HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014
Read, debate, argue to make your opinion count
Gauri Kohli, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 19, 2014
First Published: 11:19 IST(19/2/2014)
Last Updated: 10:52 IST(21/2/2014)
(File picture) Students who appeared for the CAT exam discussing the papers after the exam with their parents outside IES New English School, Bandra (E), Mumbai.

Students preparing for the written ability test (WAT) and those currently studying at B-schools say that the most important tip to ace the WAT and the group discussion (GD) is to develop strong opinions about various issues in current affairs.

According to Siddharth Nishar, who has got calls from IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Calcutta and XLRI, “Students need to develop strong viewpoints on any given subject or issue. Opinions need time to emerge as a cohesive part of your understanding of the world around you and are crucial for interviews as well. A healthy habit of reading many different newspapers for balanced viewpoints helps a lot. Having statistics to support your points helps you in GDs and lends weight to your essays.”

Sharing his WAT experience at IIM Ahmedabad, Nishar says, “Do not expect a certain format from a B-school. I went for my IIM Ahmedabad WAT with the presumption that it will be a 10-minute essay on a current affair topic. It turned out to be a 30-minute essay with an open-ended question on something personal and a case-study focused on critical thinking. However, it is important to note the relevance of general awareness here as well… my rudimentary understanding of economics and the social situation of the nation definitely helped.”

Nishar, who scored 99.99 percentile in XAT, 99.96 percentile in CAT and 780/800 in GMAT, says that it is not wise to underestimate this exercise. “First, you are against people of your own calibre, despite the relatively lesser weight that an essay has, it can become the differentiating factor. Second, it decides your mental state before the interview starts.”

Group discussions also merit a lot of preparation, especially if you are not used to speaking and working in groups. Participation in literary activities like debates and elocution competitions is the most fun and effective way to develop well-informed opinions of current affairs as well as presentation skills, he adds.

Talking about the GD at XLRI, Jamshedpur, Nayeera Samar, a first-year student at the institute, says, “Go with an open mind and avoid assuming a stance in the beginning of the GD. Avoid appearing too aggressive or too submissive. Put forth your points with confidence, not aggression. Pitching in at the right time with valid points helps you score more. Cutting people randomly and competing for more air time does not work. Also, it becomes extremely important to speak out the points as clearly and coherently.”

The personal interview is the most crucial part of the selection process as a good performance will  clear a candidate’s entry into a B-school, irrespective of how he or she fared in the GD. “The candidates should be well prepared in all their subjects, including those with work experience. Also, the additional onus on the experienced candidates is to have well-prepared answers to questions related to their work, like why they chose a particular sector, their learning from the sector and how it can help them in their MBA. Also, the candidates should give all answers honestly as the professors interviewing them will in probability be having years of experience and nothing can be worse than a candidate not being honest in his interview. Questions related to one’s interests, hobbies and why a particular field of MBA must be thought over,” says Samar.

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