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Why Is XAT tougher then CAT?


CAT and XAT are considered to be among the toughest competitive exams for admission to MBA and other postgraduate management programmes in some of the top-notch institutes. Which is tougher though? Both the exams rank fairly high in terms of difficulty but many aspirants feel that XAT is a bit more difficult to crack compared to CAT.

Let’s compare both the examinations on different parameters to determine what makes XAT more challenging than CAT for management aspirants.

Exam Pattern and Syllabus

One of the major reason XAT is considered tougher then CAT is the inclusion of Decision Making and GK sections that are not part of CAT pattern. The table below provides a high-level overview of the exam pattern for CAT and XAT.

Number of Sections34
Name of the SectionVerbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative AptitudeDecision Making, Verbal and Logical Ability, Quantitative Aptitude and General Knowledge
Exam Duration 180 minutes180 minutes
Number of questions100100
Total marks300100
Types of question75 MCQs and 25 non-MCQsOnly MCQs
Sectional Time limitYesNo

Marking Scheme

Another probable reason for why XAT is perceived to be more challenging between the two competitive exams is the overall marking scheme. XAT follows a slightly complicated marking scheme compared to CAT exam, which is very simple and easy to comprehend. 

In CAT, each correct answer carries three marks while every incorrect response will deduct one mark from the candidate’s total score. As for XAT, an applicant will get one mark for each correct answer. There`s is also a negative marking of 0.25 marks for every wrong answer. No negative marking is applicable for questions not attempted up to eight. However, if a candidate breaches that limit, there’ll be a deduction of 0.10 marks from the whole score for every unattempted question beyond eight. There is no negative marking for the questions in the GK section.

The QA, DM and Verbal Ability sectional scores are used to calculate a candidate’s overall XAT percentile. The marks of GK section are added only during the preparation of the final selection list. 

CAT Syllabus Overview 

CAT exam consists of three sections primarily. Let’s examine the kind of topics that are covered in these three sections.

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC): The Verbal Ability segment of the CAT question paper comprises around seven to eleven questions. All the questions in this section are MCQs which implies that the candidate should type the responses. It includes jumbled passages, perceptions, verbal thinking and rationale, syntax, fill in the spaces, sentence completion, arguments, sentence revision, colloquialisms, phrases, para jumbles, antonyms and equivalent words, analogies and so on. 

The Reading Comprehension includes passages relating to science, history, legislative issues, financial aspects, condition, writing, society, folklore, etc., which makes up to 24-28 questions. All the questions are generally inference based.

  • Data Interpretations and Logical Reasoning (DILR): This section of CAT test consists of 32 questions, which include both MCQs and non-MCQs. This segment will have questions related to blood relations, suggestions, bearing sense, puzzles, information game plan, tables, charts, information structure, timekeepers and schedules, twofold rationale, and so on. 
  • Quantitative Ability: The third section of CAT has 34 MCQ and non-MCQ type questions. This section includes questions from various Mathematical topics such as LCM and HCF, Algebra, Profit and Loss, Geometry, Equations, Surds and Indices, Work and Time, etc. 

XAT Syllabus Overview 

XAT question paper comprises of four sections. Let’s briefly look at these sections of XAT exam.

  • Decision Making: The main segment of XAT test is the most troublesome one as well. To prepare for this section, candidates should familiarise themselves with Logical Reasoning, Arithmetic, Conditions and Grouping, Assumptions, Data Arrangement, and so on completely. 
  • Verbal and Logical Ability: The VARC section of XAT test will include topics such as antonyms and anonyms, jumbled paragraphs, sentence completion, word usages, editing and omitting, and so forth. The Reading Comprehension section of XAT is often dense and confusing. 
  • Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation: The way to succeed in this section involves understanding of mathematical formulae, stunts, hypotheses on your fingertips. This segment focuses on topics such as Percentage, Profit and Loss, Geometry, Probability, Averages and Partnerships, Algebra, Simple and Compound Interest, LCM and HCF, Graphs, Pie Charts, Data Analysis, Mensuration, Time, Speed and Distance, Ratio and Proportions, Inequalities, Linear and Quadratic Equations. 
  • General Knowledge: There is just a single method to excel in this section of exam, which is to make it your companion. Read about all the recent events and current affairs, which will assist you in overcoming the section. There is no provision of negative marking for GK section.

The Verbal Ability section of XAT is considered harder as compared to CAT since the passages are longer than CAT and the time allocated is almost equivalent. Most candidates generally clear Verbal and Quant sections with relative ease but struggle with the LRDI section of XAT. 

However, if we closely follow students’ reactions and expert analysis, it is not difficult to identify that both CAT and XAT have their own scoring and difficult sections. It is more about an aspirant’s individual strengths and weaknesses when it comes to picking the tougher exam between XAT and CAT. 

Colleges accepting XAT and CAT scores

Besides the above-mentioned factors, one huge disparity between the two exams is the number of institutes accepting XAT and CAT scores. CAT scores are accepted by nearly 500+ institutes for admitting candidates, including top tier b-schools such as IIMs, IITs and FMS. On the other hand, XLRI Jamshedpur accepts XAT scores only. However, some of the other XAMI members (XAT associate institutes) accept CAT exam scores too. Therefore, CAT has a wider acceptability and more students tend to invest their time and effort in clearing CAT than XAT. Some of the popular institutes accepting CAT and XAT scores are tabulated below.

CAT cut off list for top colleges (percentile)

B-school accepting CAT scoresCut off
Faculty of Management Studies 97-98
JBIMS Mumbai 95-97
Management Development Institute 90-92
International Management Institute 94-95

XAT cut off list for top colleges (percentile)

B-school accepting XAT scoresCut off


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