XAT Strat
Comments 29

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 75 questions or almost 70 percent of the paper involves reasoning via reading compared to 24% 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 taken in the same atmosphere like 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 CAT will end up cracking the test; not necessarily the ones with better skills. They will be in better XAT-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 this year, we have DM section tests as well on myIMS.

This will be the best resource to practice 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 a test that will demand something that most test-takers are not comfortable with — time-management

There is no way you can crack a test 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 allocate your time on XAT
  • All need to execute on XAT-day

All the best!


  1. Ashish Purohit says

    Hi Tony Sir,
    I have been following this blog of yours for more than 6 months now, and I must say, apart from mock tests and analysis, this blog has been of equal importance to me in my prep journey.
    Being an IT Prof with a Services Giant and working daily from 9-6, this blog has also always kept me in the right direction and helped me channelize my energy in the best possible way.

    I just wish to Thank You for all the efforts and pain you take to write these extraordinary blogs that helps us keep going despite all the difficulties. A big shout out to you and hope to read more and more of your writing. 🙂

    Thank You
    Ashish Purohit


    • Hi Ashish,

      Thanks a lot for the generous praise. While I know that what I write helps students — since the reason for starting this blog was to reach out to as many students as possible — the comments of appreciation are always a good reinforcement :-).

      While there are only so many things that one write about with respect to the CAT, I feel a personal blog with some other kind of writing is in order soon.

      Hope you manage to crack one of the tests this year and make it to a good school.

      Keep prepping,

      All the best!


  2. Sajal Jain says

    Hello sir,
    Thanks for this brilliant post. Can you please suggest some sources for LR-DI? And is the level of difficulty in these areas equivalent to that of CAT?


  3. Abhishek Saha says

    Hello Tony Sir. Your blog has certainly been one of the key components of my preparation for planning out my prep. I would like to ask you about the sources from which we can practice the verbal reasoning and dilr for xat as there is no separate section for it in the IMS portal. Also there is not enough material to practise DM everyday for 60 mins. Can you please suggest some material regarding the same? And last but not the least please tell us the best way to prep for gd-pi along with the XAT prep so that we can balance it out and are well prepared for the gd-pi part as well.
    Thanks in advance!!


    • Hi Abhishek,

      Just go to the downloads section on myIMS and start practicing all sections from all the old XAT papers. You will find additional DM section tests as well on myIMS.

      As far as GD-PI prep goes, eat (not skim) the newspaper(preferably The New Indian Express of The Hindu and online magazines such as The Scroll and The Caravan inside-out every day excluding the local crime news 🙂

      Glad you find the blog helpful.

      All the best!


  4. Sarthak Srivastava says

    hello tony sir, can u pls suggest me some of the consolidated sorces to prepare gk for xat and tiss ?


  5. Vignesh says

    Hi sir,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. Now I can allocate my day accordingly. I need a few suggestion for GK. Is gquest enough for preparation or Manorama yearbook?


  6. Raman Khan says

    Hi Tony sir,

    I have a small query regarding the GK section in CAT.

    I wanted to know whether the marks scored in this section contribute to the total score/ percentile one receives on the exam as I have read on several websites that even though the marks scored do not contribute to the the same, they are used during “final selections”.

    Always appreciate your help, thanks!


  7. Prasad Desai says

    Hi Sir, can you do article about time management of each section in the new 3 hour window


  8. Krunal says

    Hello sir,
    I have official guide with me particularly which section we need to prepare using that software.

    Is it advisable to solve CR question from same guide? given that my CR is avg.


  9. Hello Sir.
    Could you please suggest other alternatives to improve speed reading.Should the RC100 book be sufficient for practising RC? Also, for vocab, will re-reading ‘word power made easy’ help or should I read the word-list book provided by IMS ?


    • If you do one of word power or the IMS book it should suffice but do understand there is no finite list.

      As far as RC goes, you can choose any content to practice speed reading, which is at the core nothing but getting used to driving your bike or car at a faster speed. You can either look at RC100 or the GMAT OG.


  10. Shahveer Sahiar says

    Hello Sir,
    Can you please suggest from where can we practice Modern Math?Is the Application builder for CAT enough for it?
    Very Informative and useful blog!



  11. Harshraj says

    Hello sir, thank you for the insightful post.

    I wanted to ask whether modern math is still important w.r.t XAT? Recent years have had a fair chunk of all other area questions as well.


  12. Harsh says

    Hello sir, thank you for the insightful post.

    Regarding Quant, is Modern Math still as important w.r.t XAT? As in the recent years, quite a lot of questions have come from other areas.


  13. puneet malhotra says

    Hi Tony Sir,

    Can we solve aristotle RC 99 book for comprehensions?

    Puneet Malhotra


  14. aarav says

    Hi T,
    With cat a few months away will it be a good idea to focus on CR, I was following your advice to complete 54 sets of LR from GRE ets book but then while solving CR I feel the need to cover it entirely. also can you suggest some book for the same. P.s :this is the search result that I got for “cr cat writer” hence posting this question here


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