XAT Strat
Comments 35

A timing strategy for the XAT


I never thought I will be doing a timing strategy post since the CAT has gone with fixed sectional time-limits for a long time now. But a reader asked for one for the XAT and thought it might not be a bad idea to do a short post on the same.

I have always preferred a test without sectional time-limits since it tests a crucial quality required for management — optimizing resources to achieve maximum return on investment. In this case, the resources are your own skills and the investment is your time. 

So how does one go about using the 165 minutes on the XAT?

Breaking 165 into smaller blocks

The first thing that you have to do is ensure that you clear all sectional cut-offs. This can be tougher than it seems on tests without sectional time-limits since you can get stuck on your favourite section!

The catch hence is to maximize your areas/sections of strength while clearing the cut-off(s) on your weaker section(s).

The best way to do this is by keeping a buffer that allows you to take stock and play the paper on its merit.

I’d say you should allot 45-45-45 for VA-LR, DM, and QA-DI.

Use the fixed blocks to clear the cut-offs by a bit

Your first task is to clear the sectional cut-offs. Use the 45 minutes per section to solve 13-16 questions in each of the 3 sections by choosing and leaving correctly.  

This is not a tough ask since you have more than 2 minutes per question.

What will result in this plan failing is if you end up solving each and every question without leaving some for later and leaving some altogether.

What order should I attempt in? 

Should you attempt your section strength first or your Achilles’ heel first?

Should it matter which section you attempt first?

You can start with your strength first so that you can get as many marks in your bag.

But someone else might say, that one should start with DM or VA first since it involves a lot of reading and you will get progressively tired as the test moves ahead.

I feel that if you have don’t have the stamina to perform for 180 minutes then no strategy can help you.

I’d say whatever happens don’t start with DM (unless you feel DM is your strength and if you feel you so then something is seriously wrong!)

The reason I say this is that the DM section can spring maximum uncertainty and you are better off dealing with it once you have cleared the cut-offs of the other two.

Do not break the time-block under any circumstance

When I took the CAT the second time, it was a 120 minute-150 question test. My VA was very strong and I could solve 50 questions in 40 minutes flat. The challenge (back then) was to clear the cut-off in QA.

I could have solved all 50 VA in 40 and then moved on to the other two sections but I decided otherwise.

I stopped the VA section after 30 minutes, I would have solved around 35 questions — good enough to have cleared the cut-off.

I then did the QA and DI-LR sections, ensuring that I solved enough questions to clear the cut-off. In the end, I had some time left and I came back to polish off the remaining VA questions.

I attempted about 90-100 questions in all if I remember correctly, about 45 in VA and the rest equally split between QA and DI-LR.

If I had spent an extra 10 minutes on VA, I would not have gone into the other two sections knowing that I have time on my side even if the section got tough. 

So whatever happens ensure that you stick to the time-block and don’t exceed it.


How to use the buffer time

How you use the buffer time can determine whether you end up getting an XL call or not.

What are situations you can find yourself at the end of 135 minutes.

You are confident of clearing all the cut-offs

If the paper goes according to plan and you are confident of clearing all cut-offs then go back to your strong area to increase your overall score.

When you go back to your favorite section, ensure that you are not engaging with the really tough questions and getting stuck on them.

On average you should have about 9-12 questions left at this point and you spend about 10-15 minutes knocking off all the moderate ones.

You do not want to be caught in the middle of a passage in the last 10 minutes and hence do not leave the DM or VA section for the last 10 minutes of the buffer time.

Your last 10 minutes should be QA-DI. 

One or two sections do not go well

If, say one or two sections have not gone well at the end of 145 minutes, and you are doubtful about them attack them first in the buffer zone.

So do enough to clear the cut-off by eking out whatever you can and move on to the other section.

If two out of three sections go badly then it will mean that you will give very little time to the one that went well.

So your 165 minutes should essentially be:

  • First 45 – QA-DI or VA-LR
  • Second 45 – QA-DI or VA-LR
  • Third 45 – Decision Making
  • First Buffer – VA-LR or DM
  • Second Buffer – VA-LR or DM
  • Last Buffer – QA-DI 

It goes without saying that it is not mandatory that you have three buffer blocks, it depends on how the paper is and how you have performed.

Also, it is important to mark out questions to return to in your buffer-time — the ones that can be solved but will take about 3-4 minutes.

With sectional time-limits it is like batting in the first innings just go out and make as many as you can, without sectional time-limits, it is similar to planning a successful chase.

 Happy chasing!



  1. Lazarus says

    Sir, an amazing read like always!!!! However, a small query: Suppose after 135 minutes, I’m sure about a section where I think I will easily clear the cut off, despite that section not being my strongest and it still has a few questions left post 135min block. Now; Do I move to that section to attempt a few more or straight away dive into the section I’m strong with to maximize my score? Please consider this scenario when I’m already aware that I’ve cleared the cutoff in the said section. Your worthy insights please!


  2. Ayesha Agarwal says

    Hi Sir,
    Thanks for the post.
    Could you please tell on average how many correct attempts in each section are required to meet the cut off of XLRI-J?
    Also could you please tell the marks vs percentile required for XLRI-J?
    Thank you


  3. Akshay Patil says

    Hi Sir,
    15 min – VARC
    45 min – DM
    45 min- QA
    35 min – VARC
    15 min – QA
    10 min – DM
    Is it a good strategy?
    My strong subjects are QA and DM.


    • What’s the rationale behind splitting VA-RC? I’d suggest not solving VA-RC first up, brain tends to be cold and the heavy reading first up might catch you on the wrong foot.


      • ANUVRAT SHUKLA says

        I guess VA-RC was split because that section comprises some FIBs/parajumbles…….another slot may be kept for RC and CR.


  4. Saurabh Bhargava says

    RCs are tougher in XAT. How to tackle RCs and 12 (approx) VA questions? Should I read more and practice CR section for VA? What topic should I read for RCs and the preferable source for it (if you can tell)


    • Apart from solving previous years’ papers, all I can suggest is to read AEON Magazine the articles on Philosophy and Art on that are fairly tough. After a point, tests such as the XAT VA end up testing your language processing skills that you have accumulated over a long period of time.

      In terms of answering the questions, the process to select the passage, read the passage, solve the question remains the same as the ones that I have outlined in the RC Masterclasses. Just ensure that do you do not try the poem-based set unless you have nothing else left to solve.

      All the best!


  5. Thalin Dhakshi says

    sir, actually my strong section is DM, i feel comfortable with decision making. Last year i scored 97.6 percentile in DM and i am good in VA too so, i’m thinking of va-rc first, DM second and QA last. I’m pretty weak in QA and my aim is just to clear the cutoff in QA.
    your thoughts on this?


    • All you need to ensure is that yourself give adequate time to QA to clear the cut-off. If this means that you can get more marks from DM and VA-RC by giving lesser time, then so be it.

      But if you spend more time and front load your time on VA-RC and DM and try to sneak in the QA cutoff by spending 40 minutes at the end, you run the risk of not clearing the QA cutoffs.

      All the best!


  6. shlok says

    Hello sir, in XAT most of the RCs are philosophical and abstract which I find difficult to understand. What should I do so that I become much more comfortable with them.


  7. Hi Sir,
    Again, a big thank you for all the articles you post here. They’re of great help.
    I need some guidance from you on handling VARC section of XAT. I genuinely thought English was my strongest area out of the three sections but these exams are giving me a major reality check now.
    My performance in verbal section just seems to be decreasing day by day, exam after exam and now I’ve come to a point where I just don’t know what else should I do to improve it.
    I do read AEON and similar sites almost regularly and try to comprehend to the best of my ability. But in the exam pressure, that just doesn’t seem to be enough.
    If you could guide me and advice on the same, It would really be helpful.
    Thank you, already! 🙂


  8. Siddharth Gosatkar says

    The admat XAT workshop of DM has a few wrong answers.Pls check the official answer key.Giving a wrong input would actually harm us than do good.
    The Q of empowering students in Happy school set has official answer “relate learning to real life experiences”.


    • Thanks for pointing it out.

      My team made a mistake with the key they gave me. I prefer to solve the paper myself, look at the key (not the detailed explanation, just the Q# and answer) and try to figure out the rationale.

      If it was a RC, CR, or QA question one always figures there is something wrong. With DM since the it is finally a call that the question setter takes one has no option but to accept whatever they give as answer, whether one agrees or not.

      Thanks for pointing this out.


    • You had me worried with a “few” wrong answers 🙂 This was the only mismatch, for one question, I had given the three close options and gave out the OA, which I said I did not agree with.

      I don’t know which key you check with, I can send you the PDF they give with the candidate login to view responses and right answers. Drop your mail ID here, I can share that PDF.

      All the best!


  9. Anurag Yadav says

    Hello sir,
    I have given 4 out of 5 XAT mocks and scored on an average of 31 marks. Do you think I should buy XAT mocks from other institutes? If not then what should be my course of action?
    For DM I’m referring old XAT papers, for QA I’m solving remaining SimCATs and Sectional tests and for Verbal I’m reading at least one article from aeon.co. What else should I do to push my scores past 40?


    • Hi Anurag,

      For all sections solve all the previous years’ papers, they will be useful.

      Look at the negative marks you are accumulating across the VA-Rc and DM sections, see if cutting them down will help you increase your scores.

      To cross 40, a realistic target is DM -12 to 15, VA-RC – 15 to 18, and QA 15 – 18. Analyse to see which areas, RC, CR, Modern Maths, are standing in the way.

      All the best!


  10. It is a really well written article.
    But i have a question
    My DM section is pretty good and gives me confidence to move and attempt and i feel quite shaky attempting va section as it is very trickey in xat.
    My strategy as of now
    Starting 10-15 mins for qa(for a good warm up and knock some easy questions)
    45 mins for DM(Attempting as much as possible with a good accuracy)
    45 mins for VA(Trying to improve my accuracy(as it varies significantly:()
    40 mins for QA(Knocking out as many questions as possible)
    Last 10-15 mins (As you told making sure cutoffs are clear and if i am confident then again attempting mark for review questions)

    This is what my strategy is
    I would love to hear what is your opinion on this
    Since there is so less time remaining how can one improve his verbal or what should be done in such a less span or during exam to improve verbal
    My previous history
    Va-Xat 2017 75 percentile(More attempts less accuracy:()
    Va-Xat 2018 70 percentile(Less attempts less accuracy:((Was able to select wrong option of chosen one)


    • Hi Tushar,

      Glad you found the post useful. It supposed to give a direction to approach the paper and the strategies outlined (barring the buffer time) are not set in stone.

      So work with what gives you your best scores.

      All the best!


  11. Mayank Anand says

    Hello sir,
    I am finding XAT RCs really challenging. Not able to comprehend even after reading twice. Resulting cannot solve confidently even a single question out of three. I am able to manage CRs but RCs seem like a Salman Khurshid’s book. I left Khurshid’s book unread way back but can’t afford to do it in XAT RCs. Need some gyaan!

    Thank you!


  12. Khyati says

    Hello sir ,

    I read your article and the comments that follow. I have this query , i start of with the varc section go through the whole section in about 50 mins and switch to quant after that . After doing 10-12 questions , i switch to DM . This is because i cannot read it all in one go . Is this the right strategy ? Last year i got 13 correct in dm out of 15 attempted , but this year after taking mocks my accuracy is going really down ! Also , my overall accuracy is really less . Now none of the sections is my strength . Can you please suggest something as i am in a delimma , what to do ?


    • Hi Khyati,

      Stick with your current plan but change the way you approach QA. Allocate time for the first round of QA and do all the sitters, you have to read all but choose the do-able ones only and not get into even the moderately tough questions, and then move to DM. So do the 45-45-45-30 (buffer) religiously and it should work, experiment with the order as well.

      All the best!


  13. Hello Sir,
    I have been following your blog posts before my CAT and XAT prep and many tips of yours have helped me score 99.26 and 99.933 in CAT and XAT respectively, thanks a lot sir. Further, I maybe looking later in life to do a double MBA after giving GMAT. So, given that I land in a b-school this year and subsequently would be doing a job, when is the right time for me to take a GMAT attempt, how much study would be good enough to land into the top universities like Harvard,Stanford,etc.?


    • Hi Vedant,

      Good to see that you have planned that far into the future. A second MBA is usually done to give your career a substantial boost — to put it simply if you know that your first MBA and the accumulated work-ex will never get you a consulting job with a Big 4 then a second MBA from a good school abroad will get you there. A school be it Harvard or Stanford or any other is only a way to the roles you want to take up.

      The best time to do a second MBA is around the 28-31 age range, you would have gotten enough experience as well. So plan for a GMAT Prep according to the application cycle.

      Prep itself should not take you more than 4 months tops. Admissions into top schools are not only about scores, it is more about the profile of the applicant, which is why the average GMAT scores are only around 95 percentile at the top school.

      Either way, the GMAT is not a test where you can score higher if you prep more, it is a pure aptitude test, where you are currently you can make a finite jump with a maximum of 4 months prep. Non-native speakers of English might need a much longer duration if they do not think in English.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


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