XAT section wise preparation strategy from experts and toppers
Sreetama Datta, 02 Jan 2018, #XAT

XAT section wise preparation strategy from experts and toppers - When you are on a mission to achieve something difficult, the strategy has to be different from others. In order to crack a competitive exam like XAT, which has a pattern different from others, you must take the extra effort to know each section and prepare accordingly.

This article of Careers360 brings to you the section wise preparation strategy for XAT suggested by experts and toppers. XAT consists of two papers and both objective and subjective type questions. In a first, XAT will be conducted in computer-based mode. Being one of the most dynamic MBA entrance exams, the XAT exam pattern or structure undergoes changes almost every year. However, the sections remain same every year.

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The following table brings to you the overall structure of XAT 2018.

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XAT Exam pattern and Structure



No. of Questions (Tentative)

Total Marks

Total Time

Negative Marking

Part 1

Decision Making



170 Min

  • 0.25 marks for any wrong answer

  • 0.05 marks for more than 8 unattempted questions

Verbal and Logical Ability


Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation (QA & DI)


Part 2

General Knowledge (GK)



40 Min

  • No Negative Marking

Essay Writing

1 essay


XAT section wise preparation strategy from experts and toppers


We will now bring to you section wise details in terms of topics and difficulty level and the preparation strategy.


Part One


Part One of XAT consists of three sections which have multiple choice objective type questions.


Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation


Quantitative or Mathematical Ability and DI (QA & DI) section generally carries the highest weightage in the XAT paper. The sectional difficulty is expected to be tough. The important topics which you must prepare and should not leave out are Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Number System. According to Gautam Puri, Vice Chairman, Career Launcher, areas like Base System and Mathematical Reasoning, which were a part of the XAT Quant section, are not common anymore.


As far as the preparation strategy is concerned, refer to the books or study material for CAT or other entrance exams you are appearing for. Conceptual clarity is the important factor here, irrespective of the entrance test. If your weak area is Quant, you have to devote more time in this section in comparison to others and along with making the concepts clear, practice is equally important. Priyadarshi Dasgupta, XLRI Jamshedpur student who secured 99.72 percentile in XAT 2017 shares, “For QA/DI, it was a lot of practice going through books and question papers. Reading and solving different types of problems are essential and you need to have a pattern to approach all problems. Once you have a pattern set, practice the more difficult questions to check whether you are able to approach all the problems.”


In comparison to the Quantitative Ability section, preparation for Data Interpretation will be comparatively simpler. The questions will come in the form of sets. The types of questions you can expect in the paper include Bar Chart, Pie Chart, Tables, Line Graphs among others. Practice is the only way to brush up the question solving techniques. Apart from that, regular reading of newspapers and analytical articles will help building your interpretation skills.


Verbal and Logical Ability


The Verbal Ability area is divided into Reading Comprehension and English Usage. The Logical Ability area will have questions in the form of caselets. Each case will be followed by three to four questions. This section is expected to carry the second highest weightage, with 26 questions. Apart from Reading Comprehension, the other areas include Vocabulary based Analogy, Critical Reasoning, Statement and Assumptions, Para Jumbles and Para Completion.


In order to prepare for Verbal Ability, reading and practising are the best methods to follow. If you are weak in this section, make sure that you solve at least two Reading Comprehension passages every day. Solving from past years’ question papers will give you chance to practice the other topics of English Usage.


As far as vocabulary is concerned, refer to books like Word Power by Norman Lewis, Barron’s Dictionary to name a few. Make it a point to learn at least 10 words every day by using Flash Cards. Also, more than just mugging up the words, focus on the word usage which will ultimately help you remember the word along with its meaning. As XLRI Jamshedpur student Rajas Yeotikar, who had secured 99.98 percentile in XAT 2017, shares, “Verbal is something that requires a lot of practice. The one process that I followed for reading comprehension was having a crystal clear reasoning in my head regarding why I was marking that answer. If I got it wrong, I checked the solutions to figure out what thought process I should have had.”


As far as Logical Ability area is concerned, Critical Reasoning constitutes one of the important topics. The questions are mostly in the form of caselets. As is true with the Logical Reasoning section for other exams, there is not much theoretical study material you can refer to, it is all about practice. Maulik Gandhi, a XAT topper with 99.74 percentile suggests, “For Logical Reasoning, solve at least five sets a day. Also, focus on taking a lot of online LR tests.”


Decision Making


Decision Making is a section which is exclusive in XAT. Developing an analytical bent of mind and regular practice from past years’ XAT question papers are the best methods to prepare. Talking about the importance and preparation methodology for the DM section, Gautam Puri states, “Another way to ensure that you do well in XAT is to lay stress on the Decision Making section, a section unique to XAT. It carries a sectional cut-off and also can be useful in improving the overall score. Apart from looking up questions in the previous years’ papers, you can go to the Harvard Business Review website and read sample cases to enhance your knowledge and also to arch your thinking in a way to facilitate better reasoning.”


The questions are asked in the form of Caselet followed by set of questions. The case describes a situation with broadly two types of questions:

a) What would be the ideal course of action to take in such a situation?

b) What lead to such a situation?


According to experts, these kinds of questions require a logical approach and a clear understanding of the situation. You have to logically interpret the information presented and analyse the outcome of the decision taken. Ideally, you have to choose the option which creates a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved in the case. Aspirants who are good in the Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning areas tend to do well in the Decision Making section as well.  "Decision making is the one section that makes or break for XAT. The one issue with this section is that you don’t get this in any other exam. Additionally, the questions in this section are quite tricky. Thus, the best way to prepare for them is to solve tons of previous years’ questions of this section and tally it with the official answers of that year. Understand the thinking behind the answers from the answer keys. There are two criteria that can usually help you crack those questions - "ethics" and "stakeholders". Just try to think of an ethical solution satisfying most stakeholders and you should be fine," says Rajas.


Part Two


The second part of the exam consists of two sections, General Knowledge and Essay Writing. This is a combination of both objective and subjective questions.


General Knowledge


There are 25 questions in the GK section. While the topics are common as that of other MBA entrance exams like IIFT, SNAP or CMAT. Hence, if you are preparing for these exams, you need not prepare separately for the section in XAT.


Apart from current affairs, the topics you can expect include History, Geography, Science & Technology among others. Hence, apart from reading newspapers, you need to have a holistic knowledge on various subjects. Refer to year books and prepare separately for each topic.


Although there is no negative marking scheme for this exam, nor is the sectional percentile considered for the shortlist process, getting a low score in this section will lower your admission chance for XLRI.


Essay Writing


The best way to prepare for the section is through regular practice and reading. Since you get only 20 minutes to write the essay, you must structure the essay accordingly so as to complete it within time. The topics may appear simple to you, for example, “Technology and nature are natural enemies”, or “Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen to understand, we only listen to refute or reply”. The content should depict the clarity of your thought on an issue of current importance, which you have to relate with the essay topic.


You may express your personal opinion in the essay as well. Make sure that your thoughts carry logic and is not just based on your personal choice or bias.


Rajas, suggests, “For the essay section, there is no other way to prepare than writing essays regularly. One page crisp essays with proper formatting and good vocabulary only come with regular practice. Try to think of possible topics with the current trending news and have your opinions on it. Whilst reading the newspaper, think about your opinion on a particular news. Also, think about the points in favour and opposition of that news. This thinking process develops with time and can help you a lot, not only in essays but also in GDs and personal interviews.”


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