ACE YOUR Group Discussion – Personal Interview – Writing Ability Test PROCESSES
With the CAT results declared and people experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions all of you have a rough idea of a few colleges where you will realistically have a chance to grab a seat. Preparations for the same should be in full swing. While IIMs follow a WAT-PI method of separating their students from the multiple applicants, several other colleges still encourage the Group Discussion – Personal Interview (GD-PI) process.
A few others have slight variations of the same by introducing a GT (Group Task) or a GE (Group Exercise) instead of the GD. The B schools not only seek students who have a high academic record augmented with a high CAT percentile. They seek students who have crisp communication skills, sharp presentation techniques, and an innate ability to share and defend their opinion in a room filled with people of varying outlooks, opinions and wavelengths.
What exactly do Colleges need?
To get a clearer perspective we can look at MBA colleges as businesses. And like any business, they too have their individual clients (The Corporate) and Products (Students). In a way these schools are trying to sell these products to their clients at the highest possible price (CTC). And like every other business they wish to procure the best of products from the inventory (students clearing their cut off), polish them to the best of their ability (through the entire program) and then put them up for sale (placements).
Once you have this outlook towards colleges, you’ll understand that their role is limited to polishing you as a student, they cannot create a new version of you and neither should activities be expected of them. Hence certain skills need to be inculcated in you as a student beforehand. Skills which the college will gauge through the processes we are describing herein. This is the stage where the wheat gets separated from the chaff, which makes or breaks your chance of grabbing your seat at your preferred college.
With tough competition for the management seats across B-schools CUBIX shares the opinions of toppers and their strategies, challenges and insights as they maneuvered their way to their dream B-school and how they aced the Group Discussion – Personal Interview process
Group discussions in an interview involve discussing topics with individuals you have never interacted with before, how well you’re able to put across your point and are able to lead a discussion is judged upon, based on which how you can work in a team or lead them can be easily assessed. It also portrays to the interviewer a side of your attitude which you might probably display in your workplace.
CAT 2016 topper Rahul Gupta scored a 99.10 percentile and cracked the GT-PI to secure admission at Dept of Management Studies, IIT Madras. Currently pursuing his MBA, Rahul speaks to CUBIX about his Group Discussion experience.
CUBIX: How was your overall GT/GD experience?
Rahul Gupta: Group Discussions usually turn into a fish market scenario but the one conducted by IIT Madras was unlike that. The case given was based on private distribution companies and a lot of participants didn’t have too much idea about it. For me, the several hours dedicated to obscure readings & researching things which seemed irrelevant at that time, came handy. I led the Group Discussion from the outset, putting my thoughts across in a clear manner, delivered by my crisp communication.
CUBIX: What was your approach towards the topic?
Rahul Gupta: I started by writing the topic down on the sheet provided to me and jotting down points pertaining to my knowledge on the same. I asked myself questions on various aspects of it and that led to a few points. PESTEL analysis (Breaking down the situation by looking at it from a Political, Economical, Social, Technical, Environmental and Legal point of views) helped. After that I tried collecting the points from my peers and align it with the initial points I made and this helped the group reached unanimity. Providing an ideal solution, irrespective of how feasible it was, definitely helped gain brownie points from the moderators.
CUBIX: How did u prepare for GD? When and how should an aspirant start prepping seriously for GD?
Rahul Gupta: I started to prepare for Group Discussion – Personal Interview process as soon as the results were declared. I did enrol myself in a coaching institute and attended all the Group Discussion sessions. I always took notes of what others were speaking. It does help a lot. After every Group Discussion session I sought individual feedback from the faculty and tried adhering to it religiously. I think being part of mock GDs is a must as it helps a lot. You learn a lot not only about the topic but also about how to conduct yourself in the Group Discussion which includes your body posture and the way you speak.
Knowledge is the key in the Group Discussion – Personal Interview processes and hence one need to read anything and everything around starting from magazines, newspaper, blogs etc. Being aware of the current affairs is a must. It is also very important to have the ability to listen to others and not to interrupt. Try not to be a part of the fish market and do make your point. It is very important to have a strategy as to when you should make the point so that you are heard.
“Immediately after the CAT exam gets over, MBA aspirants should start preparing for the second stage of selection: the Group Discussion stage. It is very important not to waste time and energy on thinking about your performance in the CAT and how you might have approached particular problems differently. That is a thing of the past and you cannot change it.
The objective of a group discussion is to appraise a candidate’s ability to critically analyze a given piece of information and collectively work in a group to arrive at a solution or develop a perspective. B-schools conduct Group Discussions to find out whether candidates possess the qualities that are critical to become an effective manager.
The rationale behind this exercise is that when a group of students is given a task to accomplish within an unstructured situation, they will try to accomplish it by establishing some order or structure. In this process, they will reveal some of their personality characteristics.”
CUBIX Pro Cheat code:
Try writing names of all the people in the GD. One effective way of silencing someone who is speaking non-stop is to say his name out loud. Call out his name, agree with a point and in the few seconds in which he is trying to process this new unexpected piece of information, speak. Also never, ever, ever interrupt a girl. That counts for twice the negative points allotted for interrupting others.
Written Ability Test
A WAT is conducted to test the candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate his idea, formulate a constructive critique and write the responses in a given time on paper. It is integral for every B school aspirant to know that an essay is drafted into 3 structural components: Introduction, Body and Conclusion. Nilesh Chajjed secured 99.5 in CAT 2016 and is currently pursuing his MBA from IIM Kozhikode.
He speaks to CUBIX to share his WAT experience as well as the strategies he implemented to crack this section, how to structure the essay while keeping in line with the time constraints.
CUBIX: What was your topic for WAT and the approach you followed during your WAT?
Nilesh Chajjed: The topic allotted to me was, ‘Has the introduction of Jio led to serious cash bleed for existing players or is it just another challenge?’ The time limit for the topic was 10 minutes and the word limit was around 200 words. Your command over the clarity in thought and language is developed by practise. This was the simple approach I followed.
My teachers had advised me to practice my writing skills at the time I started preparing for CAT and therefore I used to blog frequently. This helped me improve on my writing skills. The approach is to maintain your composure, jot down points first and then elaborate.
CUBIX: How did you prepare for WAT, your Time Management strategy?
Nilesh Chajjed: I took regular sessions and lectures wherein we were instructed to write on a variety of topics-from abstract to current affairs. The feedback and the counsel I received from my guides helped in eliminating common errors. Initially I used to write a minimum of 1 article each week from the time of the CAT result upto the start of the various Group Discussion – Personal Interview procedures.
With the advent of social media and various messaging communication apps, our perchance of writing has taken a massive hit. This could only be corrected by rigorous practice, for which I used to write a small article on a general topic every day. While reading several online forums, I came across interesting topics for WAT. I selected a few of those topics, read about them online and practiced writing an article on the same.
This helped me get a better grasp on writing and helped me get a better grasp on my thoughts. While writing WAT, managing time is very important. One needs to write regularly to get a good hold on the thought process and put down the thoughts into words into the given time schedule.
My strategy involved devoting 1.5-2 minutes for gathering points and designing a rough structure. 1 minute after that was set for writing down hints and order of the essay. 5 minutes were allotted to write the main essay followed by 2 minutes for review. This reviewing process is something which gave me an edge over others.
CUBIX: How did you structure your essay writing along with the time constraint?
Nilesh Chajjed: My strategy involved devoting 1.5-2 minutes for gathering points and designing a rough structure. 1 minute after that was set for writing down hints and order of the essay. 5 minutes were allotted to write the main essay followed by 2 minutes for review. This reviewing process is something which gave me an edge over others.
CUBIX: Is there any advice for aspirants who’re appearing for WAT this year?
Nilesh Chajjed: Please practice writing daily. Devote enough time every day to read newspaper (The Hindu was my Bible) so that you stay updated on current affairs as well as develop an opinion on the same. This will help you in both WAT and PI. While you practice writing, keep the following points in mind:
- Do not start writing from the outset. Take a few minutes to think of what you’ll write initially
- Time yourself
- Try to present a balanced view on the topic
- Ensure your tenses are correct throughout the essay
- Practice writing on different topics, not only on the ones you like
- Structure your thoughts first, instead of starting your essay the moment you get the paper.
- Keep the language simple and don’t overuse jargons
- Be concise
- Write regularly
- Leave time for proof reading. Its importance can’t be overstated
“The parameters of evaluation for WAT are:
- Quality of content Facts
- Interpretation or Analysis
- Quality of Logical arguments
- Support your Conclusion
- Clarity of Language
- Basic Spelling and Grammar
While the mentioned parameters are exhaustive, each B-School decides which of these parameters they should give more weight-age to. A candidate must have the right attitude towards work and studies, which gives him that extra edge which led you to have a successful admission into your dream B-school or IIM.”
CUBIX Pro Cheat Code:
Remember the person correcting your WAT has to correct a good number of WATs that very day. Think of your essay from his perspective. Knowing your target will help you in reaching a couple of conclusions yourself. We enlist a few tips based on that right here:
- Make introduction catchy yet abstract so that the examiner isn’t very sure of what to expect in the body.
- If you give a hint of the point you’re driving at in the introduction with a quote, the examiner will skim through the body and award average marks to you. Therefore, quotes, unless abstract, are to be avoided.
- Purpose of introduction is to bring the attention of the reader to the body, ensure that function is served.
- In the body make 5 points talking about your point of view on the topic at hand.
- Most B-schools encourage opinions more than facts, hence don’t be shy to express an opinion.
- B-schools historically prefer British English over American English. Therefore stick to the British spelling over its US counterpart. ‘Labour’ instead of ‘Labor’, ‘Honour’ instead of ‘Honor’, ‘Bonnet’ instead of ‘Hood’, ‘Grey’ instead of ‘Gray’, ‘Theatre’ instead of ‘Theater’ you get the gist don’t you.
Personal Interviews are conducted to know the candidate first hand and have an opportunity to speak about their background, lifestyle, and experiences. This allows the panel to gauge whether the candidate has the ability and skills to be able to deal with the entire rigmarole of the MBA curriculum, and whether (s)he can successfully design and pursue a career in management.
Kritika Tyagi secured 98.58 in CAT 2016 and is currently pursuing her MBA from IIM Calcutta. She speaks to CUBIX to share her PI experience as well as her strategies to crack this section of the admission procedure.
CUBIX: How many members were there in your interview board, and how was your interview structured?
Kritika Tyagi: There were three members in my interview panel. My interview began with an exchange of pleasantries during which the panel glanced through my profile sheet. The questions were related to my work experience initially before they moved to topics I studied in my under graduation, finally culminating in a discussion on national issues like Demonetization, possible ramifications of the implementation of GST, political scenarios in Tamil Nadu and the Jalikatthu debate.
Then they asked me the reasons for leaving my previous job and what other colleges was I interviewing for. The entire process lasted 20-22 minutes.
CUBIX: How did you prepare for your PI?
Kritika: My preparation for the personal interview rounds comprised of preparation of responses for standard questions and a detailed round-up of news and current affairs. Apart from this, I read up on a few subjects covered in the course and related them with real-time instances from my work.
I enrolled for a few mock sessions as well, wherein I got a chance to be interviewed by current IIM C students and ex IIM A Director of Admissions wherein I had the chance to test my responses.
This was very important as mock Personal Interviews enable the candidate to identify flaws or possible pitfalls in his/her responses and modify them in time before the actual Personal Interview.
CUBIX: What is your advice for aspirants for PI?
Kritika: Group Discussion – Personal Interview processes are a highly subjective assessments since there is no hard and fast rule to ace them. What might work for one person may not work for another. Also even if you are a working professional, you need to be well versed with your undergraduate subjects. Brushing up on current affairs, having an opinion on the same is critical.
Also age-old questions like ‘Tell Me Your Strengths-Weaknesses’ are not asked anymore. Strengths form a part of the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’, whereas weaknesses are disguised when they talk to you about your shortcomings.
“The most important thing is to be confident when you answer questions during your PI. Prepare well for current affairs for the Group Discussion – Personal Interview processes. Even if the first few PIs you appear for do not go as well as planned, do not get disheartened, and do not let that affect your performance anywhere else. It is important to be thorough, confident and honest for a positive selection.”
CUBIX Pro Cheat Code:
- Drive the conversation towards your strengths
- Show how you’re working on your weaknesses. This can be done with a statement like, “Had you asked me about my weaknesses 2 months before I would’ve said x.” This will lead to the next question which will be,”What have you done about it?”
- Greet the panel with a smile. You’re never groomed properly without a smile.
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