XAT Strat
Comments 17

How to prepare for the XAT

A curious phenomenon repeats itself year after year when the results of the CAT and the XAT come out – there is little overlap between the students who crack CAT and those who crack XAT. In other words, a largely different set of test-takers ends up cracking each test.

Why is this so? It is almost like one of the GMAT CR question types – which of the following provides the best explanation for the phenomenon described above? 

The answer(s) to this question will also hold the key to know how to prepare to ace the XAT!

XAT favours the Verbose..err those with superior Verbal skills 

As far reading goes, there is a hell of a lot of it to do on the XAT! 

Firstly, there is VA and there is XAT-VA. The 26 questions on VA will have so many unique question types, tricky directions, deliberate twists, turns and hairpin bends that you can’t take your eyes off the ball for a second or go into autopilot mode. 

The questions cover the entire spectrum of VA as well – Grammar, Vocab, Reasoning, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.

Secondly, Decision Making is equivalent to an entire section of reading comprehension!

So 48 out of 78 questions or more than 60 percent of the paper involves reasoning via reading compared to 32% on the CAT. 

This is one of the major reasons why a different set of test-takers ends up cracking the XAT – those with good Verbal Skills!

There is a good reason for this as well – remember that XAT is a common test for both BM and HR courses and the latter needs people with good communication skills. 

Those who prep win

Once the CAT is done with, those who know that they have done well enough tend to put their feet up and maybe rightly so since many would have been preparing for over a year.

The ones who really go after the XAT are the ones who had an ordinary outing on CAT-day and are determined to get into a premier b-school such as XL. 

Even among those who prepare, most don’t take Mocks seriously since they are not conducted in the same atmosphere as the ones for CAT. 

So on average, the prep-levels across the spectrum are likely to be lower than they are for CAT. 

Given this it goes without saying that those who prepare seriously with the same diligence that they showed for XAT will end up cracking the test; not necessarily the ones with better skills. They will be in better test-taking rhythm and most importantly more attuned to the uniqueness of the XAT.

Decision Making can end up making or breaking your entire paper

This entirely new section, with no equivalence or similarity to any other section on any other test, holds the key to your entire paper. 

Firstly, you need to clear the cut-offs and secondly you need to do it in good time. You might end up doing enough to clear the cut-off but given the amount of reading required, you might end up overshooting your time-limits and compromising the other section. 

Given its novel nature, the DM section in terms of the level of difficulty can be compared to the DI-LR section on this year’s CAT, albeit with more reading. 

So crossing the cut-off is not going to be a walk in the park. If you are under-prepared for DM then you will definitely be caught on the wrong foot on many questions not knowing what to do.

Decision Making won’t be high-scoring section and for this very reason, 0.25-0.5 marks can end up pushing you towards either side of the cut-off.

Apart from the 5 IMS Mocks and previous papers you can also order an IMS book dedicated to DM that has 100 questions covering a variety of HR and non-HR case lets. 

This will be the best resource to practise DM apart from tests.

Increase your reading speed by at least 50 WPM

The copious amount of text is not limited to just the VA and DM sections. Even QA will have quite a few 5-6 liner Arithmetic questions that usually involve chase sequences, running back and forth and verbal jugglery.

Given that there will be so much reading to do you need to be to increase your reading speed to ensure that you are able to

  • read all questions and
  • answer enough of them to clear the cut-offs

One of the resources to do this was suggested by a student —http://spreeder.com/. Dedicated to helping you read faster the site allows you to paste text, set a reading speed and words per chunk (I suggest 6 or 8) before you start reading. The HOME page tells you how to go about using it.

The best way to use this resource:

  • For passages download the GMAT Official Guide PDF (I don’t need to teach you how to do that:-))
  • Copy paste text into the software and read at a faster paste
  • After reading, solve questions from the passage
  • Two passages every day should suffice

Practice Modern Math to ace the Quant section

The Quant on the XAT as mentioned earlier has long Arithmetic questions. Apart from this a fair bit of questions from Modern Math props up on the test.

So please ensure that you revise all those things that irritate most test-takers — Logarithms, Permutation & Combinations, Probability, Functions, Polynomials and Trigonometry; numbers do not feature much on the XAT (this year they did not on the CAT as well) so don’t waste too much time re-doing them.

Questions from Modern Math, unlike those from Arithmetic, tend to be shorter in length. So preparing for questions on these topics will be strategically useful.

Combine this with Arithmetic practice from cat100percentile.com and Quant should be taken care of. 

A bit of GK a day to keep the section at bay 

GK is a section that poses a peculiar problem for people — can one even prepare for it?

The GK on most tests, barring IRMA, is as general as the G in GK can get.

But usually, it is a mixture of static GK and current-affairs(CA). While preparing for current affairs is a tricky affair, Static GK is something that can be tackled.

Just get the Manorama YearBook and spend 30 minutes every day with it. In the next 4 weeks, you can easily cover quite a bit this way rather than just fret about it and do nothing.

Also, GK will be a feature on your PIs as well, so this preparation will hold you in good stead for the same.

8 mocks to ace the test

The XAT is an old-fashioned paper-based test that will demand something that most test-takers are not comfortable with — time-management

There is no way you can crack a PBT without sectional time-limits without practising enough Mocks to get your timing strategy right.

I recommend at least 8 Mocks in the last 8 days leading up to the XAT — 5 IMS SimXATs plus 3 Papers from previous years. So a test a day from 26-Dec to 3-Jan, barring New Year’s Eve.

Until then your practice schedule should comprise

  • 90 minutes of Quant
  • 60 minutes of DM
  • 30 minutes of DI-LR or Verbal Reasoning on alternate days
  • 30 minutes of RC Speed Reading
  • 30 minutes of GK (all through till test day)

The biggest gainers on the XAT will be those who prepare with a plan and take enough Mocks. There is no reason why should not be one of them.

Don’t trust the CAT, like the animal it is sly!

Even if your CAT went well, you can’t be sure of your percentiles till they come out. Till the 97th percentile things will be pretty predictable but above that, we don’t know how well the guys at the higher end have performed.

So even if you have done well on the CAT, it is still not a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

XL is right up there with the IIMs, so there is everything to play for

While XLRI-tag might not seem to carry the same weight as the IIM-tag it is right behind IIMs – A, B & C, up there with IIM-L & FMS and better than the rest of the IIMs in terms of placements.

The batch size is still not very large and the HR department of most premier firms are filled with XL alumni, what better guarantee does one need that placements at XL will be good!

So start your prep in all earnestness and I will be putting up the following posts in the coming days.

  • How to crack XAT Decision Making
  • How to crack XAT Essay Writing
  • How to allocate your time on XAT
  • All need to execute on XAT-day

All the best!


  1. Sir, this was a nice post, a very practical one. Could you suggest which 3 old previous years XAT papers we must take which would expose us to the diversities of XAT, so that they won’t be able to surprise us ?


    • Take as many old XATs as possible, starting with the year they first introduced decision-making.

      Also,one should be ready to handle surprises! One does so many papers so that one develops specific skill sets as well as broad skills to handle any new stuff if thrown.

      All the best!


  2. Jacob says

    Thank you sir for the wonderful post. I have 2 queries:
    1) are you sure about the numbers part ? cause I saw some websites saying number system has 3-4 questions every year.
    2) This is my second attempt at XAT. last year, with a months prep from Arun sharma books i managed OA 93 (valr-85,DM-93,qa-85) . I usually consider Qa my weakness. This year after 5 months coaching and prep i expect 150-160 in CAT. (55-60 in QA). (also I have only basic ideas of Number system and no idea of Base system) Could you help me with the kind of questions I need to be practicing for the QA section. And which section should I be looking to maximize.


    • Hi Jacob,
      Glad you liked the post. Well I think the old papers of XAT will you a fair idea of the specific areas for Quant, at any rate you cannot have any weak area, so ensure that you solve enough number system questions and just have a vague idea of concepts.

      The task is to always maximise overall score and clear minimum cutoffs in each section, which effectively translates into at least crossing 90 on each section. Which section you maximise on the day beyond a 95 depends on which section is your strongest suit and if the section is medium to tough.

      For example, if the toughest section in the day is your strongest section you should not get stuck on that.

      All the best!


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