How should one prepare for the WAT/PI round for B-School admissions ? - Maruti Konduri

  • Having gone through this process a few years back, I wanted to write down my thoughts on this topic. In the admission process, once CAT is cleared, the unpredictability is over and I feel the GD/PI/WAT process is something you can control well with good preparation. Cracking interviews is a strategic discipline which involves a lot of planning and execution. Keep yourself updated about the current affairs, and that requires you to follow the news regularly. So dedicate at least 1-2 hrs daily for following the news. This will definitely help in you Written Ability Test. You need a deep understanding and opinion about any topic to produce a decent Essay in the stipulated time. Questions are often asked in the interview about the content of your essay and so last minute fact crunching will not help.

    WAT/Essay: The essay you write will be a crucial component of evaluation. Remember that the Professor will spend not more than 3-5 minutes evaluating each essay. You must be able to communicate your thoughts on the topic clearly and consistently within that duration. All the sentences in the essay should be consistent and coherent. Make sure that the sentences you write convey exactly what you intended. Concise sentences are useful in doing this. Having good knowledge about the topic will definitely help. Most of the topics in WAT will be about current affairs or events and you should be abreast with all the recent happenings in the world. If the topic is not based on current events or if it a very abstract topic, your writing and reasoning skills will be tested in the essay. Some common points to make note of while writing an essay:

    • Be Consistent: Your essay must be consistent. Through out the essay your thought process should be consistent. Consistency doesn't mean that given a topic you should either agree or disagree to it completely. You can always be neutral yet be consistent in your thoughts.

    • Be Crisp: See that your essay is conveying what you wanted to. Keep your sentences short.

    • Never appear confused: A topic might generate lot of questions in your mind. But never let that confusion creep into the essay. Write down your thoughts and points on a rough sheet. Keep your confusion to the rough sheet. Your essay should reflect your analysis from those points. Most probably your rough sheet might also be taken and will be evaluated. So the variety of points that you had put down on the rough sheet might add to your evaluation.

    • Provide a flow to the essay: This also follows from the rough sheet. Decide what your pitch will be and provide a logical flow to that. What ever points you are making should appear to be a logical conclusion from what you had said before. Never in the essay should it appear that you are repeating what ever was said before. This will only waste the limited time that you have.

    • Time your essays well: It can only come through practice. Go through some previous WAT topics. Most of them will be relevant even now. Start off with the topics that you are comfortable with and write them down. Review your essays and get them reviewed with someone you know. Then practice with any random topic. It is important that you write down with a pen and only a pen (no typing on the computer).

    • Never take extreme positions: Extreme positions indicate immaturity. Most of the day to day affairs have both pros and cons and it is important to state both the sides and conclude well. For example, "Even though there are many shortcomings in the way IPL is organized, it provides employment and entertainment to a lot of Indians and is hence a boon to Indian Cricket"". This line indicates that you are aware of the shortcomings of IPL, but will still support it. Managers are expected to listen to all points of view and hence taking an extreme position and either rejecting IPL completely or only praising IPL will show the candidate in poor light.

    Personal Interview: PI forms the most crucial part of your evaluation. In most cases, it will be the make or break thing for the candidates. The PI can vary a lot from candidate to candidate. Also you can never guess the way your interview is going by the way it is appearing to go. It is important that you remain calm and focused even when you feel the interview is not going well. Neither should you get complacent/impolite when you feel the interview is going well. With good practice, the flow of the interview can be driven to questions which are in your comfort zone. Most of the interviews start with one of the two questions, "Why MBA ?" or "Tell me about yourself". Prepare well for both of them and try to anticipate the follow up questions. Make a list of topics you are comfortable talking about and prepare the answers for the above two questions in such a way that the follow up question will be driven to the topics of comfort.

    • Never appear rehearsed: There are many questions that you expect during interview for which you might have prepared. But when you are answering those questions, you shouldn't appear monotonous. Your voice should be active and should contain variations. This holds good for all the questions.

    • About Me: This question is often asked at the start of an interview and is a great opportunity for you drive the interview into the topics you are comfortable with. Don't brag about your achievements, but tell the interviewers the things that are interesting about you. Make a map of your life and list out things against each year since your birth - any life changing moments, any inspirations, any passions, hobbies, achievements, failures - make a complete map. Expect questions from your about me - about your undergrad, about your hometown/state, about the city/state that you are currently in. You might also be asked to tell about your positives/negatives, the ratings that you might have gotten in the job/ any professional difficulties that you might have faced in the interviews. Be subtle.

      For example, my answer to the 'About Me' was something like this 'I was born and brought up in Visakhapatanam. After my schooling, my parents moved to Hyderabad and I did my under graduation in IIT Bombay. I am very interested in watching football and support Arsenal in the English Premier League. I enjoy playing chess and solving sudoku.' This is a short answer and the subsequent question would be on either Visakhapatanam, IIT Bombay, Arsenal, Chess or Sudoku.

    • Why MBA: It is an important question and you must know answer to this question as the interviewers will always figure out the answer to this question not by asking directly, but through other questions and conversation. For example, if a student has only software experience, an interviewer would be interested in knowing the reason for the shift to MBA.

    • Undergrad: Expect to have questions from the subjects/stream in your undergrad. The questions can vary from very basic to very detailed. So go through your grade sheets and against each subject, try to figure out what you had learnt. If you had any statistics/probability courses in your grade sheet, expect some detailed questions from that.

    • Hobbies: If you mention any hobbies, you should know about them in depth. For example, if you mentioned that you are interested in chess and the questions that can be expected are

      "What is your favorite chess opening?"
      "How many GMs are there in India?"
      "What is the least number of moves that are needed to mate an opponent?"".

    Try to mention any hobbies of yours which are not too common. Reading books and watching cricket are too cliched and won't interest the interviewer. So, a more specific answer like reading Ayn Rand or watching Ranji Trophy will be more specific and you can expect a few subsequent questions on these topics.

    • General etiquette: Always smile. Enter and exit gracefully. Start the interview politely with a greeting and exit the interview after thanking. Never appear stressed or too relaxed. It is ok to admit that you don't know the answer, don't ramble or make wild guesses. You can ask the interviewers that you would like to guess. You will be given brownie points for trying and for your thought process. Always be honest and ethical. Any hints of unethical thoughts ( be it in your WAT or in PI) will only dim your chances.

    For PIs, it is important that you attend as many mock interviews as possible. Get in touch with people who you think can take your interview. Mocks will only reduce any stress that you might go through during the final interview. If possible try to record your mock interview and review them later. Most of the mistakes that you make will be apparent to you when you hear yourself speak. It is also important that you are interviewing with the right people, who can ask the right questions. I cannot stress the importance of mocks anymore. Plan accordingly and execute well.

    All the best!

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