Strategy to ace XAT Verbal Section

Once you are done with the CAT and IIFT exams, it is time to focus on the other important entrance exams for the exam season. One of the most important exams in this cycle is XAT and considering the unique challenges posed by the exam, it is important for you to develop and use a customised exam strategy. In 2018, XAT will be conducted in an online mode. 
Basics of the XAT Verbal Ability Section:
Before I delve into the specifics of the exam, let's have a look at the exam pattern for the last year:
Area Number of Questions
Para-jumbles 2
Vocabulary Based Questions 2
Para-Completion 2
Critical Reasoning 1
Sentence Completion 2
Verbal Reasoning 1
Paragraph Summary 1
5 Reading Comprehensions 18
If you have a look at the table above, you can easily see that XAT is one of the most balanced exams that has questions from almost all the areas in Verbal Ability. This also means is that you need to increase the scope of your preparation in order to successfully master the exam and score well in it.
XAT introduces minor variations in the exam pattern year to year and some of the question types might disappear this year and new ones might take their place. This is why it is important that you solve the XAT papers for the previous 5 years.
The pattern above highlights the following:
  • The exam tests a mix of reading and reasoning skills.
  • Reading comprehensions form a very important part of the exam.
  • Diversity of question types poses a challenge.
  • The section does require focused and in-depth reading.
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Time Management for the XAT Verbal Ability Section:
XAT provides you a total of 170 minutes for the 78 questions that will be asked in part-1 of the exam. Out of these 170 minutes, you should try to spend 55 to 60 on Verbal Ability. Remember, the top institutes in XAT do have sectional cut-offs and you are advised to balance your sectional attempts in case these institutes are your target. In case you are targeting institutes other than the top ones, then you can probably devote extra time to the areas of your strength and try to maximise your overall score in the exam.
XAT Verbal Ability Question Types and Examples:
The unique thing about the XAT exam is that even with areas such as vocabulary, the exam features some unique questions. Have a look at the following questions:
Vocabulary Question 1:
Six words are given below:
I. Cacophonic II. Cacographic
III. Calamitous IV. Catastrophic
V. Contraindicative VI. Cataclysmic
Which of the above words have similar meanings?
A. IV & VI only
B. I, II &V only
C. II, V& VI only
D. III, IV & VI only
E. Ill, IV, V& VI only
Solution for the question:
The meanings of the words given in the question are:
  • Cartography is the study and practice of making maps.
  • Cacography means bad handwriting or spelling.
  • Contraindicative is to make a treatment inadvisable.
  • Calamitous involves calamity.
  • Catastrophic involves disaster and horrible events.
  • Cataclysmic means severely destructive.
Thus, we can see that cataclysmic is similar to catastrophic.
Option (D) is the correct answer here.
Note for the Question:
In this vocabulary question, we can see that XAT question setters have not directly asked you to identify meanings and have complicated the question. If you maintain your wits, then essentially you only need to know the meanings of the two words that match and this should help you identify the correct answer.
The trick with XAT questions is that you have to read them carefully and use option elimination even for a vocabulary question.
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Vocabulary Question 2:
Read the four sentences given below:
  1. He is the most ________of the speakers to address us today.
  2. The belief in ______justice is the essence of his talk,
  3. This hall would have been full but for the______ rain.
  4. Many in the audience have achieved ______in their respective fields.
Which of the following sequence of words would most appropriately fit the blanks?
  1. i. Eminent, ii. Imminent, iii. Immanent, iv. Eminence
  2. i. Immanent, ii. Imminent, iii. Imminence, iv. Eminence
  3. i. Eminent, ii. Immanent, iii. Imminent, iv. Eminence
  4. i. Eminent, ii. Immanent, iii. Imminent, iv. Imminence
  5. i. Immanent, ii. Imminence, iii. Eminent, iv. Eminence
Solution for the question:
The meanings of the words in the option are:
  • Eminent - outstanding
  • Immanent - inherent/ existing or operating within
  • Imminent - about to happen
  • Eminence - quality of being eminent
In this case, option (C) is the perfect fit.
Note for the Question:
Again, you can see in this question that this is not a straightforward sentence completion question. The blanks in this case are confusing words and you need to know the differences between these words in order to correctly identify the answer.
The important thing here is that the unique nature of questions is not only limited to vocabulary. In fact, RCs also feature questions which are unique in nature and test your ability to think out of the box. Have a look at the following application based questions that featured in the exam last year.
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Application Questions based on RCs
Application Question 1:
A father and son aged 60 and 25 respectively, have been learning paragliding for quite some time. Based on the passage above, which of the following would be true?
  1. The son would always learn more.
  2. The father might learn more, if both of them started at the same time.
  3. The son would learn more, if both of them started at the same time.
  4. If both of them have been learning since the age of 15, the son would learn more.
  5. Both of them would always progress equally.
Application Question 2:
Mr. Good and Mr. Evil were batch-mates during the college. Five years after graduating, Mr. Evil was put behind bars for financial fraud while Mr. Good was running a successful NGO, working for orphans. Mr. Good was raised in a protective environment while Mr. Evil was a self-made man.
Based on the above information, which of the following statements is definitely correct?
  1. It can be concluded that Mr. Evil is a 'dandelion', but nothing can be concluded about Mr. Good.
  2. It can be concluded that Mr. Evil is an 'orchid', but nothing can be concluded about Mr. Good.
  3. It can be concluded that Mr. Good is a 'dandelion', but nothing can be concluded about Mr. Evil.
  4. It can be concluded that both Mr. Good and Mr. Evil are 'orchid'.
  5. It is not possible to conclude about 'children typology' of the two batch mates.
These are two questions that featured based on the context provided in two different passages. These questions again highlight the unique nature of questions that feature in the exam.
What do we learn from the above Question Types?
If you look at the questions above, you can be scared at first and thoughts with regards to the nature of the exam should be swarming in your mind. But this is where you need to relax and understand that at the end of the day, it is all about maintaining your composure and adopting the best approach for the exam.
For starters, the above questions are the outliers in the exam. Other than the questions above, there are quite a few standard question types in the exam:
  • Para-jumbles are generally conventional in nature.
  • RCs feature questions on the main idea and structure of the passage.
  • RCs feature questions that ask you to check whether particular facts or inferences are valid in the given context.
  • Critical Reasoning questions can be based along conventional lines (weaken or strengthen the argument).
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Important Tips for the Exam:
Considering the above discussion, there a few simple things that you need to keep in mind while you solve the XAT Verbal Ability section:
  1. Start with vocabulary, para-jumbles and other non-RC questions. Maximise your attempt in these questions.
  2. In the first go, do not attempt question types that are unique or you have not solved before. Maximise your attempt in other areas first.
  3. RCs in XAT can be quite challenging at times and therefore, RC selection is extremely important. Make sure you scan through the questions and establish what kind of questions are asked from the passage. If the passage poses a lot of inferential or application questions (like the ones above), avoid it at first. Solve passages that feature main idea, phrase meaning, vocabulary, fact co-relation questions. These are generally easier to solve.
  4. Do not get emotionally attached to passages. There are going to be cases in which even after reading the whole passage, you might not be able to answer the questions. Do not worry about that; focus on what else can be solved in the exam.
Practice Material for the exam:
You can use the following as practice material for the exam:
a. XAT previous year papers:
This is an absolute must as these exams would expose you to the variety of questions asked in the exam.
b. CAT 2003-2008 RCs:
The RCs that featured in these years are generally tough in nature and are good practice material for the exam.
Hopefully, the above should arm you with enough knowledge and tips in order to successfully prepare for XAT Verbal Ability.
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