XAT 2016 pattern changes: How should we interpret them?
- By Sandeep Manudhane
XAT 2016 pattern has surprised us with a new (improved?) pattern. The total number of questions in the main part (VA, DI, DM) has been brought down to 78 and the time allotted has been increased by 20 minutes. The candidates would have 170 minutes to answer the questions. Also, This time XAT 2016 students have a choice of not attempting 13 questions. Beyond this, any unattempted question will carry the negative mark of 0.05. There would also be negative marking of 0.25 marks for any wrong answer. The number of questions in the GK has been reduced to twenty-five and there would be no negative marking in this section. What do these changes imply? How should an aspirant prepare for the exam now?
XLRI's XAT has always been one of the most well-designed and challenging of the MBA entrance tests in India. In fact, I would rate it as a test that's better-designed than even the IIM CAT. Especially in the past 7 years, CAT has taken a knock. XAT has graudally gained a sort-of legendary status among smart candidates.
Some reasons for saying so:
- Almost never has the test crashed, or leaked! (except the disastrous computerisation attempt a decade ago, quickly shelved, sensibly)
- The test hardly ever has errors.
- It is now a 100% transparent test. IIM CAT is 100% opaque. Others are in-between.
So let's see what they are planning to do now, for XAT 2016 (03 Jan)
There are TWO major (& ONE minor) changes :
CHANGE # 1
Number of Questions and Time Limit - In the main question paper the number of questions have been reduced from 84 to 78 and the time has been increased to 170 minutes.
- The XAT authorities have indicated that traditionally the total number of attempts in XAT is on the lower side. Toughness of the questions is one of the reasons for this. It has been mentioned that the questions this year would be easier than the previous year.
- Hence, it is clear that this year students would be able to attempt more. If a student has set some targets regarding the number of questions he needs to attempt (which we don't advise), he may have to redraft his strategy. In fact, relax as you would now attempt more!
- The best way to handle this problem is to not set a target on the number of attempts and just try to be as fast as one can be.
- Students will also be able to apply the Scan-Search-Select-Solve (SSSS) technique more easily. It will help attack a greater number of questions now.
CHANGE # 2
Changes in Negative Marking system - This has also been changed. Now, if you leave more than 13 questions unattempted, you face it automatically! The negative marking would be limited to 0.05 per question not attempted (so, 1/20 th). For questions that are wrong, the negative marking would remain at 0.25 per question (1/4th).
- A student has to use the elimination of options technique with confidence and in a positive frame of mind. (The IIMCAT tried to minimise it in 2015 by removing options from some questions altogether! - a brute force method that's actually not bad)
- As suggested by the XAT authorities, a positive attitude of risk-taking will be needed to avoid the penalty for not attempting a question. This sounds good, as a student will have to strategise properly.
- On an average a well-prepared student attempts roughly 60-70% of the questions in XAT. This will go up and some students will get it right.
- Hence for getting a good percentile, a student will have to attempt more. She will even have to attempt some questions she's unsure about. Personally, I liked what they said about it in their official note.
- Even then, we would suggest that if a student has absolutely no idea and cannot eliminate the options, it is better that to leave the question. Why? Because -0.05 is still better than -0.25.
- There might be an undisclosed criterion that a student has to attempt a minimum number of questions to qualify. However, considering XAT's legendary transparency, it seems quite improbable.
CHANGE # 3
In the supplementary section (GK and Essay), the questions on GK have been reduced from 30 to 25 and the time has been reduced from 40 to 35 minutes.
FINALLY, A CRITICISM
An alternate opinion does exist that being so specific in its pattern does not really help the cause of finding an ideal management aspirant. The charm of an exam like XAT rests on its unpredictability and it toughness. If these are lost, then the exam will not be able to retain its primacy and will not be able to serve its objective.
WISH YOU GREAT LUCK FOR THE EXAM!