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GDPI Preparation tips - Rahul Das, IIM Calcutta

Rahul Das is student of IIM Calcutta (PGP 2016-18 batch). He graduated from Jadavpur University in 2016, and scored 99.94 %ile in CAT 2015. Rahul take interest in music and dramatics.

Okay, so the long-awaited D-Day has come and gone. Many of you have performed as per expectations, while some may have a tinge of disappointment, thinking you could have fared a wee bit better. Regardless, no one knows which calls you might actually end up getting, and which ones you won’t. Hence, rather than biting your nails in anxiety and anticipation, how about doing the more sensible thing – Prepare for the next round -- the final hurdle – GD/WAT & PI. There is a good deal of time between now and your interview days, and try to make the most of it. So, I am listing some things, which I believe should come in handy for the next round.

For Personal Interview:

  • Be up-to-date with current affairs- I cannot emphasize this point enough. Chances are that 80% of your interview time will be spent discussing the latest happenings within the nation and worldwide. So, keep yourself abreast of all the latest news, with special emphasis on domains you have special liking in.
  • I have repeatedly been asked whether it is necessary to read business dailies also. Well, to be honest, I did not read any during my time, and it didn’t hurt. But it always helps if you have some idea of what’s happening in the world of business. So, even if you find it boring(and chances are high that you would), do go through a business daily, atleast once every 2-3 days.
  • Brush up basic stuff from your undergrads- See, the basic rationale behind the interviewer checking your undergrad knowledge is seeing how much of the knowledge you have retained, which in turn helps them gauge how much of the knowledge imparted during MBA you are likely to retain. Hence, at least revise the basics, and also take up 2 of your favourite courses during undergrad, and study them in detail. For freshers, it is doubly important that you do this religiously, and to be on the safer side, take 3 courses.
  • Knowledge of Economics and Business Terms- Usually, unless you explicitly mention, interviewers do not ask economics or business/finance related questions. But, they might just meander and land up there, through discussion on some current event(e.g demonetization). Hence, do get a hang of economics by reading some relevant stuff, especially a dictionary of the terms frequently used. Sites like “The Economist” and “Investopedia” can be of help.
  • Hobbies and extra-currics- “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. And you don’t want to be Jack, do you? Something that any interviewer wants to see in you is passion. Hobbies and extra-currics provide you the opportunity to display how you are driven by your passion. So , be sure to highlight whatever extra-curricular achievement you have, and be ready to delve a bit deep into those. Also, ensure that you appear a pro when quizzed about any hobby you have nurtured so far. If this part of the spectrum is sorted, you can easily crack most interviews.
  • Communication Skills – This is very important for both GD and PI. We often have a misconception that speaking fast is synonymous to having good communication skills. Remember, it is never about speaking fast, rather, it is about expressing yourself fully and ensuring that the person at the opposite end understands what you meant. And a tad bit of expression and voice modulation also helps. So, work on your communication skills.
  • Work experience- For people with work experience, do ensure you are thorough about the projects you have taken part in. Also, a detailed knowledge of the company you have worked in and its competitors is highly desired.
  • Puzzles and Brain Teasers – Panelists often like to test your analytical thinking by asking you a mathematical puzzle, or perhaps see how much you can think out of the box, by asking you a tricky brain teaser. Exercise your tiny gray cells, so that you can crack a puzzle when you come across one.
  • General PI questions- Questions which have been confounding aspirants for generations, be sure you can answer them promptly and crisply, questions like:
    • Tell me about yourself?
    • Why MBA?
    • What would you become if not an MBA?
    • Your strengths and weaknesses.

How to go about answering these:

  • About yourself: This should depict your journey from school days to present day, highlighting tour interests and passions, which shaped the crucial decisions regarding your career. You may also highlight a few of your significant achievements.
  • Why MBA: You must provide a compact answer to this. Mostly you need to keep 3 things in mind-

1) How does the MBA program fall in line with your interests.
2) How does it help you in getting closer to your ambitions and future career plans
3) Do you possess the right set of skills and mind-set to contribute positively to an IIM classroom?

  • What if not an MBA: Well, this one is slightly tricky. Do give a deep thought what other ability or likenesses you possess that would have been a career choice for you.
  • Strengths and weaknesses: It is more of a test of how much you know yourself. Also, cite a few examples to underline the strengths and weaknesses you state.

There are a few more questions to this list, I think a bit of googling will more or less give you a clear idea.

  • Temperament- Above all the preparation you have put in, and credentials listed on your CV, one thing which defines who you are is your temperament. So, learn how to control the anxiety and nervousness(and in some cases, overconfidence), and appear the cool, calm and appropriately confident being, who is desired by any top B-School. Don’t stress out your mind with thoughts of whether you will make it, try to come across as the person they will want as their future alumni.

For GD:

Many are of the opinion that a Group Discussion is never a good metric to judge a candidate, but regardless, for those colleges who have it as part of the process, you need to deliver a decent performance. And these things should help you to do so:

  • Current affairs and communication skills: These points have already been elaborated above.
  • Be enthusiastic and ready to take the lead: One thing that separates a good and a bad GD performance is your enthusiasm level. Even if you are not the person who is loud and interrupts others to drive your own point home, sadly, you have to change your habit for those 10 minutes. Practice a few GDs , know how to enter a GD, how to participate constructively, how to mix the right amount of politeness and aggression.

For WAT:

Besides the points already mentioned, some of the checkboxes you should tick for a decent WAT performances are:

  • Know how to construct an argument, and analyze a statement or an issue.
  • Discard the myth that you need to insert earth-shattering words in your essay, it is all about how meaningful and convincing your argument is.
  • Try not to make grammatical errors.
  • Practice a few essays as and when you find time.

IIM C Interview Experience:

There were 3 panelists, two professors[one male(A), one female(B)], one alum(C):

All of them seemed pretty ameable.

A: So, tell me about yourself?

Me: ….(I started with my undergrad, my inclinations, how Jadavpur University shaped me, my hobbies namely dramatics, music, sports, and also my interest in solving puzzles)

[B stops me, right when I say puzzles]

B: So, you said you are interested in puzzle solving . What have you done regarding this interest of yours?

Me: I have hosted puzzle solving and treasure hunt competitions in my college fests, besides, I try to solve puzzles when I find time.

[B seemed convinced]

A: I will ask a question, answer only if you know it, do not guess or give roundabout answers, okay?

Me: (puzzled) ..Okay…

A: What is 5G?

Me: …(Explained the technology)…..(since I was aware of 3G and 4G as well, and the evolution to 5G, explained in entirety)…

A: So, what do you think about its economic viability?

Me: Sir, first of all, the speeds offered are said to go upto 10GBps, which is more than 100 times more than LTE. However, for individual consumers in a country like ours, people might find it too expensive and not worth the cost. However, for big corporations, it can of great use, they have the money to dispose, they just need the technology,

A: So, is it good in terms of value for money?

[In hindsight, I believe this is the answer which nailed my interview :p ]

Me: Sir, one thing it does , is that it saves our time, and nothing can be more valuable than time. So, it is value for money.

C: So, you said you are interested in theatre, what is the last play you watched?

Me: (talked about a recent Bengali play I watched …. Then I was asked about the group, and I explained, and also talked about a couple of other plays by the group)

[Then C asked some random trivia about Soumitra Chattopadhyay, and I answered those]

C: Have you read today’s newspaper? There was a news regarding a meet between Bengal’s top theatre and film artists.

Me: I’m afraid I didn’t get a chance to read today’s newspaper.

C: Why? You should have

Me: .....(explained how impossible it is to have an interview at 8AM, and travel from home at 6AM, and still manage to read a Bengali newspaper)….

C: What do you think about the recent happenings at Jadavpur University?

(To put in context, that was the aftermath of the JNU incident, and there were a couple of movements in JU}

Me: (explained how we are not in favour of any anti-nationalist demonstrations, slogans, and only opposed the police crackdown on campus. )

C: how is the current JU VC.


B: Where have you been placed?

Me: PwC

C: Salary?


B: What do you think about the industrial situation in Bengal?

(Gave my views)

B: How about a simple quants problem?

Me: Sure, would love to try.

B: (some definite integral problem, don’t remember what)

Me: (solved)

B: DO you have anything to ask?

Me: (asked some things about the Innovation park of IIM Calcutta)

B: (explained how it incubates startup, etc etc)

So, that was it, as far as my interview was concerned. All I can say is that no rocket science will be tested, just be calm and composed, and results will follow. All the best.

I have tried to give you some directions along which you can kickstart your preparations for the final frontier. Most of the points I have mentioned are pretty generic, and applies to every aspirant. Ensuring that you are thorough with these should make you well-prepared. In case you have any further query, feel free to ping me on Facebook