What are the key differences between the CAT and XAT exam?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

What are the key differences between the CAT and XAT exam

While both CAT and XAT are entrance exams for some of the best business schools in India, they do differ in various aspects. In this post, we will try to figure out what those key differences are.

Video on Key Differences between CAT and XAT


Eligibility based on Graduation Marks

To be eligible to attempt the CAT exam, a candidate should have at least 50% marks in graduation.

XAT has no such restrictions based on percentages. All an aspirant needs to be is that he or she should be a graduate or in the final year of graduation. As long as they finish their graduation before June of the year the exam is conducted in, they can apply for the XAT exam.

Content of the CAT and XAT Question Papers

CAT has three sections:

  1. Verbal Ability
  2. Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation
  3. Quantitative Aptitude

XAT also has three sections but they are different

  1. Verbal Ability
  2. Decision Making
  3. Quantitative Aptitude

There is an additional section/part for General Knowledge in the XAT exam.

CAT has 100 questions that are divided into three sections as 34, 32, 34.

XAT has approximately 75 questions with no fixed or clear distribution. However, Decision Making often has the least amount of questions with 20-22. General Knowledge typically has 25 questions.

Time allocation in the CAT and XAT exams

CAT is a 3-hour exam with 1 hour per section. If you finish a section in 50 minutes, you cannot use the remaining 10 minutes for another section. If you need extra time for a particular section, that is not allowed and the section auto-submits as soon as the allotted time runs out.

XAT is also a 3-hour exam but you are free to use the time as you wish. You can start with any section. You can attempt any question in any order. You can jump between sections multiple times. You are free to attempt the paper in whichever way you want.

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation

Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation forms an important part of the CAT exam. As a matter of fact, close to 1/3rd of the paper is the LR-DI section. It is often the middle section of the CAT exam.

On the other hand, XAT does not give such importance to LR-DI. Sometimes, questions based on Data Interpretation are asked in the Quantitative Aptitude section. Sometimes Logical Reasoning questions are asked along with the Verbal Ability or the Decision Making section. However, in any of these cases, the total number of questions based on LR-DI rarely gets into double digits. The weightage for LR-DI is close to 10% in the XAT exam.

Decision Making is asked in XAT Exam

Decision Making is a section unique to the XAT exam. Not just CAT, but no other MBA entrance exam tests candidates based on Decision Making. This includes questions based on various real life situations and students responses are recorded based upon how they would behave in such a situation.


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    General Knowledge is asked in the XAT exam

    CAT does not have any questions based on General Knowledge.

    XAT has 25 questions based on General Knowledge, Current Affairs, Business History, and related topics. These marks are not a part of candidate’s final XAT percentile. These are used as an evaluation criteria only by XLRI.

    Type of Questions in CAT and XAT Exams

    CAT has a few Type in the Answer (TITA) type of questions and also objective type questions.

    XAT only has Objective type of questions.

    Negative Marking in CAT and XAT Exams

    In CAT, you get a negative mark if and only if you mark an incorrect option for an objective type question.

    In XAT, you can get a negative mark in the following ways:

    1. You mark an incorrect option for an objective type question
    2. You do not attempt a question

    Let me add (2) is not a standard feature of the XAT exam. Even when it is included, the negative mark allocated to a question that hasn’t been attempted is really low. For example,

    For the first 12 unattempted questions, there is no negative marking.

    For the next 20 unattempted questions, a total of 1 mark would be deducted.  (1/20 per question)

    It does not have too much of an impact but it messes with the head of some students. My suggestion to all XAT aspirants would be to forget about this aspect of the XAT exam. Do not guess. Do not attempt a question just to avoid the negative marking mentioned in point (2).

    On-screen Calculator is available in CAT

    Perhaps this one does not make that much of a difference. It might be of some psychological help to some candidates that they will be allowed a calculator in the exam but at the end of the day – it hardly plays a role.

    CAT provides a basic on-screen calculator whereas XAT does not.


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