XAT - 2009

XAT or Xavier Aptitude Test is a management entrance test that is almost similar to the CAT in terms of level of difficulty. XLRI has been conducting this test for more than 50 years. In recent years, the XAT has widened its scope and now more that 60 management institutes accept the XAT score for selecting candidates for different management education programmes conducted by them. This year (actually it would be next year!) the XAT is to be held on January 4, 2009.

It has been observed that in recent years management entrance tests have become increasingly difficult. The XAT is no exception: from 2004 to 2008 the level of difficulty of XAT, if presented graphically, would show a definite upward curve. Since the test time has not been increased (it is still a 2 hour test followed by an essay writing activity to be done in 20 minutes), the number of questions in the test has gone down. Still the students can attempt fewer questions because of higher difficulty level and the presence of negative marking, hence the resultant score is also less.

Another distinguishing feature of XAT is that it has introduced progressive negative marking in recent years. In XAT 2008, it was clearly mentioned "one fourth of a mark may be deducted for the first six incorrect answers in each section and 0.5 (half a mark) for each incorrect answer thereafter". This means that one had to move slow and do only those questions that one was sure of. A low attempt won't mean that one will not clear the cut-off; in fact low attempt with good accuracy is better than losing marks as a result of negative marking.

At this stage, we cannot pin point certain types of questions and say that they will definitely feature in the XAT paper. But if we consider the test patterns of previous years, we can at least be familiar with the general trend of the test.

When we think of the test, the first thing that comes to our mind is that one has to write an essay in XAT. The essay has to be written in 20 minutes and it has to be short, around 300 to 350 words so that it can be accommodated in the single sheet of paper that is provided separately after the multiple choice test. The topics of the essays vary: they can be on pressing issues, current affairs, abstract topics, propositions and sayings. Last year's topic was "Gender Inequality and Third World War". In fact, many test-takers could not identify any relation between the two. In 2007, the essay topic was "Economic growth without environmental damage - a mirage or a reality". Whatever the topic is, your essay should reflect your subject knowledge, flow of ideas, clarity of thought (which can be presented through the use of examples or factual references), correct use of words and a sound knowledge of grammar.

XAT has not specified how the essay is evaluated or used in the scoring process. From the earlier trends, we can say that the essay is not used in the initial selection, i.e., during the process of short-listing candidates for GD/PI calls. But the essay is used to question the candidates in the GD/PI stage. So, if you really want to get into XLRI or any other good institute under XAT, remember the essay counts. So, be as structured as possible in your essay, avoid ambiguity, slang words, jargons or abbreviations and focus on the issues rather than on the peripheries. A regular reading of newspapers, editorials, non-fiction will improve your knowledge base. Also, closely follow news websites and participate in discussions, even informal discussions and practise writing essays on your own.

Now coming to the multiple-choice question section, one who has taken the CAT will find the areas tested in XAT almost similar, except some differences in the level of difficulty of questions and some question types. A thought that must have crossed many of your minds is that if like CAT 2008, XAT gives more weightage to a particular section then how should we tackle. If we look at the past papers of XAT, we find a varying pattern. The number of questions in each section, the number of choices, the types of questions - all have varied. Till 2005, there were a large number of questions (175 questions + 1 essay) with an emphasis on vocabulary, verbal ability, reasoning and general knowledge. Now the number of questions has reduced (120 questions + 1 essay in 2008) and there is more emphasis on difficult maths, verbal ability and reading comprehension questions. In fact, in XAT no section can be called easy or simple.

From the year 2007, XAT has introduced a new segment in the Logical Reasoning section - Decision Making. Here a passage or case is given and the students are asked to analyse it. The questions asked are based on the case, for example, Which of the following managerial attributes does Mr. Thakur seem to lack?

  1. Emotional instability under pressure
  2. Emotional stability under pressure
  3. Proactive problem solving
  4. Ethical behaviour
  5. Independent decision-making

(source: XAT 2008)

Questions like these would require a test-taker to think critically and in an unbiased manner. Some of the questions can be solved using one's common sense. In order, to familiarize oneself with business situations, it is advisable that a candidate reads business magazines and thinks from different perspectives.

The Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation (QA & DI) section in XAT is different from CAT as it contains questions that are difficult and require knowledge of higher mathematics. In 2008, there were a number of pure math questions, mainly functions. There were also questions on co-ordinate geometry, differentiation and integrations. A student has to be familiar with concepts such as probability, differentiations, binomial theorem, matrices, functions, and integration, in addition to your preparation for CAT.

The Verbal and Logical Ability section also contained some difficult questions and caselets. Simple vocabulary or grammar-based questions were conspicuous by their absence. The vocabulary based Fill in the Blanks questions were presented in a different format and they tested one's knowledge of the difference between words like epitaphs, epigrams, epigraph, mucus and mucous, etc. The focus was more on reasoning. The jumbled paragraph questions were also difficult because of the length of the sentences. Again decision-making was tested in this set through caselets. For the last two to three years it has been observed that the reading comprehension passages in XAT are abstruse passages taken from areas like philosophy, philosophy, religions, social sciences, etc. Negating the options also poses a problem because of their closeness. So, a test-taker should familiarize himself/herself with abstract writing.

XAT is not a standardised test and a student needs to be prepared for all eventualities. One has to be conceptually sound and not indulge in random guessing, which might prove counter-productive due to the negative marking scheme. Maximizing attempts at the cost of accuracy is a 'strict no' in a paper like XAT. So, don your thinking hats approach the test with an open mind.

All the best for the first test of the New Year!!!