1. Test Pattern– CAT is a computer based on line test whereas XAT is based on conventional paper pencil mode. Candidates have to mark their answers with ball point pen on OMR sheet. Ink or gel pens are not allowed. XAT remains pen-paper based to ensure that candidates of all backgrounds are at par, so that those who have pre-familiarity of operating computers, specially coming from privileged background or having worked in IT sector, do not get any advantage over others who do not have access to computers. The paper-pen mode also ensures that all candidates are tested on exactly the same set of questions, and not on different sets.
2. Duration – XAT is conducted on a single day all across the country and in a single session whereas CAT has a window of 20-25 days with two sessions each day. Both have time duration of 140 minutes to solve those questions in examination which are taken into account to calculate the percentile. XAT however, may change its number of questions and time duration in any of their examinations, although the same will be published before hand on their website.
3. Number of questions and marking system – Since 2011, while CAT has been placing 60 questions divided in its two sections with equal weightage of marking, there has been variation in number of questions and weightage in XAT during past three years. There were 101 questions in 2011; 85 in 2012 and 91 in 2013, divided in three sections of Verbal & Logical Ability; Decision making; Quantitative Ability. The time allotted was from 120 to 140 minutes to solve these questions. On the top of it, in 2011 and 2012, XAT had differential marking system from 1 to 5 i.e. one question carried 1.5 marks and the other carried 4 or 5 marks. It was in 2013 only that all the XAT questions carried equal marks.
4. General Awareness and Essay writing – There are two more sections, In addition to above three, which comprise questions on General Awareness and descriptive essay writing test. 20 minutes each are awarded to solve these two parts. Thirty questions on General Awareness are not counted to calculate the percentile and the writing skill is assessed with essay writing test. A few institutes take into account the score of General Awareness while finalising their admission process.
5. Penalty for wrong answer – Negative marking in XAT is less than that of CAT. XAT penalises by one fourth mark whereas CAT penalises by one third. For example – if one mark is awarded for every correct answer, 1/3 and 1/4 will be deducted by CAT and XAT for every wrong answer, respectively.
6. Sectional division of questions – In contrast to CAT, which has two sections namely Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning with 30 questions and 70 minutes for each section, XAT-2013 had following question pattern – Section-A Verbal and logical Ability -30 questions; section-B Decision making – 25 questions; section-C Quantitative Ability -31 questions. Section-D General awareness -30 questions to be solved in another 20 minutes. In part two, there was an Essay Topic ‘Corruption is the root cause of economic slowdown in India’.
7. Calculation of Percentile – CAT and XAT both have sectional cut-offs. The difference, however, lies in acceptance of lower marks in some section by the institutes associated to XAT. CAT has individual daily session wise cut-off percentile calculation for the entire window of 20-25 days and places the result accordingly.
8. Role of General Awareness and Essay Writing Test – XAT scores, despite having sectional cut-off leave its General Awareness and Essay Writing Part, out of the purview of percentile calculation. A few of the prestigious B-schools like XLRI use the General awareness test before finalising their admissions. XAT tests the thought process and writing skill of a candidate with Essay writing along with their written objective examination, while institutions associated to CAT, puts the candidate to Writing Ability Test (WAT) before the final selection round with the same objective in mind.
3 Major Difference Between XAT and CAT
Decision Making: This section does not appear in CAT or for that matter in any other Management Entrance Exam. This is kind of a combination of Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension where a case study is given and aspirants are put in the shoes of a manager and asked to make a decision. The choices can often be confusing in such questions. Quite a few students neglect it and do so on their own peril.
General Knowledge: Although GK will not be a part of the score which will be used to give out calls to aspirants but it will be used in later stage of admission by XLRI and some other colleges. This section is also missing in CAT.
Essay Writing: Students would be asked to write an Essay after the main paper is over. Once again, this is unique to XAT.