in a CAT paper and four in the XAT. While the Decision Making and the General Knowledge sections are unique to XAT, the Data Interpretation section is unique to CAT. Both the unique sections are hard to solve and are often used as parameters to compare both papers.

Number of Questions

The paper of XAT is divided into four sections and the CAT paper into three. The total number of questions is 100 in both papers. The number of questions varies for each section.

Sections CAT XAT
Quantitative Ability 34 27
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension 34 24
DI LR for CAT/ DM for XAT 32 21
General Awareness 0 25
Total 100 100

Marking Scheme

The marking scheme for CAT is simple and easy to understand. Each correct answer in the paper will carry three marks. Every wrong response will deduct one mark of the candidate from the total score. The XAT marking system is quite tricky.

XAT Marking Scheme

  • An applicant will get one mark for every correct answer. There is also a negative marking of 0.25 marks for each wrong answer.
  • There is no negative marking for unattempted questions up to eight. However, if a candidate breaches the limit, there will be a deduction of 0.10 marks from the total score for every unattempted question beyond eight.
  • There is no negative marking for the GK section questions.
  • The scores of QA, DM and Verbal Ability sections constitutes a candidate’s overall XAT percentile. The marks of GK sections are added only during the preparation of the final list.

Sectional Time Limit

The CAT gives 60 minutes to solve a section. Candidates cannot jump from one section to the other while attempting the CAT paper. There is no sectional time limit for XAT. However, XAT still assigns 165 minutes for solving Part I questions and 15 minutes to attempt the GK section. An applicant can move to the GK section only after solving the Part I of the paper containing the QA, DM and VA sections.

Why more candidates take CAT than XAT?

As CAT scores have a wider acceptance, the MBA aspirants prefer to take the CAT. There can be lesser candidates willing to appear for XAT because of its limited acceptability. This factor might have impacted the number of test-takers appearing for both CAT and XAT. While more than 2 Lakh candidates appeared for CAT 2019, there were nearly 1 Lakh applicants for XAT 2020.

Stay connected with fellow students on PaGaLGuY for CAT 2019 Discussion / XAT Exam Discussion

CAT vs XAT: Which is tougher?

There is a common notion amongst MBA aspirants that XAT is tougher than CAT. This is also another factor affecting the number of test-takers of both exams. The MBA aspirants and management experts tend to give a slight edge to XAT when it comes to difficulty.

This is because of the unique Decision-Making section of XAT. The difficulty level of the section is usually high. Though the total duration of both papers is the same, there is an extra section in the XAT paper for the candidates to solve in 3 hours.

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