XAT Exam Pattern 2020

Overview of XAT

XAT Exam is one of the biggest MBA entrance exams which most MBA aspirants attempt along with CAT. It opens doors to some of the best B-Schools in India including the flagship XLRI Jamshedpur which conducts the exam.
XAT Exam stands for Xavier's Aptitude Test and attracts over 75,000 aspirants every year. The XAT Score is accepted by over 150 colleges with the top colleges in the bracket being:

  • XLRI Jamshedpur
  • S P Jain Mumbai
  • XIM Bhubaneshwar
  • MICA Ahmedabad
  • IMT Ghaziabad

XAT Exam is also acknowledged to be one of the most transparent exam with the XAT exam paper as well as XAT answer key released by XLRI Jamshedpur before the result is announced. In addition to this, after the XAT Result is announced, there is a limited time window where the candidate can contest the result and demand a recount of his/her score.
The XAT Exam is also considered to be one of the toughest MBA entrance exams because of the inclusion of General Knowledge as well as the unique XAT Exam Pattern which keeps the scores for the XAT Exam quite low. The level of the verbal ability questions are also generally considered to be higher than that of the CAT. The sectional cutoffs in all the sections except for the General Knowledge section only increases the difficulty level.
The XAT 2020 will be held in the first week of January, 2020. It is usually one of the last exams held for all the MBA Aspirants although the GD/PI process occurs in the same February and March window that holds the processes for most of the other B-Schools.
The mode of the exam used to Paper and Pen based as recently as 2017 but since 2018, XAT decided to move to the Computer Based Test.

Overall XAT Exam Pattern 2020

The XAT Exam Pattern is unique amongst all the MBA Entrance Exams in India. The XAT Paper Pattern states that the XAT Paper consists of four sections rather than the three in the CAT Paper Pattern:

  • Verbal and Logical Ability
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation
  • General Knowledge

Thus, candidates need to modify their preparation for XAT compared to CAT. The duration of the XAT Paper Pattern 2020 is 3 hours overall.

In-depth XAT Exam Pattern 2020

The XAT Exam Pattern consists of two papers with a total of 99 Questions (expected) overall. The distributions of questions are given below:


Number of Questions

Time Limit

Paper 1

74 Questions

165 Minutes

Verbal and Logical Ability


No Sectional Time Limit

Decision Making


No Sectional Time Limit

Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation


No Sectional Time Limit

Paper 2

25 Questions

15 Minutes

General Knowledge




99 Questions

180 Minutes

In the past, the XAT Paper Pattern included a question on essay writing but it has been removed from the XAT Exam Pattern since 2018 when the XAT Paper went online. All the questions in the XAT Exam Pattern 2019 were MCQs with 5 options compared to the 4 options in CAT. However XAT Exam Pattern 2020 has included a new type of question called the Numerical Aptitude Type (NAT) in which the candidates have to input the answer using the virtual keyboard on the screen.

Another unique aspect of the XAT Exam Pattern is the marking scheme. The MCQs if attempted correctly carry a reward of 1 mark while an incorrect attempt carries a penalty of 0.25 marks. While this is fairly standard, the complication arises with the fact that the candidate cannot leave over 8 questions un-attempted. All questions (over 8) left un-attempted carry a penalty (expected) of 0.05 marks. The General Knowledge Section does not carry any negative marking due to which candidates tend to attempt the entire section.

This unique aspect of the XAT Exam Pattern makes the XAT Exam quite difficult because of the restriction in the number of questions that can be left un-attempted. Thus the XAT Exam Strategy becomes extremely important for the candidates. This can only be formed after several mocks attempted by the candidate.

The final XAT Exam Pattern will be announced when the XAT 2020 Notification is expected to be released in the second week of August, 2019. The XAT Registration 2020 will begin by the third week of August, 2019 and will end in the 4th week of November, 2019.

Past XAT Exam Pattern

Key Changes in XAT Exam Pattern

The XAT Exam Pattern/XAT Paper Pattern has undergone several changes over the past 3-4 years. The biggest change was the shift from the Paper Based Test to the Computer Based Test in 2018. Apart from this, other changes that have taken place over the years include:

  • Essay Based Question was scrapped after XAT 2018
  • Number of Questions have fluctuated over the years
  • Number of un-attempted questions allowed has been reduced from 12 to 8
  • Subjective Questions were removed in XAT 2019 but is excepted to be reintroduced in XAT 2020

XAT Exam Pattern 2019

The XAT Exam 2019 was the first XAT Exam where the Essay Question was scrapped. It was held as a Computer Based Test like the XAT Exam 2018. The XAT Exam Pattern for 2019 was as follows:

  • 3 Hour Test with 4 sections: Verbal and Logical Ability, Decision Making, Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and General Knowledge
  • Total of 99 MCQs with the internal distribution being:
    • 26 for Verbal and Logical Ability
    • 21 for Decision Making
    • 27 for Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation
    • 25 for General Knowledge
  • The overall marking scheme was 1 mark for a correct attempt while a penalty of 0.25 marks for an incorrect attempt. Candidates can leave up to 8 questions attempted but any questions above the limit would attract a penalty of 0.1 marks each.
  • The scores for the first 74 Questions (First 3 Sections) were taken for percentile calculations

XAT Exam Pattern 2018

The XAT Exam 2018 was where the computer based XAT Exam was introduced. The XAT Exam Pattern/ XAT Paper Pattern for 2018 was as follows:

  • 3.5 hour test with 30 minutes of the Essay Based Question
  • 5 sections: Verbal and Logical Ability, Decision Making, Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation, General Knowledge and Essay Type Question
  • There were 98 Questions in total with the internal distribution being:
    • 24 in Verbal and Logical Ability
    • 21 in Decision Making
    • 26 in Quantitative Aptitude and Data Interpretation
    • 25 in General Knowledge
    • 1 Essay Type Question
  • Marking Scheme: +1/-0.25 with penalty of 0.05 marks for every un-attempted question more than 12.
  • Only the first three section were counted for percentile calculation

Other XAT Exam Pattern

A brief summary of the XAT Exam Patterns for 2015, 2016 and 2017 is given in the table given below:


Total Questions and Duration

Distribution of Question

Marking Scheme

XAT 2017

98 ; 3.5 hours

Essay Type-1

  • +1/-0.25
  • Penalty of 0.05 for every un-attempted question over 12

XAT 2016

104; 3.5 hours

Essay Type-1

  • +1/-0.25
  • Penalty of 0.05 on each question above 13 left un-attempted

XAT 2015

114; 3 hours

VA- 28
DM- 23
QA- 33
Essay Type-1


This table shows the brief summary of the XAT Exam Pattern over the 3 years before XAT 2018.

XAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus

As you can see, the XAT Exam Pattern has been shifting slightly over the years. This makes preparing for the XAT Exam slightly tricky however the sections have remained the same due to which the XAT Syllabus can be looked at in brief.

Section 1: Verbal and Logical Ability

This section is a combination of the VARC section and LR section from the CAT Exam. In XAT 2019, there were 4 passages of Reading Comprehension with 14 to 16 Questions. The rest of the questions are dominated by the VA and LR questions. The topics which are generally tested in this section, apart from Reading Comprehension, includes:

  • Vocabulary, Analogy
  • Paragraph Jumbles, Paragraph Completion
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Statements-Assumptions

Section 2: Decision Making

This is a section which is not tested at all in CAT nor in any other MBA Entrance Exams. It consists of 7 to 8 passages which have 2-3 questions each. There is no particular preparation or syllabus for this section as it is based on the clarity of thought of the candidate. The set of questions also ensures that the answers that the candidate gives do not contradict with each other.

Section 3: Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation

This section like section 1 is a combination of two sections from the CAT Exam. This section consists of the Quantitative Ability as well as Data Interpretation Questions. The Data Interpretation sets are usually followed by 3-4 questions.

The syllabus for the Quantitative Ability is the same as in CAT with the most frequently asked topics being:

  • Time & Work
  • Percentage
  • Profit & Loss
  • Equations
  • Number Systems
  • Clocks
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Mensuration
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Tables
  • Bar Diagrams

Section 4: General Knowledge

The General Knowledge section of the XAT 2020 has no syllabus and can range from current affairs as well as trivia.


XAT is considered to be the toughest MBA Entrance Exam because the level of questions in each section is generally acknowledged to be tougher than CAT. Thus the preparation for the same is quite difficult as well. In order to properly prepare for the exam, XAT Exam Pattern has to be the carefully studied.
Depending on the pattern, the type of test can be determined. It can determine whether the test will be speed based or difficulty based.