Here's how you crack XAT
Sai Kumar Swamy gives you the lowdown on XAT, and tips on preparing for it.The Xavier’s Aptitude Test more popularly known as the XAT is one of the most sought after exams in the management entrance exam scenario. The reason being that XAT has the second largest number of institutes accepting its test score for admission (second only to the CAT of the IIM’s).
Amongst the top institutes accepting XAT scores are the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute, SP Jain Institute of Management, TAPMI, MICA, XIM Bhubaneswar and Goa Institute of Management. Of these XLRI is the pre-eminent institute for anyone aspiring for a career in Human Resource Management which contributes hugely to the popularity of XAT amongst MBA aspirants.
Over the years XAT has carved its own unique identity as an examination and most students dread the surprises that XAT comes up with each year (and XAT2013 is no different).
XAT broadly tests students’ aptitude in Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation, Verbal and Logical Ability, Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making, Essay Writing and this year an additional area — General Awareness. However what sets XAT apart from the other management entrance exams is the section on Decision Making which is something that students do not prepare for adequately and one which tests their ability in business decision making. Unlike other entrance exams, a XAT aspirant also has to write an essay on a topic given to him after the aptitude test is over. With XAT2013, XLRI has introduced large scale changes to the exam and students have to put in that extra effort to be able to best XAT2013.
Changes in XAT2013
XLRI has introduced two big changes in XAT2013. One, the exam duration has been increased from an overall time of two and half hours to a total of three hours, and second is the reintroduction of a section on General Awareness.
The exam will have two parts — the first part would be for a duration of two hours and twenty minutes and will have questions on analytical reasoning and decision making; verbal and logical ability; and data interpretation and quantitative ability — the second part will be for 40 minutes and will have an Essay Writing section and a section on General Awareness.
The obvious implication of this change is that XLRI wants to have a more diverse student intake and with a section on Essay Writing and General Awareness it is trying to ensure that students from all streams have an equal chance of cracking XAT2013. It is possible that the duration for the Essay Writing and the General Awareness sections with be around 20 minutes each and the General Awareness section could have around 20-30 questions.
Over the years, XAT generally has been a very difficult paper with all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler; lengthy questions, difficult questions, tricky questions and some easy questions too! The key to cracking XAT is to keep cool and follow the tested ‘time-allocation’ strategy. Those who leave the difficult questions and do not target a ‘pre-fixed’ number of questions, generally find the easy questions and have a good, balanced performance in all sections — which is the key to get the coveted call from XLRI. This is exactly what all XAT aspirants must do this year as well.
The section on Analytical Reasoning & Decision Making is one of the most difficult ones in XAT on account of the lengthy time consuming reasoning puzzles given and also the totally unfamiliar section on Decision Making. The best way to tackle this section is to practice difficult reasoning puzzles from the mock papers and from the study material books on reasoning. Students should also solve puzzles from popular puzzle books available in most bookstores. An area to focus on would be the lengthy puzzles on distribution involving lots of variables. The section on Decision Making can be best practiced by going through the mock XAT papers.
For the section on Verbal & Logical Ability, it would be advisable for students to revise concepts pertaining to reading comprehension, sentence correction, vocabulary based questions (words confused), para formation, and logical reasoning questions (especially on FIJ’s and inference-based questions). Students should also focus on figures of speech as there have been questions on identifying the metaphor, personification, oxymoron, etc. in previous XAT exams.
The RC passages in XAT are usually based on off-beat topics (one of the passages of a previous year was in the form of a conversation from the film, Matrix!). Most of the logical reasoning questions have been discussed during classroom sessions for those preparing for CAT. The logical ability area in the section deals with applications of deductive reasoning, syllogisms and connectives.
For the section on Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation, a good preparation for CAT should be more than sufficient. Though it must be added that some of the questions in XAT tend to be pretty tricky and it would be advisable for students to be very judicious while attempting questions. It would also be advisable for students to brush up on their speed math concepts as some of the questions in DI tend to be heavily calculation intensive.
Traditionally the Essay Writing section used to have just one essay to be written in 20 minutes. The essay topics have been quite diverse across the years — some of the essays asked have been on topics like ‘The consequence of gender imbalance — The Third World War’; ‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of riches; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries’; ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed’. However in XAT2012 there was some respite to the students as two essay topics (statements) were given and students had to choose one of them and justify with examples. The essay topics last year were — ‘Poverty is a big menace in India. Due to its complexity and magnitude, most of the government initiatives fail’ and ‘Poverty is a consequence of failure of government policies due to the fact that governments do not target the root causes.’
The make or break section in XAT2013 may well turn out to be General Awareness. Since this is not extensively tested in most management exams some students are not very comfortable with it. However there is no need to get worried — All one needs is a bit of planning and you will be able to do well. XAT2013 like SNAP is likely to test students on general knowledge, current affairs and business knowledge. Students could do well if they prepare for questions on India, business — national and international, organisations, sports and personalities in the news. Apart from Manorama and CSR Year Books one can also use online sources for information.
For information about India one can visit www.india.gov.in – a comprehensive website about India. Read the past issues of business magazines (from January 2012) and pick up the main events in the corporate world. Read about organisations/associations like the UN and its associate agencies, ASEAN, SAARC, NATO, BRICS etc. This preparation along with the mandatory study of stock GK questions like countries/capitals/currencies, inventions and discoveries, science should help students gain an advantage over others taking XAT2013.
The final selection in XLRI depends on both the written test and the GD/Interview process for the shortlisted candidates. Both the process have significant weightage in the final selection. XAT is known to be an exam with high competition and stringent cut offs. Students should note that there are sectional cut-offs for each of the sections and one has to ensure that they apportion time over the sections and attain the qualifying mark in each section.
(The writer is the Director, of T.I.M.E., Bangalore)