Clearing MBA entrance tests such as the CAT is a challenging proposition. Nearly 1.75 lakh people anually contend for the few thousands of seats available in the top B-schools of the country. As the second stage of the selection process is currently on, it’s now time to focus on preparing for the group discussion (GD), written ability test (WAT) and personal interview (PI).
Eleven out of 13 IIMs have replaced group discussions with essay writing (WAT). WAT is being used as a tool to gauge an aspirant’s ability to display their communication, clarity in thought and expression, something that a GD might not be able to provide a platform to participants. This seems to be the reason why most of the IIMs seem to have replaced GDs with WAT in their selection process.
Apart from the GD, WAT and PI – the major parameters in the second stage, the schools may also look at the academic record, work experience and diversity in profile. While the exact weightage given to each of the components varies from school to school, the role of the second stage is to test an aspirant’s knowledge levels, analytical ability and seriousness in pursuing the course.
Written Ability Test
A written ability test assess es candidates on several parameters like social and ethical values, clarity of thought, focus, empathy, logical bent of mind, powers of persuasion and effective expression. The candidates need to understand the topic closely before proceeding to express their thoughts on the topic. Often, an unclear understanding of the topic leads to abstract and convoluted writing.
Most of the students might have lost touch with their ability to write in a clear and concise manner after schooling. Therefore, they should practice writing an essay everyday. They can start with simple topics relating to their areas of interest and then gradually move to difficult/complex topics. They should read articles related to important issues and other key developments that have taken place in the past one year. While writing emphasise on brevity, logic and grammar. Write in the active voice as far as possible. The essay must have a distinct beginning, middle and end.
Points to remember while writing an essay:
* Develop / collect ideas with concise yet vivid details.
* Organise the ideas
* Develop the ideas
* Express them and then review them.
Also, while writing essays one should avoid using cliched, oversused examples. Do not quote uncertain data and irrelevant references. Do not make regional, communal or gender-biased expression and avoid jargon that is related to any specific subject. The number of words in an essay could range from 300-700 words and could comprise of at least three paras. The need to write as fast as possible is high. It is important to understand that different IIMs have different nomenclature given to essay writing. IIMB calls it a ‘note’, IIMC calls it a ‘Writing Ability Test,’ IIML and Kashipur call it a ‘Written Ability Test’. The time alloted for essays also varies from institute to institute. For example, IIMB gives 30 minutes, IIML gives 15 minutes and IIMA as little as 10 minutes.
Personal Interview (PI)
An interview provides an opportunity to the interviewer to peep into the candidates mind and understand their thought-process. An interview at a top B-School primarily tests the attitude of the student towards various situations, as it is ‘attitude’ that determines the level of success a person can achieve – be it in personal life or in professional life.
An interview also reveals among other things, how you ‘react’ to various situations as it involves thinking on your feet.
What interviewers at b-schools look for
An interview panel looks for candidates who have the potential to become effective managers after completion of their management course. They check for candidates who have clear ideas, width and depth of knowledge and the ability to look at things with a holistic view. They also look at the moral and ethical value system of the individual concerned, and how the candidate will be able to contribute to the industry and the society at large. The interview panel checks the candidates on the following points:
* Good level of knowledge
* Clear understanding of core concepts of various issues
* Clarity of thought
* Communication skills
* Personality, attitude, and the way you react to situations
* Thought process in terms of career planning
Types of questions asked in an interview
Broadly the questions in a personal interview will span the following areas and candidates should do sufficient background work without missing out on any of these
* Questions related to personal background
* Why management as a discipline choice
* Short and long term goals
* Questions on academics
* Questions on job profile and other organisation-related matters (for those with work experience)
* Questions related to one’s personality (strengths / weaknesses)
* Questions on hobbies and extra-curricular activities
* Questions on general knowledge and current affairs
The author is director, TIME Kolkata