XAT Strat
Comments 46

XLRI Cutoffs and taming the XAT beast


The XAT is closer now and it seems that it is the VA-RC section of the XAT that is causing the most trouble for test-takers. DM seems to be a beast that is now manageable and QA is fairly manageable as well, it is VA-RC that seems insurmountable.

A different approach for XAT VA-LR

Given that most test-takers preparing for the XAT have also taken the CAT, the approach for most might be the RC-first approach. It might seem like the right way to go since RC has about 15-16 questions and VA has about 10-11 questions.

The catch though is that for most test-takers, the XAT passages seem to come from a different planet. XAT passages begin where CAT passages end (British Colonialism) in terms of density of the reading material and they also roam across a wider expanse of topics β€” philosophy, art, poetry.

To be very honest I am not sure of the capability to handle such heavy text can be built overnight or even a month. Only those who think in English can truly feel comfortable reading such texts. I solved the 2019 paper and barring the poem found the rest fairly do-able since it is not very different from my regular reading ( Aeon Magazine, The Hedgehog Review, The Point Magazine, The Atlantic, et al). Those who are fairly good on Verbal also found the British colonialism passage on CAT quite a tough read. So it goes without saying that some of those who thought Verbal was their strength throughout their CAT Prep might be finding the XAT VA-RC demotivating.

What does one do in such a situation? I think one of the big keys to success is the ability to recalibrate one’s approach. Can you set modest goals from VA-RC and focus on maximising your chances of clearing the cut-off rather than looking to score above 20? Reading such dense passages would mean a drastic reduction in speed and this is something that is incompatible with high attempts.

I suggest non-RC questions first approach where you solve the 10 VA questions first and aim to score 5-7 marks from there.

The cut-offs for Verbal Ability from the actual data of our students from last year varies from 9 to 11 depending upon Male/Female and BM/HR.

So, this means that with 5 marks from VA, you need another 5 marks from RC, which means choosing the 2 easiest RC passages to read.

You are left with 3 passages and 1 poem from which you can set yourself the goal of wringing out another 5 marks.

So, in total, a score of 15 marks will be a great return from the VALR section.

The reason you might not be achieving this is that you are just attempting all the questions one after the other and not going in with a razor-sharp focus to achieve this. In short, you need to treat this section like the DI-LR section of the CAT, on which selection is everything (you would have banged enough your head over the do-able sets in the DI-LR section once you saw the paper)

DM might be the highest scoring section

From the table of cut-offs from last year, it is clear that DM has offered a better return than VA and even QA. We culled out the data of first calls of all IMS students last year to map them as well.

XLRI – Business Management
MaleXLRI Cut-off Percentile79.46809096
Closest IMS Student Percentile79.85580.10290.01996
PERCENTAGE of Total Marks35.577%41.261%44.444%49%
FemaleXLRI Cut-off Percentile75757595
Closest IMS Student Percentile75.92876.00675.08494.998
Percentage of Total Marks32.843%39.505%31.982%46.622%
XLRI – Human Resource Management
MaleXLRI Cut-off Percentile85757294
Closest IMS Student Percentile8576.00672.13794.047
PERCENTAGE of Total Marks39%39.505%30.245%45.338%
FemaleXLRI Cut-off Percentile80706793
Closest IMS Student Percentile80.0870.3316793.07
Percentage of Total Marks35.728%35.689%27.217%44.324%

An 85 percentile on VA corresponds to a 39% of the marks whereas an 80 percentile on DM corresponds to 41% of the marks. So on average, the scoring sections are DM, QA, and VA in that order (for a paper of last year’s difficulty)

So, it makes a lot of sense not go in with a VA-LR maximisation strategy unless you are a female applying to HRM and even on that the score required is not very high, it is still under 10.

If you are a male BM applicant it makes a lot of sense to maximise QA, DM, and VA in that order.

Use the table above and make your best case strategy depending upon your gender and program, but either way, do not go with an all-out VALR maximisation strategy unless you are really good and are not facing any trouble with the VA-RC section.

What should you practice from now on

Use the past papers of the XAT as a tool to get used to the questions on the XAT. The papers before 2017 will not resemble the current paper in terms of difficulty and structure but they will still serve as a good reference.

Watch the DM, QA, and VA Masterclasses that are in the ADMAT Workshops section of the myPREP Zone on myIMS.

Do not be in practice mode when you take a SimXAT or Past XAT Paper be absolutely clinical in terms of timing, selection, and sequence of attempts within a section (VA first in VALR, Single-statement MCQ first in DM, I have discussed this in the Masterclass).

Given that the XAT usually has more time per question when compared to the CAT, it might seem that there is no need to select or sequence attempts but given the amount of reading and density of the text and the cut-offs, there is a clear case to do the same.

Over and above all of this, if you can sneak in an hour of reading from the sites mentioned above it will be a bonus.

Treat the XAT like a low-scoring really tight match that will go down to the wire and you will be sorted, treat it like a regular match where you go for your shots and you will find yourself falling short of a par score.



  1. Anupam says

    Hi Sir
    I always look forward to amazing posts from you .Need your suggestions on this.

    I give 45 mins each to all sections first and then remaining time to maximise in Quant and DI.
    Is this a good strategy to go since i can solve tough questions in Quant if I give time unlike DM and VA where I cannot do much after one round . I am able to attempt around 15-16 in Quant , but need to go past this by attempting DI .But Seeing the trend for DI , one set is always very time taking /calculation intensive .so do you suggest to leave the one di set and focus on other questions from QA.

    Your approach for DM in master class has helped me immensely in attempting the section.Thanks a lot sir !!!!


    • Hi Anupam,
      It all depends on the specific sets you face this year. I’d say work a bit on the DI sets, they are not that tough, I feel.

      If QA is a big strength then do the QA questions first. Ideally you should have the capability to do moderate-tough in both QA and DI, so focus on that.

      Glad you found the DM Masterclass useful!

      All the best!


      • Sir can i get ur mail id or number pls. Need ur guidance and advice. Have a few queries.


      • Hi Neha,

        I am afraid I cannot post my id or number on a public forum, I won’t be able to do my job with the number fo queries I get. Answering queries on the blog itself takes up about 45 minutes on average every day.

        You can post your query here as others have done and I will reply.

        All the best!


  2. Ayesha Agarwal says

    Thanks for the post. Could you please tell the marks vs percentile for XLRI-J. As in the marks required to meet the sectional and overall cut off.
    I found the cut off percentile required on official website but could not understand the marks needed to meet cut off.
    Thank You


    • It’s 1-mark per question, so you can multiply the number of questions in each section by the percentage of marks to calculate scores. I have to give a bit of DI homework, no πŸ™‚


  3. Hi Sir,
    I have applied for only Xat hr program and by the stats for male hr program has a cutoff of 85 percentile.
    Would you still suggest the same strategy given my va/rc is not that strong?


    • Hi Tushar,

      The cutoff was around 10-11 last year and that is what you have to score. It all depends on how much time you need to score 11 or more marks in VA. It does make a lot of sense to sandwich VA between DM and QA since starting and ending with your weak section is not advisable. You can stick with 45-45-45 or give 60 to VA just to ensure that you clear the cutoff.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  4. Kartik Thakur says

    Hello Xavier Sir,

    Thanks again for this post. Many points noted and will apply so in the subsequent mocks. Can you please help me out a bit here?

    Maths is my Achilles Heel, I score just enough(fighting till my last breath) to pass the cutoff in the QA section or XAT. I am fairly good at DM, comfortable with English(except that British Colonialism passage πŸ˜› ) & Vocab is good too as I have given my GRE earlier.
    What should be my strategy to maximise my score?


    • Well, the only thing you need to work out is the best order of sections for you. DM, QA, VA or VA, QA, DM. I usually do no advocate taking the weakest section the last since that is when you are most vulnerable under time-pressure.

      Allocate the 45-minutes each with for your strong sections and go with 60 minutes straight for QA. Use the 15 minutes at the end to mop questions from your strong sections.

      The key is to stick with the time limits. Suppose DM is tougher than usual and you have set your sights on a particular score for DM since it is a strength, there is a huge temptation to allocate more time and get to the score you have set in your head. This will, in turn, eat into the time for your weakest section and you might miss the cutoff on that while having cleared the cutoff for DM easily (since tougher section means lower cutoffs.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  5. Ishita Gupta says

    Hello sir,
    The websites you mentioned for reading have a lot of articles, and rightfully so. Any advice on how we can narrow down the choice to what can be read for the next 10 days before the exam?


    • Barring very narrowly defined political topics everything else is relevant. You do understand this is just a way to get comfortable with a certain complexity of text but not a syllabus per se.


  6. Bhawini says

    hello sir,
    last year I scored 73 and 78 percentile in VARC and DM respectively. I hardly did any question in QA. my overall score was 18.75 just with two sections but still, my overall percentile was around 58.
    can you please explain so as to why this happened and where I went wrong.


    • Hi Bhawini,

      I suppose you are wondering why your overall percentile is so low, it is because it is calculated independently purely on the basis of total score.

      If someone scored 6.5 in each section and thus scored 19.5 overall he or she would have got a higher overall percentile than you.

      Essentially it means that only 58 percent of people had an overall score less than yours 18.75, it does not matter whether you just attempted two sections or even one.

      So to score above 85 percentile overall you have to score atleast above 28 overall.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  7. agrshrey says

    (# Posted multiple times it seems its getting deleted or some issue with internet)
    Hi sir,
    Thanks for your post.
    Sir, I need your guidance regarding my prep.
    I am almost done with all previous year XAT papers (except 2010 & 2011 paper) and quite few mocks (2). My marks vary from 8-13 in VARC and DM and 10-13 in QA and about 32-37 in mocks as well as previous year papers. Now in coming days what should if do? I am planning to give 3 more mocks. And post mock I do the needful analysis on the same day itself and this gets over by evening and I don’t feel like studying anymore for that day. What should I do then? It feels like I know enough have practiced enough 😒.I gave mocks(including 2015-2019 paper) in every 2-3 day and solve previous year paper (2008-2014) passively. Moreover, i haven’t solved 2010 & 2011 XAT papers as i found them quite tough and demoralizing. Should i solve them? or should i now concentrate on giving new Mocks & Previous year paper revisions (How to revise them just see the marked/bookmarked ones?).



    • Hi Shreyansh,

      You need to ensure that you cross 35 marks. At this stage, it is about fine-tuning your attempts and timing strategy to see where you can get better. Revise all the mocks from this angle β€” the perfect attempts for your capability, the way you should have divided time, the questions you should have left etc.

      And just read the chew up the newspaper inside out after that for GK and for the GD-PI round.

      It is okay if you do not prepare for XAT all day.

      All the best!



    Hello Sir,
    I am a fresher and this is the first time I am giving XAT. I scored 165(QA 65, VA 49 DILR 51) in CAT’19. VARC is my Achilles heel and I am still not confident about DM(I saw your analysis of XAT 2019, but still there is always an element of doubt).
    Can you suggest any tips on how I should prepare for the next 10 days or any suitable exam-time strategy which can help me make the cut


    • Hi Sabyasachi,

      As I described in detail at the end of the DM Masterclass one can never match the official answer key on all 21 questions of DM since it is not based on rules of formal logic.

      I think taking Mocks, and analyzing them in terms of planning a timing strategy, attempt strategy, and understanding the nature of XAT questions to see if you have any weaknesses, say CR or calculation-based DI, is the best thing to do in the last few days.

      Please go through this post for the timing strategy β€” https://thecatwriter.com/2019/12/16/a-timing-strategy-for-the-xat-2/

      All the best!


  9. Ishita Gupta says

    Hello Sir,
    Previous year papers’ answers in many cases (DM specifically), vary from institute to institute. Any suggestions on how we can remove the uncertainty surrounding the actual answer? Sometimes it really ends up messing with our logics!


    • There will always be a mismatch between what the test-setter defines as the answer and what others feel is the answer. I have explained the reason for this in detail at the end of the DM Masterclass on myIMS.

      What matters is on how many questions are you able to match with the OA, if out of 21 you are able to match on 15 then you are fine.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  10. Nikhil Jindal says

    Hi Sir,
    Need your guidance. I am scoring very poor in VA-RC section of XAT mocks, around 2-4 marks only. In DM+QA, I am scoring near 31. How can I improve verbal score in these 4-5 days. I can’t even score 5 marks in this section overall. All RCs seem difficult to me when I give them rating on language, content and topic. Should I revise Grammar from somewhere or should I revise Word Power Made Easy, so that I can at least score 4-5 marks in verbal ability. Please suggest something.


    • Hi Nikhil,

      I wish I had an answer for how to improve VA-RC for the XAT in 4-5 days. Watch the e-Workshop β€” VA Masterclass β€” on myIMS and that should help you master CR which is where you can get atleast 3-4 marks from since it is not very tough.

      On RCs, leave 1-2 passages based on content and find a way to attempt only the easiest questions on the others, do not attempt the even moderate ones.

      Mugging up vocabulary and grammar might not be the best idea since there are few marks to be made from there and it is time taking to master it. You are better of trying to squeeze 4 marks out of RC.

      You have to claw your way to 8 marks, you can get the job done.

      All the best!


  11. Vaibhav Singhal says

    Hello Sir,
    I have a few questions regarding CAT and my career in general. Sorry if this is not the right post to ask this.

    10th:- 80%
    12th:- 90%
    Graduation:- 61% (English Honours)
    Work Ex:- 12 months (Production Manager)

    CAT 19 was my 2nd serious attempt and still managed to score only 70 as per official answer key and it’s even less than the raw score I got last year which was 83 (81.51 percentile). Last year I gave CAT without the job and this year with a job. My expected percentile is 72-76. What kind of colleges can I expect at this range and is it even worthwhile to go into colleges like that? And another question should I even think about giving CAT again?

    I was scoring way above this in IMS mocks so I don’t know what happened with me during the test and it has happened in all the papers till now. I score well in mocks but score way less in the official paper. Does this mean I am not able to handle the pressure?

    After the CAT debacle, I left my job to concentrate on other management exams but as they say, “When luck is not your side every move you make will turn you upside down”. I scored 151 in IIFT but couldn’t clear the GK cutoff and expecting 74-79 in SNAP.

    I have been very low since CAT and one of the main problems is how will I face my parents and tell them that I scored even less than last year. On top of that, I even left the job.

    Sir any kind of motivation and guidance will help me a lot.

    Thank you


    • Hi Vaibhav,

      I can only imagine the state you are in right now.

      To answer your questions one by one.

      It can be that on test day you succumb to pressure but given the fact that you scored a good 151 on IIFT (though it was like scoring 150 runs in a losing cause) I am not sure whether this still holds. This is not something that is permanent and your IIFT score shows that you can overcome it.

      Should you give another shot at the CAT? Most definitely, you are I suppose 22-23 and have time on your side. A student I know cracked CAT in the fourth attempt β€” 37, 58, 75 and 95 percentile respectively β€” and made it to IIM-L (NC-OBC).

      So you can definitely give it another shot.

      All you need to do is to get a job so that your parents are okay and build on what you have done so far and give it another shot.

      Most parents usually mean well but few truly understand, so in effect, your parents are also doing what most parents do well β€” pile on the pressure.

      You can tell them that the paper keeps changing so scores keep changing, just tell them your percentile.

      And think about it your main problem cannot be your parents!

      That is completely displacing the problem β€” your parents need to be handled and it is a problem that many Indians take on their shoulders for no reason, as long as you are not harming them, are willing to care for them and be there for them, and are taking care of your expenses, you are not answerable to them. This is something every adult in India should realise. One should honour and respect parents but not be their fear and be enslaved by them.

      Your big problem is to find a job, restart your prep, and build mental strength; work on that.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


      • Vaibhav Singhal says

        Thank you so much, sir for replying so quickly and in such a detailed manner.

        Sir does the organization where I was working matter? As the firm in which I was working previously was not that renowned. Will it act as a hindrance when I search for a new job? I know during the recruitment process preference will be given to someone from a renowned company but what I want to know is that I won’t be rejected solely based on my previous company Nah?

        If I do not get a decent job offer in the operations/manufacturing field, should I accept the job from any other sector or should I stick only to the operations/manufacturing sector?

        Sir what are the ways in which I can build upon my mental strength. Will yoga and meditation help?

        Thank you once again sir


      • Hi Vaibhav,

        You cannot change the brand that you have on your resume. Will it be a hindrance? Not as much as a hindrance or something negative β€” you will not get rejected for working with a firm that is not well-known β€” as much as it will not be a big positive. For example, a big firm on your resume will always make getting shortlists easier.

        You should hunt for opportunities in the field you want to specialise and work in post your MBA. If you want to work in Operations, Supply Chain or Logistics look for roles in Ops. If you want to work in any other domain, say Marketing, you have to look for roles in Sales or Digital Marketing.

        Yoga and meditation definitely help you have a calmer nervous, if you practice it regularly you will be more grounded. This is both from own experience as well as those of my students.

        Hope this clarifies,

        All the best!


      • Vaibhav Singhal says

        Sir, I have a few more doubts. Is there any other way I can contact you like on e-mail


  12. Hi sir!
    I have read almost all your articles that pop up on the ims homepage, and they have been really helpful!
    XAT is -now- and im still really below average in quant, to the extent that i havent even been able to clear the cut-off in the mocks i have given. My DM, VA is in a safe area, but quant is really a cause of worry. I find the quant even tougher than CAT sometimes, the questions aren’t direct and i just get fizzled out when it comes to starting the QA section. As of now i am continuing with focusing on the strong parts and giving mocks. I was hoping to get help from you regarding the attempt strat. Would it be better to leave questions i do not get the answer for, or tick the one that comes closest? I know this question may sound so silly, since random guessing is always a complete no in the game plan, but im very confused here as even leaving questions results in negative marking!

    thank you sir


    • Hi Sana,

      Guessing will result in a higher negative marking, -.25, than unanswered, -.10. So there is no point in guessing.

      As far as getting better than QA goes, it depends solely on your capabilities across areas, if your scoring is limited to Arithmetic and you are not comfortable with Modern Math or Algebra you will miss on them.

      So the only way out is to strengthen get your concepts across all areas so that you can answer easy questions from any area.

      You can revise the concepts from the videos on myIMS, they are in the new myIMS preview TAB.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  13. Shikhar says

    Sir , I gave 3 mocks and tried a few approaches.

    I tried to do Quant first like you suggested and attempted 17 with 14 correct in the 2019 XAT
    But I felt that I was unable to do VA as per my potential I got 24 attempts with 14 correct .

    I also tried the normal course with Verbal first and DM last and felt a tad bit more comfortable. It maybe just my comfort zone but I’d like to know your opinion on this.

    Moreover I completed the Decision Making far earlier but managed only 11 correct out of 18. This has been a trend in the other mocks also. I finish before my quota of 45 minutes (around 35) ,leaving the sequencing questions.
    Should I tread carefully and read a little slower?

    Also should I attempt more in verbal since there is anyway going to be negative marking.
    I consider verbal to be my strong suit,with score of 59 in verbal in cat, and above 70 in the latter simcats.(the ones with the easy verbal section)


    • Hi Shikhar,

      If you are finishing before time and scoring lower than expected in DM it clearly shows that you are rushing, I think 45 minutes including sequencing and 15 marks is do-able.

      Negative marking does not mean attempting all questions since negative marking for guessing is higher than for leaving. If you can get more marks in VA-RC by increasing attempts go ahead and do it.

      Choose the order that you feel most comfortable with.

      All the best!


  14. somya verma says

    hello sir!
    I’m planning to take TISS but I’m facing a lot of problem while attempting the TISS MAT.
    I’m unable to score in that section because of the time limit. I would appreciate if you can share some strategy to solve the TISS MAT section. and also if we should be solving all the questions or not.
    Thankyou in advance πŸ™‚


    • You need to score 80 marks, so in whatever way, you get them by attempting all or attempting only 80 that is up to you.

      As far as strategy goes, the only tough part is GK, which is the decider. Knock off the GK first taking less than 30 seconds per question and then attempt the rest. You can do GK at the end as well, the only thing is not to allocate more than 30 seconds per question.

      All the best!


  15. Gokul S says

    Hi Sir,
    Your posts are really useful and helps me plan my prep. I have given about 5 mocks and have observed that my scores are somewhat stagnating.
    In the IMS mocks I score around 10-11 marks in English and Logical Reasoning, and around 10-14 marks in Decision making. But I’m lagging behind in the Quants section where my attempts are around 14-15 and I get around 9-10 correct in them. So my overall score is stagnating around 29.
    When I give the past year XAT papers, my overall score is around 30, again, with QA being my weak point.
    I need your advice to improve my scores in QA so as to clear the cut offs. I am familiar with the concepts, but usually a little slow in calculations or I miss out on some steps in between.



    • Hi Gokul,

      Glad you found the posts useful.

      As far as getting faster at QA goes, I am not sure how it can be done when QA is a weakness. Maybe better selection or allocating more time to QA by maximising your VA and DM efficiency is the only way out.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  16. Gokul S says

    Hi sir,
    I have been following your strategies throughout my mocks and they seem to have been helping me and has improved my score from 17 to 29 in the IMS XAT Mocks.
    But towards the end I see my scores are stagnating a bit and I need your advice on how I can improve or maximize my scores and clear the cut off. Right now I’m scoring an average 9-10 marks in the English and Logical Reasoning section, an average of 10-13 in the Decision Making section, and an average of 7-8 marks in the Quant and DI section(I consider it to be my weakest section). I am not able to score in Quant section of the mocks even though I spend sufficient amount of time in it.
    When I take up previous year papers as mocks, I end up scoring around 30 marks overall, with an average of 10 in each section.
    Please give me some suggestions to tackle and clear the cut offs in QADI section.

    Thank you !


  17. Anand says

    Hello Sir,
    I have scored between 37-38 marks in the previous year papers – 2017, 2018 and 2019.
    VALR: 9-12; DM-11-13; QA: 14-16
    I am trying to push it in 40s, but I am having no luck. Any last minute thing I can do to increase my total score by 4-5 marks.


    • Hi Anand,

      Good scores so far!

      At this stage, you have to see how you can squeeze out the 4-5 more marks. You need to figure where you can get at least marginally better β€” question selection, accuracy or speed for each section and you will know that best. The last leap has to be made by you.

      All the best!


  18. Hello sir, I got 95.61 in CAT with 87.79 in VARC; 96.59 in LRDI and 94.73 in Quant. I have 10 CGPA in 10th; 93% in 12th and 84% in undergrad. From which colleges can I expect calls like which of the old IIMs and if MDI or SPJIMR possible? And also the scope for the new IIMs and baby IIms

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Aarav says

    Hi T,
    As suggested by you I am using GMAT OG and past year XAT papers for CR and RC but I am confused how to tackle grammar and vocabulary part. Can you suggest some source to practise grammar and vocab for xat??


    • We will be doing a how to prepare for XAT session on Sunday, Amit Sir will be handling it.

      Honestly, both vocabulary and Grammar are two areas where it is impossible to devise a study plan, the former because there is no finite list of words and the latter because it is tough to define the starting point for each student.

      All I can do is suggest the regular books for Vocab β€” Word Power Made Easy and All About Words β€” and for Grammar the Manhattan Sentence Correction Guide, will have everything from scratch!

      All the best!


  20. Hello sir,
    I face most of my issues with the VARC section. Even in CAT 2020 and GMAT, I messed up my exam because of the section. You mentioned a few websites to read from (Aeon Magazine, The Hedgehog Review, The Point Magazine, The Atlantic, etc.) which I do try to follow but after reading those articles how do I self-evaluate my understanding of the articles given their difficulty level?
    During practice/mocks, I get confused between two options always and I believe it is because of my understanding of the passage which is not quite on point.

    Can you please give some suggestions.
    Thank you


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