With the release of the CAT percentile scores and XAT answer key most of the students now know how well they have performed in these two major MBA entrances. All three slots of SNAP are over and NMAT is at the end of its cycle. This leaves IIFT entrance test to be conducted on 24th Jan 2021 as the last hope for many to make it to one the top 10 MBA institute. Yes, TISS, CMAT and MhCET are pending but they are either domain (TISS) or geography (MhCET) specific or do not have any top 40 institute in its kitty. Hence it is IIFT that is the last hope for most of the students.

Among the Indian MBA entrance exams, IIFT entrance exam is possibly the most complicated. While CAT, with a time limit of 40 minutes for each section is a test of knowledge and speed, XAT removed the speed component and brings in the concept of time management by removing the sectional time limits but IIFT is the only MBA entrance that checks you out on all three aspects – knowledge, speed and time management.

IIFT Test has multiple sections (and sometimes subsections also), no sectional time limits, differential marking for questions of different sections, negative marking for incorrect answers, insufficient time and at times does not clearly specify if it has sectional cut-offs. In other words IIFT paper checks your ability to multi-task, to manage time, to take the right decisions (choose the easy questions) but with insufficient information under a time constraints with a penalty for incorrect decisions. This is testing your aptitude as well as temperament.

While CAT is structurally easier than IIFT in terms of the level of difficulty of questions, IIFT is easier and apart from GK preparation you do not need to do anything extra. Your CAT /XAT preparation for QA, DI, LR, Verbal and RC is more than enough for IIFT and all you need to do is to work on your test-taking strategy by attempting old IIFT papers and IIFT Mocks, about 7-8 papers should be sufficient for this purpose.

With about 2 weeks to IIFT D-day, let us understand the paper structure, its peculiarities and work out the best way of tackling the paper. We will take into account the IIFT papers of 2009 to 201 for this purpose.

The IIFT Paper

Contrary to popular belief that the IIFT paper is unpredictable, the reality is that like any other paper it can be predicted. While most people prefer to look at the differences, I prefer to look at the commonalities or the constants of the paper to work out the strategies for cracking the paper. Hence let us first have a look at the constants in the IIFT paper structure:

  1. Time limit: 2 hours or 120 minutes.
  2. Number of questions: The number of questions in this paper varies from 110 to 135.
  3. Total marks: All papers are of 100 marks ( 2020-22 was 300 marks because marks per question became 3 times the earlier papers)
  4. Multiple sections: IIFT papers typically have 4-6 sections. DI could be an independent section or combined with QA or LR and similarly RC could be an independent section or combined with EU. Of the last five IIFT papers, three were 4 section tests and two were 6 section tests.
  5. Areas tested: Irrespective of the number of sections or sub-sections IIFT papers test you on the following areas:
    1. English Usage
    2. Reading Comprehension
    3. Quantitative Aptitude
    4. Data Interpretation
    5. Analytical Reasoning
    6. General Knowledge
  6. No sectional time limit: IIFT does not prescribe any sectional time limit and expects the students to not only allocate appropriate time to each section but also ensure that this time allocation is implemented. Not being able to do either of these would lead to not being able to achieve the sectional cut-off.
  7. Differential Marking: Questions of different sections have different marks but in almost all papers GK & EU questions have the minimum marks and QA & DI questions have the maximum marks.
  8. Negative marking: Negative marking is a standard feature in IIFT. Usually it is 1/3rd of the marks allocated to the question for every incorrect answer.
  9. Good Attempt: Typically a good attempt in IIFT Entrance test is 65% and good score is 50% of the maximum marks.
  10. Low Overall Cut-off: The cut-off for depends upon the number of sections, a general category candidate would typically need around 45% marks in a 4 section paper while in a 6 section paper 35% marks for an interview call. The highest overall cutoff was 48.5% in IIFT 2016-18 & 2017-19 papers. The cutoff for reserved category candidates is typically lower by 5% for NC-OBC/EWS candidates and 10% lower for SC/ST/PH candidates.
  11. Sectional cut-off: While in the past IIFT has been silent on this aspect but in the last few years it has declared sectional cut-offs for all sections. Even if the question paper does not specify this, it is safe to assume that there will be sectional cut-offs and attempt the paper accordingly.
  12. Sectional Vs Overall Cutoffs: The sectional cutoffs are low, while sections like GK and DI 2-3 correct answers will help you clear the cutoff in other sections also about 5-6 net correct answers are usually sufficient. The sum of sectional cutoffs is typically only half of the overall cutoff. Hence the challenge in IIFT is ensuring the overall cutoff score and not the sectional cutoff.
  13. Wrong questions: Every IIFT paper has 5-6 incorrect questions or questions in which none of the choices are correct. Possibly trying to see how you handle chaos :-).

With the features of IIFT stated above, my strategy for IIFT paper would be:

Strategy Tip 1: The Marks per minute funda: Given that the mark per question in the IIFT paper is different for different testing areas, it is important for us to attempt questions in a manner such that the score is maximized. EU and GK usually have the lowest marks per question but they also take the least amount of time. Similarly, QA and DI typically have the highest marks per question but they take more time to solve. In other words, “marks per minute” is more important than “marks per question” and your target should be to attempt questions worth 65% marks in 120 minutes.

Strategy Tip 2: The Target Attempt Mystery: IIFT is usually silent on the aspect of sectional cutoffs but we cannot assume that it is not there. In 2012, for the first time, IIFT declared its sectional cut-offs. Given that the highest total score required to clear IIFT in the last few years is 48.5% marks (43.5% for NCOBC/EWS and 38.5% for SC/ST/PH) in IIFT 2016-18 & 2017-19 and the sectional cutoffs are very low, your target attempt could be:
1. Minimum 33% of the total marks in each section with about

  1. At least 2 of the 6 subsections should have a 75% attempt
    3. 65% marks in aggregate.

Strategy Tip 3: Finding the Perfect Match: The IIFT paper has around 15 “match the following” questions in GK, EU and RC. These have to be definitely attempted since almost all of them can be solved, by identifying 1 or 2 matches out of 4, and eliminating the choices.

Strategy Tip 4: the South-Indian Thali: With 2-3 questions of almost all question types the EU, LR and GA sections of the IIFT resemble a “South Indian Thali” and instead of trying to attempt all question types you should focus only on the ones that you are comfortable with. Remember you can afford to leave about 35% of the paper.

Now on the basis of the last few papers of IIFT, let us go deeper into all the areas that are tested to work out a plan for preparation and also the strategy to do well in the test.

English Usage (EU): The 20-25 questions in this section are primarily from vocabulary, sentence completion and sentence correction with a couple of questions from para-jumbles (short sentences) and spellings. Vocabulary is the least time-consuming sub-section in the test but many students are likely to find the words difficult. IIFT has also given crosswords in the past which look difficult but can be solved easily with the help of choices. Grammar or sentence correction is easier than that in other MBA entrances and sentence completion questions (word, sentences and phrases) are also do-able.

A good starting point for preparation is to know the meaning of every word that has appeared in the question and the choices of the last 10 years IIFT papers. Vocabulary questions that have appeared in past XAT and IFT papers are also useful for IIFT. The vocabulary section in the Test Gym will be of help in this regard.

Strategy Tip 5: When in doubt – leave. Give this section (EU) about 10-12 minutes for 20 questions and attempt only those questions that you are sure of, follow the principle of “leaving, when in doubt”.

Reading Comprehension (RC): In the last few years RC, has contributed 16-17 questions in 4 lengthy passages. The length of the passages has come down over the years and with the test moving online for IIFT 2020-2022 it has also come to 500-600 words. The passages are mostly factual and not difficult to understand or answer. In addition to the RC passages of past IIFT papers the Mock IIFT papers will provide you with good practice.

Strategy Tip 6A: From Questions to Passage: Given that the questions are mostly factual it is advisable not to leave any passage and to attempt the factual questions from all passages. Thus, instead of reading the passage, identify the factual questions in each passage and then glance through the passage to find their answer.

Alternately follow tip 6B.

Strategy Tip 6B: The 5-6 min rule If you are keen to read the passages and then attempt the questions, then glance through the passages and attempt the factual @ 5-6 minutes per passage. You can either choose to leave one passage or attempt the factual questions only leaving the inferential questions.

EU and RC, Marks per Question: In every 4 section paper, EU and RC have been combined in a single section with 0.75 marks/question for EU and 1 mark/question for RC, only in IIFT 2020-22 both EU & RC had 3 marks/question. In all these 4 section papers the sectional cutoff of EU+RC has been 30-35% of the marks of the sections. In a 6 section paper however the sectional cutoffs are usually less than 20% of the marks of the individual sections.

A good performance in EU+RC is essential to ensure that you are able to reach the overall cutoff. One should target a total score of at least 70% in EU+RC and if required be willing to spend an extra 5 minutes in RC to ensure that one is able to attempt all passages.

Quantitative Aptitude: The 20-25 QA questions in IIFT are of the low level of difficulty. Arithmetic and Algebra is the mainstay of IIFT papers in QA and have questions primarily from Ratios, TSD, T&W and Percentages, Simple equations, Sequences & Series and Inequalities with a couple of questions each from Geometry, Mensuration, P&C and Probability. The problem in IIFT is that in QA they believe in telling stories – about 6-7 questions are very lengthy and will take over a minute to read and understand. These lengthy questions should be attempted only after the 1-2 lines questions have been taken care of.

QA, Marks per question: While the number of questions has varied in QA, it has always been 1 mark per question till IIFT 2019-21, in IIFT 2020-22 it was 3 marks per question. One can comfortably attempt 10-12 questions and the cutoff can be easily achieved with about 6 net correct answers.

Strategy Tip 7: Find the Sitters As mentioned earlier, a few IIFT QA questions are lengthy to read but easy to solve and a few short questions are sprinkled across the paper. Also, there are about 4-5 questions that are not worth attempting. This section should be attempted in 2 Rounds – R1 for the short and easy questions and R2 for the lengthy to read questions.

Data Interpretation: DI in IIFT typically contributes about 15-20 questions in 3-4 sets. In terms of degree of difficulty these sets are a couple of notches higher than CAT because of calculation intensity, very close choices and complicated data sets. Most of the data sets are tables and graphs but case lets could also appear. Data Sufficiency questions have not appeared in IIFT for many years and hence can be ignored.

DI – Marks per question: DI questions usually been 1 mark per question till IIFT 2019-21, in IIFT 2020-22 it was 3 marks per question. In the last 6 papers of IIFT, DI has come as a separate section twice, as DI+LR thrice and once as QA+DI. Whenever DI has appeared as a standalone section, an attempt of 2-4 questions in 5 minutes is sufficient to clear the sectional cutoff which is typically 1-2 questions. When it is DI+QA or DI+LR usually DI is usually the more difficult part and the sectional cutoff is around 25% of the total marks for the section.

Strategy Tip 8: Assess the DI Level Of Difficulty Whenever DI appears in combination with QA or LR it is important to gauge the level of difficulty of DI and attempt accordingly. Usually DI is the more difficult part and one should attempt fewer questions from DI however in IIFT 2020-22 has easier DI and difficult LR (with incorrect questions) and one could have attempted 8-12 questions in about 12-15 minutes. On the other hand in a standalone DI section the right approach is either to do 1-2 questions from 2-3 sets in 10 minutes or to identify 1-2 easy data sets and solve 2-3 easy, less calculation intensive questions

Logical Reasoning: The South Indian thali will be most visible in this section. The 20 questions in IIFT test will give you a flavour of almost all kind of reasoning questions that appear in any kind of aptitude test. You can expect 2-3 questions each of arrangement, eligibility criteria, and syllogism, coding-decoding, input-output, course of action, mathematical operators and alphabet & number series. Hence, it is advisable that all these be practiced from your study material and past IIFT papers.
Questions of arrangement, eligibility criteria and mathematical operators are easier to solve if you work systematically and also take less time, attempt them first and for the rest go to your comfort level.

LR, Marks per question: While the number of questions has remained constant at 20 in the last three IIFT papers, the marks per question have fluctuated between 0.75 & 1 mark per question, in IIFT 2020-22 it was 3 marks per question. This section typically has the highest cut-off among all sections but here too a score of 25% DI+LR or for LR standalone would be sufficient to clear the cut-off.

Strategy Tip 9: Maximize in LR! This is the section to maximize your scores since the level of difficulty is low-medium and reasoning questions usually have the high marks per question. Questions can be solved in 1-1.5 minutes each. Plan to attempt all questions in this section. In IIFT 2020-22 (and in IIFT2017-19) there was a deviation from this pattern as the LR section was difficult essentially due to incorrect questions and students should have ideally left those questions  alone and focused on DI and RC which were easier.

General Knowledge: This is the area that worries most of the students. GK in IIFT is possibly the most unpredictable among all MBA entrances. It has questions from country-capital-currency, authors-books, business, advertising, films, politics, geography, history etc. In short, anything under the sun can be asked. The saving grace is that the regular newspaper readers are usually able to do well in this section.

For preparation, go through the IIFT GK Compendium and Question Bank. Also, do go through the static questions of last 6 years IIFT papers. The GK app (android) by CL is already out and should be of help in preparing for this section. This GK preparation will also be useful for XAT and SNAP.

Till IIFT 2019-21 the GK had 0.5 marks/question in a 100 mark paper and in IIFT 2020-22 which was a 300 mark paper it became 1.5 marks per question, half of the marks per question of all other sections. However irrespective of the number and marks per question, 6 net-correct answers were sufficient to clear the section, typically the cutoff is around 3-4 correct answers.

 Strategy Tip 10: The Last Word- Plan for about 20 seconds per question in GK, leave the question if you are not sure of the answer. An attempt of around 7-8 questions is good for this section. Do attempt the “match the following” question types and for the others, the right strategy is “when in doubt – leave”.

The speed breaker in this paper is typically DI. Fortunately, this section is combined with LR/QA. Hence look at attempting the bare minimum in DI and maximizing in the other section.

To ensure a good overall score it is important to maximize your score in RC and LR and any buffer time is best spent in one of these two sections. Between LR and RC, it will be preferable to go for RC as it can be attempted by answering the factual questions after skimming the passage. Based on the past papers, DI should be your last preference but in IIFT 2020-22 DI turned out to be the savior, students are thus advised to examine the level of difficulty of each section before attempting it. You can also get IIFT specific online classes. These classes will help you focus on important questions and sections that are IIFT specific.

IIFT Cutoffs – Sectional and Overall:

IIFT 2015-17 IIFT 2016-18 IIFT 2017-19 IIFT 2018-20 IIFT 2019-21 IIFT 2020-22
EU-RC:   6.5 out of 32   
EU-RC:   8.75 out of 31   
EU-RC: 9.67 out of 31    
EU: 3.35 out of 20   
EU: 2.75 out of 15   
EU +RC   : 34 out of 105    
QA-DI:   4.67 out of 35    
QA: 4.34 out of 22   
QA: 4.01 out of 20   
RC: 2.69 out of 16   
RC: 2.34 out of 16   
LR: 4.34 out of 20   
DI-LR: 8.68 out of 33   
DI-LR:   8 out of 36.5   
QA: 3.01 out of 20   
QA: 2.34 out of 20   
QA: 15out of 75    
GA: 2.49 out of 13   
GA: 0.82 out of 14   
GA: 1.99 out of 12.5   
DI: 0.25 out of 15   
DI: 1.01 out of 20   
DI +   LR : 22 out of 90      
LR: 5.67 out of 20   
LR: 2.35 out of 20   
GA: 0.82 out of 9   
GA: 1.14 out of 9   
GA: 5 out of 30    
Overall:   General – 38.5
NC-OBC –   33.5
SC/ST/PH   – 28.5   
Overall:   General – 48.5
NC-OBC –   43.5
SC/ST/PH   – 38.5   
Overall:   General – 48.5
NC-OBC –   43.5
SC- 38.5
ST- 27.17
PH –   28.85    
Overall:   General – 35.5
NC-OBC –   30.5
PH –   23.36
ST –   20.02
SC –   22.69   
Overall:   General – 32.25
NC-OBC –   27.25
PH –   22.25
ST –   20.26
SC –   22.25   
Overall:   General – 138
NC-OBC –   115.5
PH – 89
ST – 89
SC – 89    


Practicing past IIFT papers and Mock IIFT should be the way forward, do attempt at least one IIFT Mock or old IIFT every day till the D-day. These papers are available in CL’s online portal. For a detailed analysis of past years IIFT papers please refer to the analysis page of IIFT exam, here.

All the best.