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HindustanTimes Fri,11 Jul 2014
Belled the CAT? Now get your WAT right
Gauri Kohli , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 19, 2014
First Published: 11:11 IST(19/2/2014)
Last Updated: 11:32 IST(19/2/2014)
Get ready for the written ability test.

After successfully clearing the Common Admission Test (CAT), MBA aspirants are gearing up for the next stage of admission process currently underway at most B-school across the country. These include some of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and institutes such as XLRI, Jamshedpur; Management Development Institute, Gurgaon and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. Students are gearing up for the Written Ability Test (WAT), Group Discussion (GD), and Personal Interview (PI). The GD as a testing tool is being scrapped by most of the IIMs and is gradually giving way to the WAT.

“One of the reasons the IIMs have favoured the WAT over the GD is that the former offers a more equitable platform to all participants to showcase their communication skills without being affected by their personality traits. The WAT is a daunting test for any student as it is a test of one’s written skills, language and style and above all – content,” says Sai Kumar Swamy, director, Triumphant Institute of Management Education, Delhi.

Importance of Written Ability Test

All the older IIMs, barring IIM Shillong, have included the WAT as part of the stage two selection process. The weightage for this component is as low as 7.5% at IIM Kozhikode to as high as 70% at IIM Ahmedabad. Seventy per cent weightage is given to WAT/PI score and 30% to the composite score at the final stage of selection to arrive at the aggregate score. At the IIMs of Bangalore, Lucknow, Calcutta and Indore, the weightage varies from 10% to 15%. Only IIM Lucknow and IIM Kozhikode have included the GD round besides the WAT in their selection process. IIM Shillong does not include WAT or GD in its selection criteria.

What is tested in the WAT?

The WAT is nothing but an essay-writing test albeit with severe time constraints. Students are given a topic and a time limit to finish writing the essay. “Students get 30 minutes at IIM Bangalore; 15 minutes at IIM Lucknow and just 10 minutes at IIM Ahmedabad for this section. Some of the IIMs have also imposed a word limit on the essay whereas in most of the IIMs, the size of the sheet often dictates how much the student can write. So, the key to acing the WAT will be to write as fast as possible in order to finish the essay within the stipulated time,” says Swamy. 

Elements of a good essay, GD

A good essay must have a proper structure with an introduction, main body and a conclusion. “Students should make a rough structure for the essay with key thoughts that they want to express. The thoughts and ideas must flow naturally and should not be jumbled up,” adds Swamy.

Experts say that it is a good idea not to let out your stand instantly in the essay. “Candidates must supplement their argument in the essay with logical examples, data and facts. These add value to your essay. Making sure that there are no grammatical errors and writing a neat essay are the key,” says Gautam Puri, vice president and MD, CL Educate.

Candidates must remember that their essays or opinions expressed during a group discussion are often used by the interview panelists to generate some questions in the PI stage. The panel could ask you questions about the essay and seek clarifications on what you have written, adds Puri.

While it is necessary to put your points across in a fair manner in the GD, it is equally important to focus on the content. What you say must be backed by examples and your argument should make sense.

What you can do without

Taking a provocative stand and getting ­personal in an essay and the GD is one of the most common mistakes that students make. Avoid criticising any person or a political party. Don’t say politicians are the root cause of corruption.

Avoid using jargon or technical terms. Keep the points simple and easy to understand.
 
Make the essay ­interesting and do not bore the evaluators. Understand that the evaluation team is reading hundreds of essays every day and they often skim and therefore the onus is on the student to capture the imagination of the evaluator and make a good first impression.

Be concise and avoid turning the essay into a complete autobiography. Many students try to pack in so much information in a short essay that their essays end up sounding more like a list of life experiences than a coherent, well-organised thought. Make sure that every sentence in your essay exists solely to support one central theme.
 
Many students instead of giving their point of view, try to take a more impactful stand for which they do not have sufficient examples or arguments. Don’t try to be impactful just because you have to.
 
Do not present your arguments in the essay in a haphazard manner. Be rational while putting across your point as it will impact your selection to a B-school of your choice.


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