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Countdown to XAT
ARKS Srinivas
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December 27, 2006

Now that some of the euphoria related to CAT has subsided, it is time for the next two big exams -- XAT (the Xavier's Admission Test) and FMS.

If last year's paper is any indication of things to come, then the XAT paper can spring up surprises this year as well. One can only hope the surprises, if any, will not as nasty as that of IIFT.

A quick look

XAT is a 2 hour 20 minute paper. The first two hours will have objective questions, with (probably) four choices for each question. After a 10 minute break, there would be an essay writing exam for 20 minutes.

The XAT (or, actually, the XLRI) paper had been highly consistent in its pattern for a long time, till they started going the CAT way. Till the year 2003 or so, it had a General Knowledge section along with two other sections (Verbal Ability/ Reading Comprehension and Quantitative Ability/ Reasoning)

XAT 2006, however, had three sections almost similar to CAT pattern, with a varied number of questions in each section.

Section I: Verbal Section -- 40 questions

This section was a surprise; there were new types of questions along with a heavy dose of Reading Comprehension. More importantly, the closeness, and sometimes vagueness, of the answer choices made the paper even more difficult.

Section II: Quantitative Ability -- 44 questions

This section was a normal graduate's nightmare. There were a lot of pure Math questions, including seven questions on functions alone. There were questions on coordinate geometry, differentiation and integration.

However, as is normally the case, there were questions on numbers, as well as arithmetic areas, that almost all students are used to in CAT.

Section III: Data Interpretation and Analytical Reasoning -- 43 questions

There were four sets of DI and five sets of logic/ puzzles. Some of these could be cracked relatively easily; some were too lengthy.

Uniqueness of XAT 2006

For the first time ever, progressive negative marking was used in XAT. If a student made up to five mistakes in a section, then, for every wrong answer, 1/3rd mark was deducted. For every additional mistake, 1/2 mark was deducted from the total score. For a correct answer, one mark was awarded.

XAT 2007

Though there is nothing to suggest this year's XAT paper will be on the lines of XAT 2006, there is some speculation that it may have more than three sections.

Even if it is a three-section paper, there can be more surprises in store. The wording on the test pattern in the XAT bulletin gives much scope for speculation.

The XAT brochure has always given a clear indication as to how many sections the paper will have. However, this year's bulletin says there could be several sections. This is very similar to what we had predicted for the number of choices per question in CAT 2006. The CAT bulletin said there would be several choices (instead of clearly specifying four choices as they had done in the past) and CAT 2006 had five choices per question.

What could be new?

There could be a change in the way the Analytical section may be featured. There could also be a new section on Business Intelligence or Qualitative Aptitude. One type that is expected is that you will be given a paragraph with a problem, and you will need to take a decision. Then, questions are given, which ask the examinee to identify a major objective, factor, assumption, etc.

Also, there could also be case studies, with possible courses of action to choose from.
 
Will there be an essay?

Yes, as always, there will be an essay. Here, for example, is a topic that was given for the XAT 2006 essay -- 'India has one of the largest pools of talented manpower, but few innovations and patented products.'

How to prepare for XAT 2007?

With hardly two weeks for the XAT 2007 exam, one of the best ways of preparation is by taking the MOCKs.

Since each exam is going to be different -- in that there can be a new pattern or new types of questions -- getting adjusted to that and developing a strategy towards the exam is of utmost importance. It is almost, as we say in cricket, getting used to the pitches and acclimatising to the weather.

Write two or three MOCKs in the next 10 days.

It is expected that a fair amount of pure Math may be part of XAT 2007. Hence, spending time on areas such as Probability, Differentiation, Integration, Binomial Theorem, Matrices, Functions, etc, could prove very useful. Also, solving some of the puzzles from your MOCK CAT papers once again will help.

One of the biggest worries for students after CAT is the lack of match practice. Yes, till CAT, there was always a MOCK CAT every Sunday to keep you on toes. But, once CAT is over, your enthusiasm wanes.

In addition, exams like SNAP and NMAT that were conducted over the last two Sundays do not give the much needed match practice that is required for XAT. Hence, it would be prudent to rework the same MOCK CATs you have done before.

Institutes under XAT; special focus on XLRI

Some of the good institutes that take the XAT scores are XLRI Jamshedpur, XIM Bhubaneswar, SP Jain, MICA, Goa Institute of Management, Loyala Institute of Business Administration Chennai, XIME Bangalore, etc.

XLRI has two full-time PGP programmes, BM and PMIR. The BM programme or the Business Management programme is similar to the one offered by the IIMs. The PMIR (Personnel Management and Industrial Relations) programme is considered the best in the country. In addition, XLRI has a three year Executive MBA programme as well as a one year Global MBA programme.

There are many institutes to choose from. Hence, doing well on XAT -- much like doing well in CAT -- is a passport to a very lucrative career.

ARKS Srinivas is the director of T.I.M.E, Mumbai, and an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta.

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