XAT Strat
Comments 21

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 β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” 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. An off-topic question – All your blogs are so wonderfully designed. It is super easy to connect the dots, for you frame the pieces of information so systematically. I wonder how you go on about writing your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shrey,

      Thanks a lot for the wonderful praise. A not so short answer to you off-topic question πŸ™‚

      When I decided to launch the blog back in 2015, I did some crazy research on how write effectively for blogs.

      I had a very literary writing style, and I wrote a lot but I felt that style would be counter-productive for a CAT blog.

      Bulk of what I learnt about blog-writing came from this source called copy blogger.

      To summarise their ideas:
      1. The title should leave no doubt as to what will be covered.
      2. Small paragraphs with precise subheadings with each block covering only one concept or idea.
      3. Usage of pictures if any.

      The what-to-write part was never a problem. Having met students 1-1 everyday in the evening for three years, I knew everything single thing that goes on in their heads.

      After that it was a question of only using the structure they gave and filling it with my style – they recommended short simple sentences; I prefer slightly long-winded ones.

      When I actually sit down to write I always feel that I am directly speaking to a student; I write because I know students will be struggling with a particular issue and I can may be help them; let’s us say that there is a sense of kinship that I feel with anyone going through this process of preparing for tests – from age 5 to 22, tests and/or exams were the only thing I dedicated myself to, something almost all Indians whose parents can afford to pay and support their child education, goes through. I know what I do does not matter in the larger scheme of things but I know that people can do with some genuine guidance.

      Like our skipper says intent is important; I would qualify it by saying the right intent backed up by content (the right intent without knowing where your off-stump is is of no use).

      And yeah, I like writing, a lot!

      All the best!


  2. Vignesh T says

    Hello sir. good afternoon. can you share some tips to write statement of purpose for fms delhi . It will be highly helpful.


    • Go through the IIM-B SOP post in the WAT-GD-PI.

      For the FMS SOP just focus on the last bit – career plans.

      What you plan to do after your MBA – domain/specialisation/firms (operations, supply-chain management, FMCG) and what you have done so far aligns with the same (work-ex/edu background).

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  3. Hi sir,

    Like you mentioned in one of your earlier posts that VA can be worked with from past year papers, but the answer key varies across various platforms and hence, some of my answers match one source and some another. So, I’m not able to form a pattern while answering and am not even sure if my way of thinking is along similar lines. What do you suggest when a 100% reliable answer key is not available? Thank you.


    • This was a problem even on the CAT back in the days when keys were not given. From what I know XAT has been releasing official keys since 2015. So for all of these years it should not be a problem.

      For the years before, I suggest to evaluate your performance on the questions on which the answers are unanimous. So if there are 5 questions on which the answers are not consistent, evaluate your performance, excluding those 5 questions.

      I’ll see if I can get a hold of as many official keys and post them on the blog.

      All the best!


      • Thank you, sir. Also, there’s one set in XAT 2012 DM section about Morals and Ethics (Naresh one) which is pretty hard to comprehend. I think it would particularly make a lot of difference on our conceptual understanding of the terms and DM itself. If you could take it up in a post, that’d be really helpful (it has conflicting answers too across various sources). Thanks.


      • Hi AA,

        I remember that old DM case. I don’t think we should treat that case as being core to DM. If we look at all the cases since 2011 the number of cases that actually tests the moral-ethical-legal conundrum are far and few in between.

        That set makes it seem as if this is the conceptual part of DM since it was the early days of DM, those were the kind of questions they could set. I think over the years they have become much better at setting questions that more life-like.

        As far the difference between the moral the ethical and the legal goes, I outlined it in Part – II of DM:

        Morals are personal belief systems that evolve from one’s own way of life or community or religion. The idea of couples “living in” might seem deeply immoral to some but not to others. So morality is a personal issue that gets played out in public with popular perceptions changing as the majority view changes, so many things that were considered anathema in the past are considered acceptable now.

        Ethics, unlike morals, are not a personal matter but a public matter since it deals with one’s relationship with others. A simple example say trying to subtly influence decision making by giving favours that seem very much to be under the purview of the law β€” a pharma firm inviting doctors to an all-expenses-paid foreign trip for a conference that discusses its new medicines; a cricket captain having a sports management firm that manages players, who are in contention for the national team and whose marketability and sponsorship deals are dependent on them playing for the national team and thus being more visible β€” so while nothing illegal has been done, it always creates a conflict of interest that might be too subtle for even the participants to understand and would need an ethics training or code of conduct document to be present.

        Illegal things are things we know run clearly afoul of the law.

        Just follow this.

        Over preparing for DM is also harmful and you are very close to that πŸ™‚

        All the best!


    • I’m surprised that with just a few lines of a comment, you could figure out the problem underneath. That last line of the comment struck a chord. I had attempted IMS XAT 103 and though I scored 17 in QA, could score 9 and 2 respectively in VA and DM. In the other two mocks, I could score a 10 and 12 respectively in DM but such a meagre score in this one has led to this paranoia. I can clearly see I’m overdoing things which aren’t really helping, but who do I have to blame but myself for not performing well.


      • Well, just a good batsman picks the length very early, a good teacher is supposed to sniff out the underlying problem of the student without the latter spelling it out πŸ™‚

        Go a bit easy on yourself and play with soft hands, do not go hard at the ball; close to your body, soft hands (I hope you watch cricket :-))

        All the best!


  4. Hello Sir,
    All of your blog posts are really helpful and easy to connect. So first of all thankyou for writing.
    Secondly, My CAT didnt go well and now i have only two options XAT and SNAP and i have to take admission this year. My last XAT mock score is 29.45 (3.22/9.20/17.03 ) and last two SNAP mock score is 41.5 & 42.75 , so i want to ask should i focus on both the exams (but i fear that, what if I messed up both) or any one one of these(considering my performance) ? As i want to make sure that I should be in a good college in 2021. I am not not able to quantify my performance.
    Please help !
    Thankyou !


    • Hi Yash,

      Glad you find the blog useful.

      Your XAT mock scores are decent (if we ignore the VA bit) and so are your SNAP Scores.

      Fear is not a good starting point for any decision-making.

      You need to know for a sure how much prep you need to clear the XAT cutoffs by scoring around 8-9 marks in each section and crossing 35 overall to get calls. You also will know how much time you have at disposal and whether this time is enough to achieve these marks.

      The same exercise can be done for SNAP as well, and you will automatically know whether it will be possible to prepare for both or for one.

      Remember more preparation does not mean more marks.

      All the best!


  5. Hi sir, Thankyou for the wonderful insights, but there’s one thing that is giving me a Hard time and its VA, I feel the passages are difficult to comprehend, Could you please suggest some sources for XAT RCs specifically? Is there a specific genre which is like favorite of XAT test setters so that I could get a hang of it. Please suggest on how could I improve, at this point in time?


  6. Uday Kudke says

    Sir, i’m constantly following your post since July’20 about CAT. All blogs of yours are very helpful with which i was always able to relate and you were always answering my every question without asking me so obviously because of your experience. Even today as learned from my previous XAT mocks that i’m messing up with timings, I was going to focus only on how to mange time and about to figure out time strategy, fortunately came across this post. I’m huge fan of you and your personality. Your overall strategies always helped me very well and i was able to score 93%ile – 97%ile in CAT mocks but on D-day i got panic ended up messing CAT’20. Left with no option, i decided to appear for XAT and preparing since last 20 days. I need your help for XAT’20 badly, I request you to read my CASE as DM questions in XAT and suggest me a way if you were me ! πŸ˜‰

    I’m an Engineer (CE) from State Government College, Graduated in 2019, Got placed and worked in reputed company for 18 months in industrial construction. (10th,12th,UG – 9/7/7)
    My schooling was in local language (Marathi) and English was always nightmare for me, you may have noticed that from errors in my writing this query. As i’m engineer no need to mention about QA-DI.
    This was my first attempt of CAT, i worked hard for English, But still end up scoring 31 marks in CAT’20 (DI-LR 12, QA 28) (SLOT-2). I could have performed way better. There are less chances that i can get any good B-School with this score as i’m GEM. (NMAT’20 Score 256 w/o any prep- Just mentioned so you can get some idea about my background)

    I’m mentioning my score of some mocks and previous year XAT i attempted after CAT’20. In VALR i skip every question other than RC,CR and PJ. Have’t studied QA after CAT.
    XAT Scores as VALR-DM-QA. Overall accuracy around 60%-70%. (12-18) Average attempts per section.
    XAT 2020 (-01.05, 06, 10) – Did’t even knew what XAT is. – 1st day
    XAT IMS 101 (01.26, 05.86, 09.48) After Amit sir’s XAT guidance video. – 2nd day
    XAT 2019 (07, 07, 12.5 ) After 4 days of Preparation of VALR(GMAT-OG) and some DM cases(YT)
    XAT IMS 102 (04.45, 10.11, 07.14) After i came to know your ADMAT workshops of DM. – 10th day
    XAT CU ( 6.5, 10.5, 13.75 ) -10th day
    XAT 2018 (12.5, 9.75, 15.0) After more practice. -14th day
    XAT TIME (10.53, 15.83, 14.03) After your DM masterclass – 15th day
    XAT 2017 (08.75, 12.0, 13.25) Gap of 3 days – 19th day

    Every XAT aspirant wishes to score 35-38+ so he can at least get GD-PI call from XL and so i, only 7 days are left and i cant just figure out what should i do, i dont have option to repeat for next year. Can you please guide me sir so i can be on full potential and perform my best to get maximum output.

    Thank You !


    • Hi Uday,

      That was a super-long comment!

      I think your English is better than most people in terms of the number of errors per sentence (all you need to do is use a capital “I” instead of small “i” when you refer to yourself).

      From your marks, it is clear that crossing 30 is not a problem right now; the task is to cross 35.

      As I discussed in the post, once you clear the cutoffs consistently, the next challenge is to maximise your scores by maximising your strengths.

      On VA-LR you will do well to clear the cut-off and consistently score a 9 β€” should you leave better, you should tighten your technique that I cannot say based on just the scores.

      DM seems to be your second strongest area and it is good to see that the sessions did make a difference πŸ™‚ A guaranteed score of 12 with a bonus of 15 on an easy paper seems very much on the cards.

      The place you have to maximise has to be QA β€” you have to either manage your time better, solve faster by reducing wasted steps, leave more decisively, or do something else β€” but either way pushing the QA score to a consistent 15 is what you need to do.

      So if you can guarantee 9, 12 and 15 β€” it means you can guarantee a 36 β€” anything above it will be a bonus.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  7. hello sir
    sir following your spjain post I was able to get the profile based call.
    can you do a post for filling form B of sp jain as well
    would be really helpful

    thanks in advance

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi sir, it will be quite helpful if you can post some tips to fill the Form B for S.P.Jain(Those who got profile based calls)!
    Deadline is 30th!!
    And can’t thank you enough for guiding us while filling up the form in the first place!!


  9. Priyansh Verma says

    Hello Sir,

    I hope it’s not too late commenting on this blog. Post CAT, I dedicated my time for SNAP and NMAT as they are on similar lines and didn’t do much preparation for XAT. But I still believe, I can do well in this one too. Will be starting with the DM masterclass which you have taken. On similar lines, I have one question as I am still much more inclined towards SNAP and still giving 1 mock per day for the 9th January attempt. Whereas, XAT is 4 days away and I am just looking up for some strategies for time management which is surely beneficial but with the same thing there are some who believe to leave question which you don’t know and should not bother about negatives which is 0.1 per question after leaving 8 questions.
    So here, If paper is difficult and I don’t know 38 questions(just a random number)I will get -3 out off the whole paper just by leaving questions.
    But again, If I mark 30 questions(not including 8 questions which I might leave as no negatives for these) where I am able to eliminate even one single option or even say a random guess I might save marks here by using probability, if I get 1/5th correct out of 30 , considering 5 options. I’ll get 6 correct and 24 wrong which turns out to be 0. Now consider my day is not good and I get 4 correct and 26 wrong which would turn out to be -2.5 which is surely better than -3.
    I know this is not a good strategy or even thinking like this for an entrance is highly disregarded.
    But still, I would highly request you to give some suggestion what to do for XAT as I haven’t prepared much or any suggestions what I can do for this exam which might get me a call even if it’s not XLRI but GIM or any other B-school with the same level as GIM.(Taking GIM’s name because I have filled it’s application for achiever’s round)

    Thanks in Advance!


  10. Hi Sir ,
    I have read your blogs and they are super helpful and following those for building a strategy for XAT 2022. But facing issues with VARC. I am not getting a stable score it is too variable. In some of past year papers I scored around 9-12 in varc. But when I solved XAT 2020 , it was very troubling my score badly came down.
    Most of the paper is critical reasoning so I have been solving CR from Gmat club for improving it. I am very scared how should I stabilize my score in VARC. Also there is one issue with me , while attempting xat varc everything looks pretty doable considering the time we have and therefore I always tend to over attempt.
    Can you please share your views on this and help be with this , I am very sure they are going to very useful for me.
    Thanks in Advance!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.