Decision Making (DM) is a section unique to XAT and consists of a mix of behavioral, managerial and mathematical questions. Decision Making is not really a test of theoretical knowledge but challenges the basic assumptions of your thinking and whether you are able to understand real-world problems that are presented as cases in these questions.
The mathematical decision-making questions can be regarded as Data Interpretation or Logical Reasoning sets that can be solved using the techniques adopted for these areas. Keep in mind that these questions are generally very data-intensive and require in-depth analysis. Make sure that you quickly scan through the problem and only solve them if they appear to be manageable within a decent amount of time.
The behavioral and managerial questions in the section are the interesting ones. Generally, you are provided a situation in which multiple courses of action arise or there are multiple fallouts of a particular action, and you are supposed to identify the correct path/ analysis. Majority of the time, the questions pose ethical/ management/ human resource related dilemmas that you are expected to address and solve. Effectively, you can view these questions as a combination of critical reasoning and reading comprehension questions.
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In terms of how the questions appear in the exam, the following types are seen:
- Single Question Prompts: These mimic critical reasoning questions, where a single paragraph is followed by one question. Generally, you should go through majority of these questions as these are not time intensive and you can easily gain a foothold in the section using these. The number of such questions has increased in the last couple of years.
- Two to Three Question per Prompt: These questions consist of a moderate prompt followed by 2 to 3 questions. On a number of occasions, long caselets have been provided by XAT, which have been followed by only 2 or 3 questions. Make sure you select the questions you wish to attempt wisely as you do not want to end up wasting too much time for just 2 questions.
- Four to Five Questions per Prompt: These questions are generally long caselets that are followed by 4 to 5 questions. In these caselets, you generally have multiple viewpoints presented and at times, these are as long as reading comprehensions.
Seven Things to be kept in Mind while solving Decision Making Questions:
The above forms a cursory introduction for the decision making section and provides you few details with respect to what you can expect in the examination. In this section, we analyze the things you should keep in mind for this section.
1. Establish Stakeholders in a given problem
Every situation that you are given generally has multiple stakeholders, people or parties for which that information is relevant. Make sure you make a mental list of all of these.
2. Analyze Problems Holistically: From the perspective of each stakeholder
For the stakeholders that you have analyzed, make sure you are able to analyze the problem from the viewpoint of every stakeholder. Do not adopt viewpoints that neglect one side of the story.
3. Take the viewpoint that maximizes benefit and minimizes damage from a complete angle
In decision-making questions, you are supposed to select the option that maximizes the benefit for the majority, and at times, this might mean selecting a course of action that might be completely risk-free.
4. Avoid personal opinions
Also, do not favor any one side in any particular case. It is a common tendency of students to adopt an approach based on your own value system (for example: an anti-business or anti-worker's approach in a dispute between management and workers). Do not allow personal opinions to cloud your judgment.
5. Do not adopt unethical practices.
Options that present shortcuts or unethical ways of solving a problem need to be instantly rejected. These are never be the answer.
6. Do not select options that pronounce unsubstantiated judgments.
Many of the options that present extreme scenarios are actually nothing else but cleverly concealed opinions. Remember, these opinions appeal to emotion and can tempt you to select them. Be careful about them and make sure you do not get enticed by this trap
7. Question yourself and make sure you are not missing anything
Majority of the time, you are faced with intricate scenarios where you miss one element or the other while solving a problem. Make sure you question yourself about these assumptions and ensure that you have not missed some vital piece of data.
Along with the above, one critical thing that you need to do is to practice all previous year XAT decision making questions.
Decision Making Question Types with Examples
Decision making questions in the XAT can be divided into 4 broad categories. The following section gives mock questions from each question type along with solutions and tips to solve them.
I. Critical Reasoning
Q. 1. Mrs. Biswas has been leading business manager in the world of business and has established her credentials in a world dominated by men. She has primarily worked in the industry and has extensive knowledge of the field. She recently started her own cosmetics firm and has decided to make sure that females find adequate representations in her company. In her experiences in the cosmetic industry, she has generally seen that the sales and marketing wings of most companies are dominated by men. Keeping this in mind, she has decided to employ at least 50% females in the sales and marketing department of her company.
Which of the following could be the most serious issue that Mrs. Biswas might face with her decision?
- The job might have travel requirements that might pose a challenge for females.
- Females have an intrinsic understanding of the use of cosmetics that men do not have.
- It is not necessary that females wish to take up these roles.
- Men are better at sales than females.
- Both 2 and 4
Answer: option 1
In the given case, the given prompt behaves like a critical reasoning prompt. The fact is that Mrs. Biswas wishes to addresses the problem of gender equality. Her solution is to have a selection criteria on the basis of gender. In this case, she neglects the fact that the given job role might have certain requirements which require males and this is a threat to her plan. Option 2 does not weaken the argument; rather strengthens it. Option 3 does not provide conclusive evidence against the argument. Option 4 is a prejudiced statement and we avoid such options in decision making questions.
For reasoning type question, evaluate the question as an argument. Isolate the premise and conclusion and attack the assumptions of the argument.
II. Management Issue
Q. 2. You are the HR manager of your organisation. There is a hard-working employee, Sanjeev, in your organisation. In terms of behaviour, effort and diligence, Sanjeev is one of the top most employees in the company. The issue is that the company is a call-centre for a US based company and the Sanjeev’s communication skills are not up to the level. Even after being given training, Sanjeev has not been able to improve his communication skills.
What should you do in the given scenario?
- Ask Sanjeev to leave.
- Provide another training to Sanjeev.
- Find another job for Sanjeev
- Change the job role of Sanjeev.
- Both 1 and 3
Answer: option 4
This prompt represents a typical scenario in a company where the performance of an employee is under scrutiny. As you can see, there is a positive and a negative side provided in the question. In the given case, you need to figure out a solution that is beneficial for the company yet takes care of the employee as well. These are the middle path questions, where you select an option that suits all. In this case, that option is 4. It helps both the company as well as the employee. Options 1 and 3 are extreme and illogical. Option 2 is not valid as it represents a solution that has failed already; you should not go against the facts in this case.
Q. 3. You are the SDM of your city and you are faced with a peculiar problem. Winters are approaching and at the same time, you are supposed to clear the slum which is situated right at the periphery of the city. City residents who live nearby have complained of the sanitation and cleanliness challenges posed by the slum-dwellers and want them to be evicted. On the other hand, the slum dwellers are requesting that they won’t be able to change homes in the middle of harsh winters and also it will be tough for their children to relocate in the middle of the academic year. They wish to continue to stay in the same location for another 3 months. The residents allege that this is a move by the slum dwellers in order to stay put and not move.
What should you do in the given case?
- You should ask the slum dwellers to move.
- You should allow the slum dwellers to stay in the winter months.
- You should introduce a cleanliness drive in the area and ask those slum dwellers to leave immediately who do not follow the instruction.
- You should try partial transfer of slum residents and shift some of the dwellers to permanent low income housing (depending upon availability).
- Both 3 and 4
Answer: option 5
The situation in the given case represents a typical dilemma. The key constituents in such a case are that both sides of the debate have some valid points and you need to take a call. In such a case, it is advisable to find a solution that does not favour any one side and yet resolves the problem. Remember, in such cases, abrupt solutions favouring extreme action are not recommended. The given solution might not solve the problem completely but it is a step in the right direction. Considering this, we find that options 3 and 4 both solve the problem partially and can combine to provide an effective solution.
IV. Ethical Dilemma
Q.4. You are a part of a leading FMCG company. You have recently been pulled up the Food Authority of India and the instant noodles of your company have been banned as they contain some harmful substances. This was the main product of your company and this had led to massive losses for your company. The company has been forced to pull back the product and the company has been asked to submit the noodles to new tests. Your boss has instructed you to approach the testing agency and make sure that the noodles are approved by them. Your boss wants you to make sure of this at any cost. You know that sufficient work has not been done on the noodles and these still might have some issues.
What should you do in the given case?
- You should do as your boss says.
- You should do as your boss says but leak the same information to the press.
- You should refuse to follow the instructions of your boss.
- You should try to convince your boss to act otherwise.
- You should consider leaving the given company.
- I & V
- II & IV
- III & V
- IV & V
- I & V
Answer: option 4
In the given case, you do not have a lot of options and you are stuck in a particular situation. In the given situation, it is a matter of ethics and in such situations, you should always take up the ethical recourse. Remember, the options are forcing you to select only two of the above courses of action. In the given case, you need to select the most ethical approach. In this case, that is offered by option 4. It is the only ethical way to act in the given case.