Making sense of the XAT Decision Making Ability section

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Making sense of the XAT Decision Making Ability section

XAT is probably the only leading B-School entrance exam that is not confined only to questions targeted to gauge the candidate’s aptitude, written English communication skills and/or general knowledge. The Decision Making Ability section, that houses about one-third of total questions which determine your percentile (21 out of 72 questions), can make the difference of life and death (read: shortlist and rejection.) Obviously, like every other section, one needs to at least clear the minimum cutoff for this section too but it can skew your percentile and be a game changer. It is therefore in your best interest to not take it for granted and prepare smartly given the time crunch and the opportunity cost involved.

The weight of the section has been increasing in the past few years, with less than one-fourth of total questions which decide the GD/PI shortlist back when I wrote XAT in 2014 (24 out of 113 MCQs). And almost a decade ago, the number of questions testing the decision-making ability was limited to just 10-15% of the total question pull (10-12 out of 85 questions).

I hope I have convinced you by now that it is an important section for scoring well in XAT and also, it must be serving SOME purpose for it doesn’t seem to go away and is only strengthening its presence in XAT.

But why is there a separate Decision Making Ability section at all?

Let’s put things into perspective. It’s a B-School entrance exam where future leaders are groomed and trained to be better performers and make wise decisions that can shape an enterprise’s future.

And why do we have these entrance tests in the first place? The colleges are looking to filter out the best of the candidates and polish their skills. It only makes sense for them to shortlist candidates that seem promising in that they are going to do well as managers and leaders.

And probably the caselets are perhaps the most efficient way of gauging a candidate’s sense of judgment, given the scale at which the exam is conducted. It’s not just about doing the idealistic right thing, but about rationality as well as prudence taking into account the foreseeable impact to different stakeholders. And that can hardly be taught to anyone, only through practicing and internalizing the virtue can it be reinforced in our lives. The whole idea is to find folks sensible enough that they can fathom what would be the best course of action in a situation and the curriculum will teach them the strategies and frameworks that will assist their train of thought.

The section also marks as the reminder of XLRI’s motto – For The Greater Good. Of course, there are a lot of other institutes that shortlist students based on XAT scorecard too.

In an exam in which speed is of supreme importance, the easiest way you can score well in the Decision Making Ability section is being the no-nonsense person who naturally, without much thought, would do what is expected of a wise leader of tomorrow. After all, processing new information, imagining an ethical and prudent person and guessing his/her response will take some lag. Practicing past years’ questions would help in developing a strong foothold and an edge over other candidates since a lot of the aspirants simply ignore this section or believe it doesn’t require their dedicated time and effort, which can be partly because the extent to which the situations are close to reality is not appreciated enough.


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I can quote innumerable examples of how a seemingly small decision tampered with a brand’s image and affected its top-line. With social media being an integral part of how firms handle public relations (PR), a firm’s official Facebook Page(s), Reddit Account(s), Twitter Handle(s) are judiciously managed. Recently, EA Sports launched their new game Star Wars: Battleground II with fans around the world eagerly awaiting the video game release. However, they were dismayed by the fact that despite it costing $80, most of the popular characters are locked, including and not limited to Darth Vader and would require about 40 hours of gameplay to unlock a single character without paying extra dollars. One of the Redditor voiced his concerns on the official Star Wars Battlefront subreddit to which EA’s official account replied, “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes. As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay. We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets. Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.”. Within the next few hours, the reply had become the most downvoted comment in the history of Reddit at 341,000 points (and increasing) and it managed the feat. with a colossal margin – the previous leader was still crawling at -24,333 points. Soon the story went viral and a multitude of customers contacted EA for a refund, to which the game publisher obliged though at an excruciatingly slow pace. As the refund requests were pouring in, they removed the Refund button from their website leaving the customers with the only option of calling at their customer care number. In the next few days, we witnessed EA reducing costs 75% for some character unlocks. Too bad for all the developers who had their hard work thrashed even though the pricing, as well as the Reddit comment, had nothing to do with them.

I hope you get the idea – wise employees/managers are scarce and very coveted. A similar case was discussed in last year’s paper. A restaurant was visited by a pastor and even though it is customary to tip waiters, the pastor was appalled at the 18% tip charged automatically in the bill and wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18%?”, which the waitress clicked and posted on social media, and was consequently fired on account of violating customer privacy. Surprisingly, turns out the restaurant had posted online a customer receipt which had compliments from the customer barely 2 weeks ago. This drew substantial negative publicity for the restaurant and affecting their popularity and loyalty.

Wouldn’t you want to know beforehand about the caveats that can land you into a mess? Even if you’re not a XAT candidate, anyone would benefit from learning about such situations and analyzing possible appropriate actions. Of course, during the exam, you’re only limited to the 5 options that are presented to you but each question can act as food for thought or points of discussion. Though it sounds bizarre but I actually discussed one of the decision making ability section questions with my friends during one of our walks around the XLRI Campus. It is definitely quite a novel approach to sieve out good candidates. It is important to recall that the section generally consists of a caselet (a couple of paragraphs) followed by 2-4 related questions. And those with a good reading speed as well as comprehension will also save precious seconds which can be employed in other sections. The questions also test English comprehension skills obliquely, which only underpins a candidate’s suitability for the role. This means preparing well for the decision making section is also helping you with other sections like reading comprehension, logical reasoning, etc.

I hope that gives you reason enough to devote time exclusively to the Decision Making Ability section and improve your chances of doing well in XAT (and as a by-product, be in a better shape to make material decisions, wouldn’t you agree?).

This article was contributed by Vasu Sharma XLRI Jamshedpur (Business Management 2014-16).

Other posts related to Decision Making

XAT Decision Making Section – Golden Principles for tackling questions related to Management Issues
How to use Analytical Reasoning to score more in XAT Decision Making
XAT Study Plan – Decision Making Preparation in Three Weeks
Previous Year Questions of XAT Decision Making – Free PDF for Download


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