Target XAT 2020 – Strategies to attempt Decision Making Section

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Target XAT 2020 – Strategies to attempt Decision Making Section

Now that CAT 2019 is done and dusted, most of us will start preparing for other B-School entrance exams, XAT being the prominent one. XLRI – Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur and many more reputed institutes shortlist candidates for further rounds based on XAT percentile. Its pattern, as well as skills tested, is slightly different from the standard B-school entrance exam. The sections are not just limited to Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability. There are separate sections for Decision Making Ability and General Knowledge, with only the Decision Making section weighing in for the GD/PI shortlist whereas General Knowledge is scrutinized in detail during the GD/PI process.

If you’re like most of us – either you find the presence of the decision making section rather enigmatic and are not sure whether to count it as a strength or as a weakness or you absolutely loathe it since you are confident about the other sections and it can sabotage your XAT percentile. In either case, you don’t need to fret about it– the below tips will surely help you in mastering this section

Know the exam in advance

Writing an exam like XAT or CAT is like waging a war. And in every war, it is wise to unearth every information you can possibly ascertain about the enemy.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

No amount of preparation can substitute writing sample tests and practicing previous years’ exams. And since a very few exams have a Decision Making component, the resources might be relatively limited. It will sound rather trivial, but too many candidates get too caught up in CAT and are not able to recalibrate their frame of reference. It might help to recall that:

  1. The total number of questions have reduced in recent years, though the number of questions testing decision making skills have been increasing steadily. And a minimum cut off needs to be cleared for each section.
  2. XAT now penalizes for unanswered questions too, though the deduction is not applicable for the first 12 unattempted questions.If we consider XAT 2018, a correct answer bags 1 mark, an incorrect answer is penalized with 0.25 mark, an unanswered question beyond a maximum of 12 questions reduces the score by 0.05 mark.
  3. All questions carry equal marks and in each section, which set of questions you attempt/score is immaterial.

It is easy to get swayed by the deduction for unanswered questions and try to attempt more questions than you would have otherwise, however, don’t forget that the ratio of the penalty is 5:1. 


XAT 2020 Crash Course

a) 200+ Video Tutorials
b) XAT 2017, XAT 2018, XAT 2019 Video Solutions
c) Workshops on important topics
d) 5 Mock Tests in the latest pattern


Minimize reread time

There can be two approaches of going through a set (they are applicable for Reading Comprehension questions too):

1.) Case first, questions later

This is the traditional way of browse through a case in which you read about the situation at hand, understand it and then attack the questions related to it.


  • The natural flow of information in the form of a story should be quick to skim.


  • You’ll have to go back to the text again and again for every question – swallowing time
  • The questions will make sense effortlessly.

2.) Questions first, case later

In this approach, you skim through the questions first and then read through the case with a fair idea of what to look for.


  • All the efforts while reading are directed towards figuring out the answer to the questions.
  • You might also figure out the gist of the case beforehand from the type of questions asked.


  • You’ll have to revisit the questions again – which will take up precious seconds.
  • Understanding the questions without context may slow down the comprehension and reading speed.

Which approach should be used definitely depends on person to person. And you should practice and check what works best for you, in which cases. We can segment the sets based on the number of related questions asked and decide on the respective tactic more suited for each.

  1. Single question per text: Such situations are rather straightforward and you can read the case first and then read the question since there will be minimal need to revisit the case repeatedly. They can be covered first bringing you closer to the minimum cut-off early on.
  2. 2-3 questions per text: The problem discussed is generally a bit more complex and requires more than a careful glance to understand it. Any of the two approaches might work depending on how taxing the language is, how familiar you are with the issue at hand.
  3. 4-6 questions per text: The texts are slightly intensive with about multiple direct stakeholders involved and an intertwined situation. It would help to read the questions beforehand and then scan the text. Multiple questions will provide with enough hints about the problem and while reading the text, you can be attentive to details which can be related to the questions.

Play your strengths

The paper will have a mix of questions with easy, medium and tough difficulty levels. A single mark can be gained by attempting correctly a question that took you 20 seconds to solve and it can be gained by answering the right answer to a question that engulfed your complete 5 minutes.

In a speed-intensive exam like XAT, it’s important to set aside your ego when you face a hard question and be able to choose the questions that look the most promising. Sure, come back to the difficult ones if and when time permits. The Germans perfected this strategy in WWII and named it Blitzkrieg (lightning war) –  use the resources to annihilate the opposition and if one seems difficult to conquer, simply bypass them and move to the next. It is surely easier said than done. And it is even more difficult with the Decision Making section, similar to the Reading Comprehension section.

Instead of choosing the questions, you choose the easy sets or caselets and try to attempt all the related questions correctly. It is therefore important to look for familiar themes in the case. For example, if you have worked at an automobile plant, you would be able to relate easily to the case about union strikes. It will, therefore, be wise to attempt that set first. The exam is a high pressure setting, and it is human tendency to get stressed under pressure. Having attempted a decent number of questions confidently within the first half of the exam will help in being able to attempt the rest of the exam without freaking out and thereby, jeopardizing your chances to score well.

Optimize Guesswork

It is absolutely futile to mark a random answer, but it is not uncommon to eliminate a few options for most questions in Decision Making section, perhaps because they are outright unethical. Say, if you are unsure between two possibilities – you’ve reduced the probability of an option being correct from 20% to 50% which is a decent feat. And if you find yourself in a good position to clear the minimum cutoff for each section, you can mark one of the two. However, it easy to get enticed by this statistic and overdo it. After all, for a million coin tosses, you will land with about 500k tails, but for just 4 coin tosses, you might as well get 4 heads.

I hope you can leverage the above strategies in XAT 2020 to score well in the Decision Making section. And since the themes have substantial overlap with other sections, you should benefit from them tremendously. Good luck! May the force be with you!


XAT Decision Making Online Coaching Course

a) Detailed Concept Videos
b) Questions from 2008-19 solved on video
c) 5 Decision Making mocks with 100 questions
d) Live Classes for Strategy

XAT Decision Making Course Details    


If you Like this post then share it!

One response to “Target XAT 2020 – Strategies to attempt Decision Making Section”

  1. Rahul Rathi says:

    Hi, do you think it’s wise to spend initial 5-6 minutes in selecting the sets (like we do with LRDI in CAT)?
    or just select or reject a set as it comes?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.