XAT Or CAT- Which One Is More Competitive?


Management students all over the country take part in several tests each year to secure admission in reputed institutions. 

The Common Admission Test or the CAT exam is undertaken by thousands of students across the country to gain admission to IIMs. Similarly, the Xavier Aptitude Test or XAT is also a test which grants admission into management programs in different institutes. In fact, XAT is considered to be the second most popular management exam in the country, after the CAT.

Now, because the examinations are quite similar, the question that arises is - “Which of the two exams is more competitive?” 

In this blog, let’s compare both the exams based on course subjects, the number of candidates attempting the exam each year, and the difficulty level of the two exams.


Click here to take online mock tests for XAT examination.


Conducting body, exam syllabus and pattern for CAT exam and XAT




Conducted by 

Indian Institute of Management

XLRI, Jamshedpur and members of XAMI 

No of sections 


Reading comprehension & Verbal Ability

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning Quantitative Ability


Part A:

English Grammar & Logical Reasoning, Decision Making, and Quantitative Ability 

Part B: 

General Knowledge


Questions on Reading and Comprehension, para jumbles, summary based questions


Synonyms and antonyms

Fill in the Blanks




Question pattern


Based on case studies

No. of questions 

Around 100 questions that include both MCQ and non MCQ type

72 in part A and 25 in part B

Main focus 

DILR section which involves solving puzzles using logical reasoning

Based on the decision-making abilities of the candidates following the examples of case studies done previously


Exam Marking Scheme 

CAT and XAT are both held for one hundred marks each. 

Both XAT and CAT have a negative marking scheme. The difference is that for XAT, the negative marking is slightly less - 1/4th of the mark given. In the case of CAT negative marketing, the number or figure increases to about 1/3rd of the total marks given. 

In CAT, each candidate has to answer a different set of questions. This affects the eventual marking and cut-off of the exam too. The marks of the CAT exam are decided in a dual-stage process. First, the raw score of the candidate is calculated, and then the scaled score is declared. The raw score is the actual score calculated based on the questions answered correctly or incorrectly by the candidate. Now, since CAT is conducted in two slots with varying levels of difficulty, this raw score is converted into the percentile i.e. scaled score through a normalization process. This helps to establish the ranks of the candidates.

The entire process is a bit more complicated than the marking scheme for XAT.

Mode of examination and Timings for CAT and XAT exam 

CAT has a time limit for each section. Candidates can only spend one hour on each section, following which they need to move on to the next section. CAT has a total time limit of 2 hours and 50 minutes. The examination is held in the online mode over two days.

The XAT exam also has a similar time limit, but there is no time limit for any individual sections. Candidates are expected to answer 72 questions in 3 hours. 

Difficulty level 

Among the two examinations, XAT is usually considered to be the more difficult, both because of the two extra sections that students have to complete as well as the difficult questions which appear on the exam. 

The Essay writing section in XAT requires a lot of attention and time, which some candidates find a little difficult to manage. 

CAT syllabus does not have such a section. Candidates feel that the most difficult section in CAT is the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section. 

The XAT syllabus also has a General Knowledge section, which is also considered to be more difficult to manage because of the large number of topics that students need to cover. Candidates need to be up to date about all the goings-on of the world, for which they can watch news channels, read news dailies and magazines too. 

The essay writing and general knowledge sections are not included while calculating the final score of the XAT exam. However, they form a part of the interview sessions that are conducted by management schools like XLRI and XIMB. Having a thorough knowledge of these sections can influence the selection and admission of candidates in these reputable institutes. 

No. of seats offered 

The score of the CAT exam is accepted by over 175 IIMs over the country. Each IIM offers about 200-300 seats for candidates. Therefore, the scope for more candidates to get into their dream management institutes is higher when they sit for CAT. 

These numbers are significantly lowered in case of the XAT colleges. In comparison with the 175 IIMs, only 120 business schools in the country accept the XAT score, including XLRI, XIMB and Jamshedpur. The seats offered by these schools is also significantly lower, which makes them inaccessible to most students. Therefore it is more difficult to get into a good business school when one sits for XAT, mainly due to the gap between the number of seats offered by the institutes and the sheer majority of people sitting for the examination. 

Dates for CAT and XAT 2020

The dates for XAT 2020 have been announced, and the exam is to be held on January 5, 2020.

The CAT 2019 exam is set to be held on Sunday, the 24th of November, 2019.


No of candidates for CAT and XAT exam

Usually, the candidates for CAT colleges are higher than XAT. Approximately 2.5 lakh candidates appear for CAT each year, while only 90,000 candidates appear for XAT. 

That being said, the level of competition is higher for XAT than CAT, mainly because of the limited seats in the 120 business schools that accept the XAT score. 

In comparison, the competition for CAT candidates is slightly different. This is because almost 175 management institutes accept CAT score in India, but the total number of candidates appearing for CAT is very high, so the competition is also significant here.

Institutes accepting the scores 

The XAT scores are taken by XAT colleges, including the member schools of the XAMI, XIMB, XISS Ranchi, XIMR Mumbai and similar institutions. Top institutes like SPIJMR, Wellingkar, and TAPMI also accept XAT scores. For their regular PGDM courses, members of the XLRI body accept only the XAT scores of candidates.  

On the other hand, the top management schools of the country that is the IIMs only accept the CAT scores. 


Final words

Whether you are taking CAT 2019 or XAT 2020, an adequate amount of preparation is necessary for you to ace any examination. Practising mock tests and solving question papers is one of the best ways in which you can get yourself acquainted with the question patterns and the type of questions that you may encounter in the exam.

That’s why you should get Eduwhere, India’s largest online exam preparation platform. Find mock tests and an exhaustive amount of question papers that you can solve to master any competitive exam in the country. When it comes to putting your knowledge to the test and sharpening your skills, Eduwhere is your absolute best bet.