The CAT is over. Now it’s time to prepare for yet another prominent MBA entrance test.

The MBA entrance examination season is truly on with the opening of the CAT testing window. Not wanting to put all the eggs in just one basket — to reap best benefit out of their several months’ preparation — many students who are appearing for CAT will also appear for several other entrance examinations. (By the time you read this, most of you would’ve already given the CAT 2012 exam). While the basics of the preparation for these tests remain the same, it is important to understand the subtle differences in the pattern of the other exams so that the fine-tuning of your preparation can be exam-specific in each instance. In this session, let us take a look at another prominent MBA entrance examination in India.

The Xavier Aptitude Test, XAT is a popular admission test conducted by XLRI on behalf of Xavier Association of Management Institutes.

The 2013 edition of XAT will be conducted on January 6, 2013. More than 100 institutes including 16 member institutes and 86 other participating institutes will accept the XAT 2013 score.

This time, the XAT will be conducted across 44 cities in India and three cities abroad. Candidates who wish to apply to the member and participating institutes, will have to apply for XAT first and then apply separately to the institutes of their choice.

XAT will be administered over three hours and is divided into two parts. Part A (140 minutes) has areas like Quantitative Ability, English Language Ability and Logical Reasoning, and Decision-Making. Part B (40 minutes) consists of questions in General Awareness in Business, Economics and Politics and Essay Writing. Each institution that considers XAT as their selection test will have its own separate set of parameters for judging the students’ performance in the different test areas of XAT.

Let’s now look at the pattern of XAT of three previous editions to get an understanding of the nature of expertise required to crack this examination.

In 2010, XAT consisted of three sections with 30, 31 and 40 questions totalling 101 questions. The instructions advised the candidates to maximise the scores in each section. One fifth negative marking applied for the first five incorrect answers. If a candidate were to make more than five mistakes, the penalty would increase to one fourth of a mark for every subsequent wrong answer.

Analytical Reasoning and Decision-Making took up the 30 questions in the first section. Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning were the test areas covered in the second section. Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability consumed the last 40 questions in the test.

While the total number of questions remained at 101 in XAT 2011, there was a slight redistribution of the number of questions. Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation took up 43 questions in Section A. Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning in Section B comprised 34 questions. Analytical Reasoning and Decision-Making test areas of Section C had 24 questions.

The 2012 edition of XAT consisted of 85 questions to be answered in 120 minutes. The test areas were Decision-Making, English Language Ability and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability.

The Essay Writing Part was allotted 30 minutes. The break-up of the 85 questions — 25, 32 and 28 questions in that order of test areas mentioned above.

What’s new?

So we find that General Awareness is a new test area introduced into XAT when we compare the pattern of the last three years. Regular reading of a good English daily should keep the aspirants in good stead to tackle the section. Nine to twelve months preceding the date of the examination would be a good timeframe to look at to tide over the current affairs, GK part and the Essay Writing area. The preparation done on this front also will help you for the further stages of selection of different institutes — and not just for XAT —linked institutes — such as Group Discussions and Personal Interviews. While preparing for the GK part, students should focus on issues relating to international and national events, organisations that influence global and national affairs, domestic and foreign trade related information, etc.

For Essay Writing, the topics are likely to be general in nature. For example, one year, the topic given pertained to utilising the resources of our planet wisely to satisfy our needs. When a topic such as this is given, for example, the candidates can quote several examples of environmental pillage, world organisations like Greenpeace that are doing remarkable activity in this line, pertinent issues like global warming and the innovative manner in which the Government of Maldives decided to bring the world attention to this menace by holding a cabinet meeting under water, etc. The manner in which you tackle the essay will clearly communicate the spectrum of your general awareness and your opinion on several of these topical issues.

Retain focus

One important skill that test-takers of XAT will need to upgrade to is to retain the focus while reading questions and the options. This becomes important as it has been observed in the past that the length of the questions has been more than the average compared to other MBA entrance examinations. For the uninitiated, it will become easy to lose track of the flow of the question midway, thereby necessitating a re-read from the start. This can be quite a drain on the available time. This will also necessitate retaining more information in your “RAM” or “short-term memory” while negotiating questions.

The writer is Director, T.I.M.E. Chennai.