Sunday, September 26, 2010

The XAT and XLRI Jamshedpur Ready Reckoner

The notification for the Xavier’s Aptitude Test (XAT) conducted by the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur is out on their website. The XAT will be conducted on the January 2, 2011. Here is a ready reckoner with answers to Frequently Asked Questions and also, a few tips from people who had cracked the exam last year.

Do I need to register for XAT and XLRI seperately?

Yes, XAT is only an exam which many institutes use for their admission processes. You have to apply separately to these institutes. You can apply to XLRI Jamshedpur’s School of Business and Human Resources after you have registered for XAT using the same ID and password. The procedure for applying to other b-schools that use the XAT score such as XIM Bhubhaneswar, GIM Goa or LIBA Chennai will be given on their websites.

What are the eligibility criteria for appearing for the XAT and applying to XLRI Jamshedpur?

The XAT system treats the exam separately from the institutes. So while you can sit for the XAT as long as you have a bachelors degree (even if you have less than 50% aggregate marks), the institutes that use the XAT have their own individual eligibility criteria.

According to the FAQ section on the XLRI website, all you need is a bachelors degree from a recognized or a deemed university. There is no lower cap on the graduation score which means that even if you have less than 50% in graduation, you are still eligible to apply to XLRI.

If you are in your final year of your graduation, you need to complete your final year examination by June 10, 2011.

Other XAT institutes such as XIM Bhubhaneswar, GIM Goa, etc may have other eligibility criteria, which they would make public on their websites.

The XAT registration process is clearly defined on the XAT website.

What are the various programmes offered by XLRI?

a) The Business Management (120 seats) – close to a general MBA offered by most b-schools

b) The Human Resources Management (120 seats) – formerly known as PM & IR, and is an MBA with HR focus.

c) General Management Programme – XLRI’s one-year executive MBA offering for candidates with higher work experience.

d) Fellow Programme in Management – doctoral programme in management.

Are there any seat reservations in XLRI?

No, there aren’t any reservations at XLRI.

What is the format of the test and what were the sectional cutoffs previously?

XAT is one of the most unpredictable entrance tests around. One can never really predict the pattern of the paper or the scheme of negative marking. However, we can look at the XATs of the last two years to broadly understand what it is about.

Also, XAT is still a paper-pencil based test. So while your mocks for the CAT are on the computer, you also need to form a strategy and practice for the paper-pencil format if you are serious about the XAT.

XAT 2009

The test was of two-hours duration followed by an essay for 20 minutes. The topic for the essay — given on the spot — was “The Inherent vice of Capitalism is unequal sharing of blessings and the inherent virtue of Socialism is equal sharing of misery.”
Section Number of questions
Verbal and Logical Ability 35
Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability 38
Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making 31
Total 104

The negative marking scheme was progressive and very different from any other exam. In each section, 0.25 marks were deducted for the first five wrong answers and for every subsequent wrong answer 0.5 marks were deducted.

The overall cutoff for XLRI’s Business Management Programme was 98.03 percentile and for Personnel Management and Industrial Relations (Now known as Human Resources Management) it was 95 percentile.

The sectional cut-offs:

PM & IR: 92.69 percentile in Verbal and Logical Ability, 84.58 percentile in Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability, 80.13 percentile in Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making.

BM: 90.03 percentile in Verbal and Logical Ability, 94.9 percentile in Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability, 90.21 percentile in Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making.

XAT 2010

The test was of 2 hours duration followed by an essay for 20 minutes. The topic for the essay was “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”
Section Number of questions
Verbal and Logical Ability 31
Data Interpretation and Quantitative Ability 40
Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making 30
Total 101

The negative marking scheme changed compared to XAT 2009. In each section, 0.2 marks deducted for the first six incorrect answers and for every wrong answer after that, 0.25 marks were deducted.

For Personnel Management and Industrial Relations Programme, XLRI had shortlisted around 650 applicants having more than 92.60 percentile in VA, 80.36 percentile in QA, 84.36 percentile in RA, and overall 95.03 percentile for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview stage.

For Business Management Programme, the institute shortlisted around 550 applicants having more than 90.13 percentile in VA, 91.31 percentile in QA, 90.01 percentile in RA, and overall 98.02 percentile for the Personal Interview.

XLRI has provided the XAT 2010 paper for download here.

I had a chat with Pranshu Dwivedi, Jaideep Juneja (both XLRI BM Batch of 2010-12), Kunal Malik (XLRI PM&IR Batch of 2010-12) and Nishant Choudhury (who had converted his XLRI calls but chose to join IIM Calcutta Batch of 2010-12) to learn from their experiences of cracking the XAT. Excerpts from the chats:

What additional preparation do I need to do for XAT apart from what I am doing for CAT?

Kunal says, “You would primarily be taking computer-based mocks while preparing for CAT. It is important that you keep practicing the paper-based mocks as well. XAT is slightly tougher compared to the CAT so you need a deeper understanding of the topics, especially Quant. There is a separate section on Decision Making which is something unique to XAT wherein you are provided with caselets based on which questions are asked. These are pretty subjective and practicing these questions from previous XAT papers is a must. Other than this, by and large, the base of the preparation remains the same.”

According to Jaideep, “Actually for XAT, the CAT preparation should suffice. Just make sure that during the time between CAT and XAT you solve the previous years XAT papers and take 2-3 mock XATs provided by Career Launcher or T.I.M.E. as the major difference is in the decision making sets. Solving them before the D-day would boost your confidence. These sets are very scoring and can make a difference. Also a slight modification would be needed as far as time management is concerned as XAT is of shorter duration (2 hours).”

What sections should one focus on?

According to Jaideep: “In XAT, the Verbal section is more analytical, has more focus on critical reasoning, so concentrate on that. Maths is tough (at least I found it so), so focus on accuracy and as I said earlier, try doing sets on decision making. In XAT 2010, Logical Reasoning sets were tough and a large number of students survived only on the basis of these sets.”

Kunal says, “As I said, you need to focus on the ‘Reasoning & Decision making ability’ section. Since the past few years XAT hasn’t had a separate Data Interpretation section. It has been clubbed with Quantitative Ability. There is a lot of focus on Analytical Reasoning and practicing such questions beforehand would come in handy. You can never guess what XAT throws at you as was observed last year with questions on Facts, Inference & Judgement and Analogies in the Verbal Ability Section. So keep your ends covered.”

How does one think about attempts and accuracy given the progressive negative marking?

According to Pranshu, “Accuracy is very important because if you get too many wrong answers, the progressive negative marking will penalize you really bad.”

Kunal puts forth a different point of view: “In my opinion there is a lot of unnecessary hoo-hah about progressive negative marking in XAT. Just keep your mind off it and attempt the questions that you know and leave the ones that you don’t. Even in the Verbal Ability section, if you are reasonably sure of the answer, just go ahead and mark it. Last year, XAT had minus 0.20 for first six incorrect and minus 0.25 thereafter which in all fairness shouldn’t scare the candidate who anyway faces a minus one-fourth of the marks per question (akin to minus 0.25) for incorrect answers in most of the other exams.”

According to Jaideep, one should focus on one’s strengths and improvise during the exam, “Attempts vary from year to year but in 2010 XAT, I did 12 questions in maths out of 40 (11 correct, 1 wrong, 95.xx percentile), In Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making also I had one wrong and in VA I attempted all and had 4 or 5 wrong. I would suggest you attempt as many as possible in VA and focus on accuracy mainly in QA as that section is generally tough. In Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making, try taking up sets which look easy. If you are unable to solve anything in 4-5 minutes move on to the next set. And do try and attempt a decision making set as they are easy and less time consuming. But don’t attempt questions blindly in VA, if you are weak in that section then choose a few comprehensions and critical reasoning sets and solve them properly. Vocab questions are easy. XAT VA is more about application then about cramming. Application of words is asked rather than tough words.”

Is good knowledge of higher maths or vocabulary necessary to get a good score?

According to Jaideep, “A high proficiency in vocabulary is NOT AT ALL needed. you can easily scrape through with an average vocabulary. And there are a large no of questions in QA and very few among them are based on higher maths. You can always leave them. But if you have the time, try doing probability and get clear on the concepts of maxima and minima and this should suffice.”

According to Pranshu, “Higher maths is not a concern because there are plenty of questions to choose from. However you might do a little better if you were good at higher maths. But there is no point in wasting time in learning higher maths from scratch. A good overall verbal ability skill is useful but not vocabulary.”

Decision making caselets vs Analytical Reasoning caselets. Which ones make better sense to attempt?

According to Nishant, “I for one did very well in the Decision making sets. You can approach them like you would approach Reading Comprehension passages. The only additional thing that you must keep in mind is that ‘Ethics’ is important. Please refer to the book, ’101 Ethical Dilemmas’ by Martin Cohen. Two questions were based on problems from that book. Moreover, it will give you an idea about the approach you should take to solve decision-making problems.”

According to Kunal, “It depends on what you are comfortable with. I always preferred Analytical Reasoning caselets as I was pretty comfortable with those. The thing about AR is that once you have worked out the solution you can answer three to four questions straight away. But still, both types of caselets have easy and tough questions. You have to find the easy ones and attempt those. Also, it becomes tough to work out AR when you are running out of time. So if time is less, go for Decision Making questions first.”

Jaideep recollects his XAT experience and says, “Decision making sets can always be very scoring but there are chances that what you think is the correct answer may not be the same as what the exam setter thinks is right. But the best thing about these sets is that it will hardly take you 2-3 minutes to scan through them and then there are some questions which are very direct. Hence these questions can act as bonuses. If you are very strong at Reasoning then go for those sets only and try and get them all correct. But last year Reasoning Sets were tough and Decision making sets provided some relief. So I would definitely suggest you to go in for at least one decision making set and try and do the straight forward questions. Do at least one set which has 4-5 questions attached to it. It may take time but it would be highly rewarding, I messed up this bit and spent around 25 minutes solving one set! But when I was sure it was all correct, my confidence skyrocketed and I managed to do two more reasoning sets and one decision making set and ended up with a 97.xx percentile in Analytical Reasoning and Decision Making. Hence aim for one decision making set, one big set and a couple of smaller sets with 2-3 questions. Try doing the questions with smaller statements and the questions where conditions are given point wise. These questions become clear more easily than the sets in which conditions are hidden in the paragraphs.”

How important is the essay in the overall process and what sources could one use to prepare for it?

Jaideep says, “I don’t think anyone actually knows how important the essay actually is. In my BM interview my essay was nowhere in sight while in my PM&IR interview it was present in front of the panel. Make sure that you go through the daily newspapers as not only would it help you in the essay but also in the interviews. Also try looking up at the essays of previous years. I think this would suffice.”

According to Kunal, “The truth is that nobody knows. I am not aware of the admission procedure of other b-schools under XAT but XLRI only looks at the XAT score while sending interview calls. But the essay does have some weightage in the final selection. There were candidates who were asked questions based on their essay in the interview and there were candidates who weren’t. I didn’t do any specific preparation for the essay. Reading newspapers and being aware of the current happenings should be enough. You don’t need to use flashy vocabulary. Just put your thoughts in plain English and structure them in a proper manner.”

According to Nishant, “The essay is not used for issuing interview calls. But, it may be used by the panel during the interview. I have a sense that even though no questions may directly be asked from the essay you have written, they will definitely read it to form an opinion about you.”

Pranshu says, “The essay can be anything from absolutely unimportant to really crucial depending on the panel of interviewees and your content in it. If you write something outrageous or something really noteworthy it may be brought up in the interview. Moreover the essay is evaluated only after you get a call.”

Any final thoughts, gentlemen?

Jaideep says, “Don’t panic in the exam as unlike the CAT, the XAT is of shorter duration and is tougher. Time management has a lot of importance and panicking if the exam is tough would only hamper your chances of getting through. If you have prepared well enough for CAT, XAT shouldn’t be a tough nut to crack. And all you engineers, don’t put your ego at stake while solving Quant. I spent a bit too much time on DI and was left with only 30 minutes for QA (I was weak at it). But somehow I chanced upon the easy questions and managed to clear the cutoffs. The key is to attempt the right questions and not waste time on the solvable but time-consuming questions.”

According to Pranshu, “Just carry on with your normal preparation. XAT is the easiest exam to crack if you can keep your nerves. I personally attempted only 51 questions on a total of 101 as far as I remember and managed a 99.95 percentile with a very good accuracy. So just pick the right questions and keep your cool. All the best.”

Kunal says, “XAT usually marks the end of the MBA entrance season and people generally stop preparing by then. I’d say, don’t lose focus after CAT. Keep up the spirits and keep fighting. You never know what entrance exam actually ends up taking you to the other side. All the best.”



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