Understanding the Basic Difference between CAT & XAT Exam Pattern


MBA aspirants take several management entrance examinations to enhance their chances to secure a seat in top MBA colleges in India. The top choice for candidates is the Common Admission Test or CAT. Being the gateway to IIM’s, lakhs of students appear for CAT each year. There are other prominent colleges and entrance exams also for which candidates apply to pursue MBA. For instance, the Xavier Aptitude Test or XAT is also one of the top choices to get admission in management program. This test is conducted by XLRI Jamshedpur for courses in Human Resource Management, General Management, etc.

CAT & XAT are different in a variety of parameters. The number of questions, difficulty level, type of questions, marking scheme varies for both the examination. Mentioned below are the comprehensive details about CAT and XAT:

Both the exams are unusual in their terms. Even the preparation necessitates different time management and strategy. If you are serious for XAT, then you must give equal significance to this exam as you give to CAT. More or less, XAT is almost 60% the same as that of CAT.

The major difference between the Xavier Aptitude Test and Common Admission Test:

Parameter CAT XAT
Time Limit (in minutes) 180 170+30
Difficulty Level High High
Sections in the Examinations 3 3+2
Number of Questions  100 72+25 
Type of Questions Puzzle based (MCQ+non-MCQ) Case-Study Based (only MCQ)
Marking Scheme +3 for (√) & -1 for (x) +1 for (√) & -0.25 for (x)
Exam Focus LRDI Language and Reasoning
Test Takers(approx) More than 2 Lakh Between 90,000 -1,00,000
Institutes that consider score for admission IIM + more than 100 B-Schools  XLRI and Colleges Affiliated to Xavier’s 
Conducting Body Indian Institute of Management Studies XLRI Jamshedpur


Difficulty Level in XAT and CAT

The difficulty of both the exam is high. The XAT is tricky because of its Decision Making and Quantitative Aptitude. The paper necessitates excellent reasoning skills. On the other hand, CAT is difficult because of its Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning Section. This appears to be the most difficult section of the exam.

CAT and XAT exam pattern

The XAT 2019 pattern states that the XAT Paper comprises four sections instead of the three in the CAT Paper Pattern:

  • Decision Making
  • Verbal and Logical Ability
  • General Knowledge
  • Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation

CAT exam pattern includes 

  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Quantitative Ability (QA)

Time Limit for XAT and CAT

In XAT, candidates have to attempt maximum out of 72 questions in 170 minutes. You are permitted to switch between sections in the given time window. In CAT, there is the one-hour sectional limit for every section. Once the time limit is over you do not have the liberty to switch between the sections.

Number of Questions in XAT and CAT

In CAT, there are usually more than thirty questions in every section including MCQ and Non-MCQ questions. In XAT, there are a total of 72 questions in Part A and 25 in Part B.

Test Takers for XAT and CAT

In general, the number of test-takers for the CAT is more than XAT. In the previous year 2, 31,067 students have applied for CAT. While for XAT around 90, 000 candidates applied for XAT. The number of test-takers is less but the competition is very high because of a few numbers of seats in XLRI as compared to total IIM’s and other colleges.

The Focus of XAT and CAT Exams

The Xavier Aptitude Test focuses on reasoning skills and language skills. Candidates need to have good command over decision making and grammar. In CAT, the focus is on DILR section which necessitates wide-ranging thinking to solve the puzzle based questions.

Syllabus for XAT and CAT

Both exams need a basic understanding of the topics. Then comes practice as per the type of questions of the exam. 

Scoring and Cutoff

XAT score is calculated using a simple process, how many questions you have done properly and how many are incorrect. Each candidate attempts the same test and so cut off is also calculated very simply. In CAT there are diverse sets of papers attempted by candidates every day of exam taken. CAT score assessment is done in the two-stage process- raw score and scaled score, which is a bit complex than XAT.

Penalty for the wrong answer

Negative marking in CAT is more than that of XAT.  XAT penalizes by one-fourth mark while CAT penalizes by one third. For instance – if one mark is awarded for each correct answer, 1/3 and 1/4 will be subtracted by CAT and XAT for every wrong answer, correspondingly.

These are some of the basic differences between XAT and CAT.

As CAT is approaching and will be over as November ends, candidates must be geared up for XAT. But do not take a chance by missing out on the things that are a part of the XAT syllabus. Candidates can join additional short-term courses or switch to mock tests in the last one month left for XAT to practice the diverse part of the syllabus and get control over them.

So, before going forth with the application for the exams for pursuing the MBA, candidates should be able to understand the basic difference between CAT and XAT and this will help them to succeed.

nd XAT and this will help them to succeed.

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