An Insight into Competitive Exams – How to Prepare Right

Preparing for competitive exams even as your college days are about to come to an end can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention the truckload of stress that hits you just when you’re on the verge of deciding a career path to follow.

Here is a compilation of all the information you’d need to not just get through the examination season, but triumph over it.



Interested applicants must hold a genuine bachelor’s degree in any discipline and must have secured minimum 50% marks or its equivalent CGPA.
In case you belong to SC/ST/DA (Differently-Abled), then the minimum mark to be secured by you is 45%.
There is no age restriction in order to appear in CAT exam 2018.
The candidates studying in the final year of graduation can also register for CAT provided that they qualify the same in due course of time as per the given eligibility criteria.

Examination date:
The official notifications for CAT are generally released in June.
This is followed by the commencement of registration in August.
The Admit Cards are out by October, tentatively.
The exam is generally held in November or December.

How to apply:
Visit the official website of CAT, find the link to the CAT application form and open it.
You will then be asked to register yourself by entering a few relevant details.
After providing the details, a registration ID and password will be generated.
Candidates are required to use that registration ID and password in order to fill up the application form.
Now upload scanned form of your signature, photograph, and necessary documents.

Documents to be kept ready before starting the registration process for CAT:

Necessary past educational documents such as class X, XII, and Graduation Degree certificate etc.
A genuine e-mail ID and phone number
Documents related to work experience
The scanned form of your recent photograph and signature
Finally, remit the application fee.

For general and NC/OBC category candidates, the registration fee is $30.
For SC/ST/DA categories, the registration fee is $15.
The candidates must send their registration fee only through the official portal of the examination.

Important Points:

CAT registrations generally start in the month of August, tentatively.
The registration process is generally held through the online mode only, on its official website.
All candidates need to fill up the application very carefully. There should be no mistakes while filling up the application form.
Candidates also need to select three exam centres as per their preference.

General Examination Pattern:
CAT exam is a computer-based test.
The candidates attempt the exam via assigned computer systems at the allotted test centres.
Section            No. of questions          Time
Quantitative Ability (QA)         34        60 mins
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)    32        60 mins
Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VRC) 34        60 mins

Standard Score Distribution:
For Non-MCQs, +3 marks for correct answer

For MCQs,

+3 marks for correct answer
-1 mark for incorrect answer
No marks are awarded or deducted for unattempted questions.
The duration of the examination is 180 minutes, i.e. 3 hours.

Selection Procedure:

Each college shortlists candidates for the second stage of selection which may be independent of each other. The process may include Written Ability Test (WAT), Group Discussions (GD) and Personal Interviews (PI).


The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has not defined any specific eligibility criteria for taking the test. However, basic eligibility demands the following:

Graduate in any stream from a recognized institute/university.
The candidate must be above 18 years of age. No upper age limit.
Further, different institutes have different criteria for admission into MBA. That, however, comes into play only after one has cleared the test.

Examination date:
It is a year-round examination, i.e., students can pick a date of their own preference.

How to apply:
Registration: There are 4 modes of GMAT registration – Telephonic registration, Postal Mail, Fax and Online registration. Telephonic registration can be availed only if one is using an international credit card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express).
Exam scheduling: One has to select the city of their choice followed by the preferred centre from the displayed list of available centres in the chosen city. The dates and corresponding available slots for taking the exam in the selected centre show up. Select the slot you want.
Application fee: At the end of the registration process, the candidate needs to submit $250 for the examination fee.

  • General Examination Pattern:
    The test generally comprises of four parts which will examine the applicant’s abilities on various subjects such as Writing, Verbal, Reasoning, and Quantitative skills.
    Organized in both computer-based and paper-based forms, but it is essentially computer-based in India
    On answering a question correctly, the next question is of higher difficulty level, and of lower difficulty level otherwise.
    The maximum marks are 800.

Section            Question types            No. of questions          Time
Analytical Writing Assessment           Analysis of Argument 1 Topic            30 mins
Integrated Reasoning a)     Multi-Source Reasoning
b)    Graphics Interpretation

c)     Two-Part Analysis

d)    Table Analysis

12        30 mins
Optional 8-minute break
Quantitative     a)     Data Sufficiency
b)    Problem Solving

37        75 mins
Optional 8-minute break
Verbal  a)     Reading Comprehension
b)    Critical Reasoning

c)     Sentence Correction

41        75 mins

Standard Score Distribution

Section            Score
Analytical Writing Assessment           0 – 6 in half-point intervals
Integrated Reasoning 1 – 8 in single-digit intervals
Quantitative     0 – 60
Verbal  0 – 60

XAT is an aptitude test that helps you secure a seat in one of the esteemed B-Schools in India: XLRI. Here’s everything you need, from tips and tricks to the FAQs answered by one of our alumni who recently got into this B-School.

The candidates should be graduates in any discipline from a recognized institute or university.
There is no specification regarding the minimum percentage to be obtained in graduation.
The final year graduation students are also eligible to apply for XAT, provided they complete the degree by the stipulated time in that year.
Examination date:
Registrations tentatively span from September to December. The exam is generally held on the first Sunday of January every year, followed by the final document submission by February.

How to apply:
The process is fully online. You need to visit the official website to get and fill the application form.
Fill all the details accurately and then upload a recently clicked passport size photograph (scanned) and signature in prescribed sizes and then proceed to online payment.
You can use cash, net banking, demand draft, credit card or debit card for payment.
The application fee is $25. If you want to apply for XLRI as well, then you will have to pay $30.
General Examination Pattern
The XAT exam pattern undergoes change every year. The number of questions in Paper 1 varies. Paper 2 is a mix of both objectives as well as subjective questions, General Knowledge, and essay writing. The following table brings to you the overall paper structure or exam pattern of XAT 2017:

Sections          Number of Questions Duration
Paper 1- (Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation, Verbal Ability, and Decision Making & Analytical Reasoning)      26


Total – 78

170 minutes
Paper 2- (General Knowledge, Essay Writing)          25        35 minutes
Marking Scheme
Each question carries 1 mark and for each wrong answer, there is negative marking of 0.25 marks. A candidate can leave out 13 questions unattempted, beyond which there will be negative marking of 0.05 marks.

The total duration of the exam is 3.5 hours. Paper 1 will be of 170 minutes, i.e. 2 hours 50 minutes and after a break of 5 minutes, candidates have to start with Paper 2, the duration of which is 35 minutes.

Selection procedure:
Every B school gives importance to various parameters while selecting a candidate, including the written exam, the interview, group discussion, work experience, previous grades (10th, 12th, graduation), etc. But as Indian B schools go, or XLRI in particular, the importance given to your past grades is very nominal when compared to, for instance, the XAT exam, which made up 60% of our batch’s selection criteria. So, even if you haven’t done too well in engineering, do not be disheartened. It shouldn’t stop you from applying to a B School. Work hard for the rest of the components and you’ll be just fine!

The XAT exam consists of three parts: Quantitative Ability, Decision Making, and Verbal. The most important section depends on what you’re weakest at. I have noticed that many people find decision making to be the trickiest, while I personally found it the easiest, and Quant the hardest to crack. So, give maximum importance to what you think is the toughest for you, because you need to clear a section wise cut off in XAT too, other than clearing an overall cut off. The rest of the process includes answering a few behavioral questions in a form, a video submission and further, an interview and a group discussion on making it to the shortlist. I, personally, found the process to be quite rigorous in evaluating a candidate as a whole, and in every individual aspect. Hence, my suggestion is to remain honest in everything you answer and not go by any clichéd answers you might have been asked to mug up for some clichéd questions because believe me, they won’t work. B-School professors are smarter than that.

Your first priority should obviously be preparing for the written exam, as that holds maximum weight for making it to the interview shortlist. Next, I would suggest that you stay in touch with current affairs. Read a lot of newspapers. I know, we engineering students do not have a habit of doing that (I didn’t either), but it helps immensely during an interview or a GD. If you have your facts right, it surely will leave an impression.

In the field of management education, IMS boasts of being one of the oldest institutions in India, providing a platform for students to further their careers. IMS believes in bringing self-awareness to its students because only then can they truly know their own path to career and future success. The IMS motto is to be with students, to mentor, motivate, guide and accompany them in their educational journey, till they cross the milestone of their coveted entrance examination. IMS nurtures aspirations and facilitates achievements. IMS ensures, for the next generation, a successful and rewarding future. IMS has over 34 years of experience in shaping success stories. IMS is the leader in Management Entrance training. The institute has been ranked 4th in the education sector and 44th amongst the Top 50 Most Trusted Service Brands across India (AC-Nielsen & Brand Equity, December 2003). Today, IMS has spread its wings across India with more than 90+ centers and over 50,000 students successfully making it to some of the most prestigious institutes in India and abroad.

IMS is now in Manipal @ the first floor, Sudha furniture building, Laxmindra Nagar, Udupi Manipal highway.

IMS Manipal offers training programs for CAT, GRE, GMAT, and IELTS. All programs come with the well known IMS triple guarantees of refund, repeat coaching, and unlimited doubt clearing sessions. Those reading this piece may avail of a special waiver of 30% on fees through a code offered exclusively by MTTN. The 30% waiver will not be available at the center without the MTTN code. To avail the discount, clients will be required to send an email to

Written by Ananya Roy

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