The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) test two important abilities in a candidate: his/her writing ability through what is usually called a Written Ability Test ( WAT ) and his/her ability to participate in a group discussion (GD). The candidate has to fare well in other components of the selection process, too, which includes the personal interview, before being offered the coveted seat.
Several things are tested through these WATs and GDs. These help in ascertaining a student’s knowledge and awareness, maturity level, ability to take the group with him/ her etc.
Content is arguably what will stand the aspirant in the best possible stead. Therefore, for a student to do well in this crucial make or break stage of the selection process, it is imperative that she/he regularly reads a variety of subjects. This could be the single most important area for the student to concentrate on. The focus will need to be on the “why” and “how” of events. Editorials, news analyses, letters to the editor etc in newspapers and magazines are an absolute must.
Good reading — and reflecting on things — will also enable the MBA aspirant to develop a balanced view. This balanced, rational approach will enable the student get rid of biases and rigid, one-dimensional, almost dogmatic approach to things.
It is important that the student strives for a constant improvement in his/her ability to express himself/herself, whether written or oral, in a simple and crisp manner; fancy language is no substitute for content! Nor should the students try to attempt complicated words etc if they are not sure of the spellings! Equally crucial is avoiding slang like ‘guys,’ ‘wanna’, and ‘bucks’!
In a GD, the moderator is looking for four important things: content, communication, group behaviour and leadership skills. Essentially the focus is on understanding the ability of the candidate to communicate his/ her knowledge or views in a manner that is pleasant and non offensive. A smiling and confident face, good eye contact with all members (and not just the ones on his/her side), openness to the other person’s point of view and a heart and mind free from biases will show the participant in good light. Colloquial terms should be avoided at all costs. The participant will simply need to participate cheerfully and constructively in the group discussion . The IIMs choose GDs that are topic-based or abstract. Writing essays for many, is a veritable nightmare. However, all that the aspirant has to do is to get started.
In WAT, the student will need to adhere to the word and time limit, be legible, be grammatically correct, avoid spelling mistakes and ensure that there is no scoring-off. The thoughts will need to be organised well in separate paragraphs for introduction, main body and conclusion. As always, the challenge for the aspirant is to give the reassuring impression to the reader that she/he is well informed and is thus open and free from dogma. The additional challenge in WAT is that, unlike in a GD, there are no fellow-participants on observing whom, the candidate can do mid-course correction in case the topic was initially incorrectly interpreted.
The author is GM, academics, Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt Ltd