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Why every WAT-GD-PI call-getter should write the IIM-B SOP

One of the things about preparing for a b-school personal interview, especially that of an old IIM, is that one struggles to find a structure to prepare for what can potentially be the most random 20 minutes of one’s life. I am sure my previous post, despite my intentions, would have scared readers rather than re-assured them. So let us see how you can bring some structure into your PI Prep. Read More

Preparing for a pandemic PI

Now that the CAT scorecard is out, the time to start preparing for WAT-GD-PI has come. But how does one go about it? Especially in a year, or should I say season, such as this (somehow I feel that the New Year will truly start only when the mask becomes unnecessary, until then we are living in the pandemic’s orbit not the planetary orbit).

I think we will not be too far off the mark in assuming that this year the only process will be an online PI — a bulk of the professors are not really young, spring chickens with tons of immunity to go around, so getting them to travel to different cities and conduct interviews even as the vaccine is getting rolled out is not a risk that professors and schools will be willing to take.

Some of the schools might scrap the WAT and others might do an online WAT.

So how do you go about preparing in the face of such uncertainty since preparing and not preparing for WAT are, on the face of it, two different things altogether?


Prepare for an All-In-One Personal Interview — A longer PIs with a dedicated OAT section

Since they might not be able to conduct WATs and GDs, I will not be surprised if the selection process will allocate more marks and time to PIs, (given the logistical ease of online PIs) and ensure that the things that are tested in WATs and GDs are tested in the PI.

So within the time set aside for a PI they might carve out a 5-10 minute space to test your views through an OAT or Oral Assessment Test during which the panel might probe your take on an issue.

Another thing they might do is first give you time for an Extempore (you will be given a minute and a topic to speak uninterrupted) on a topic and then probe and discuss it.

If they genuinely want to test your awareness of the world around you, setting aside the other skills that WAT and GDs test, then an OAT or an Extempore is a very likely possibility.

The reason I think that this might be possible is that they have anyway over the years made the PIs primarily about your General Awareness in the context of your life, all they need to add is the General Awareness of the world around you, which they tested through GD and WAT.


Do an audit of the big talking points this year

Given what we discussed so far, you should make a list of the big topics, like the Farm Bills mentioned above, this year and do a thorough audit and prepare for the same along the lines:

  • Pandemic
    • Which country has the highest numbers?
    • What are the numbers in India, in your state, your city?
    • How did the pandemic change your life?
    • What are pros and cons of work-from-home or study-from-home?
    • Should work-from-home be a permanent feature?
    • How do you think India handle the crisis?
    • Did you travel during the pandemic?
  • Farm Laws
    • what is your view on the farmer protests
    • do you think govt. handled the issue properly
    • do you think there are issues that have been ignored by both parties
    • what do you think of protest as a tool in general
    • have you ever protested at whatever level
  • Cryptocurrency
    • what is cryptocurrency?
    • should crypto trading be allowed?
    • what are other applications of blockchain?

After reading up enough on the various topics, practice speaking out your take on the same into a camera with a 1-minute time-limit

These are just the most important issues, IMS students can attend the WAT-GD-PI Webinars that have started and that will comprehensively cover all the other major issues as well as knowledge inputs (basics of economics etc.) that might need. You will have other resources as well the details of which can be found here — https://www.imsindia.com/GD-PI/


As far as the rest of the questions go, going by student testimonials and transcripts over the last few years, barring IIM-B, none of the schools seems to have a fixed yardstick for asking questions.

If panels have one thing in common it seems to be their mistrust of candidates and the claims they make. Most panels start with the premise that the only thing the candidate wants is to make more money and hence it might be useless to start asking them The Big 5 Standard Questions —

  • Tell us something about yourself
  • Describe your work experience
  • Why do want to do an MBA
  • What are your long-term and short-term goals
  • List your strengths and weaknesses

They would rather test out your mettle by grilling you on the things you mention in the form or on current affairs. They will use the standard questions as a surprise element when you are least prepared for it or they might not use it at all.

So do you go about preparing for this randomness apart from the Current Affairs prep?


Draw the largest circle with yourself as the center

The PI is primarily a test of the stuff of you are made of. So right at the center of it — a lamb to the slaughter or a gladiator in the Colosseum (though it is best you don’t think of yourself as either the latter or the former) — is you.

So draw a circle with you as the centre and divide it into four quadrants.

Quadrant 1 — Your Personal Background

This quadrant contains all the information that is relevant to you as a person

  • the meaning of your name,
  • the number of districts, rivers, Lok Sabha Seats, the recent events, the future elections, famous personalities, anything and everything to do with the state you are from or the state you were born and raised in
  • your parent’s profession in case there are questions there, for example, a defense kid might get asked about the services

Quadrant 2 — Your Educational Background

This quadrant as the name suggests deals with all questions that can be relevant to your educational background — yes, your engineering subjects will haunt you for one last time.

Usually, the questions can fall into two types

  • Lowest Hanging Theoretical Concepts in your discipline — The panelists might not be from your discipline but they will have enough top-level knowledge about a wide range of subjects to ask you basic questions from any are. For example, students with a commerce background might be asked the difference between single-entry and double-entry accounting, a mechanical engineer might be asked questions on thermodynamics and an electrical engineer might be asked about Kirchoff’s laws. So you need to revise the basic concepts across the most important subjects in your graduation.
  • Practical applications of your discipline — This applies more to engineering and science graduates. Panelists may ask an electronics and telecommunications engineer the difference between 3G, 4G & 5G or how Bluetooth works or what is iOT, a mechanical engineer about how CVT or automatic transmission works etc. IMS students will get a book with all the previous year’s questions, scouring through that is the best way to find out the kind of questions that have been asked in the past.

Quadrant 3 — Your Professional Background

Working professionals will be expected to know more than the projects they are working on. So everything ranging from the turnover of your firm to those of your major competitors, the CEOs of the big firms in your industry, the recent controversies or happenings in your field ( if you work in the auto sector, you might be asked about electric cars and Tesla and Musk) and the major trends shaping your industry.

Quadrant 4 — Your Hobbies and Interests

Whatever you mention as your hobbies and interests you need to have an in-depth idea about the same. What do I mean by in-depth?

If you say you love football, then you need to know everything from the weight of the football, circumference of the football, dimensions of a football field, dimensions of the goal-post and everything about your favorite team.

If you say you love trekking, then you need to know what the highest mountains in the world are, what the highest motorable road in the world is etc.

This would technically be the largest circle you can draw around yourself that you need to fill with every GK or CA question that can be asked within this circle.

It goes without saying that you might not be able to learn everything about football. For example, a panelist might ask you, do you remember Zidane’s Champions League volley? You might say yes, very much, it is one of the great goals in football, the panelist might say, which team was Real playing against in that Final. Some of you might know, some of you might not. So do not freak out thinking about the most random things that can be asked.

On any topic, there is a circle that denotes your knowledge and a circle that denotes the panelists’ knowledge. Your job is to maximize the chances of overlap.

And remember, the harder you work, the luckier you will get.

A timing strategy for the XAT

 

I never thought I will be doing a timing strategy post since the CAT has gone with fixed sectional time-limits for a long time now. But a reader asked for one for the XAT and thought it might not be a bad idea to do a short post on the same.

I have always preferred a test without sectional time-limits since it tests a crucial quality required for management — optimizing resources to achieve maximum return on investment. In this case, the resources are your own skills and the investment is your time. 

So how does one go about using the 165 minutes on the XAT?

Read More

How to crack XAT Decision Making – Part I

One of the most tedious and inscrutable sections that you will find across all management entrance tests, Decision Making has been the nemesis of many a XAT aspirant. A lot of factors contribute towards DM possibly being the biggest stumbling block on the XAT. But none is bigger than the fact the amount of time any test-taker would have spent preparing for DM when compared to any other section is minuscule. This coupled with the dislike and unease most aspirants have towards reading, and the extremely subjective nature of questions ensures that DM ends up becoming the deal-breaker as far as the XAT is concerned. Read More

How to prepare for the XAT

A curious phenomenon repeats itself year after year when the results of the CAT and the XAT come out – there is little overlap between the students who crack CAT and those who crack XAT. In other words, a largely different set of test-takers ends up cracking each test.

Why is this so? It is almost like one of the GMAT CR question types – which of the following provides the best explanation for the phenomenon described above? 

The answer(s) to this question will also hold the key to know how to prepare to ace the XAT! Read More

A timing strategy for the IIFT

 

I never thought I will be doing a timing strategy post since the CAT has gone with fixed sectional time-limits for a long time now. But a since IIFT does not have one I thought it might not be a bad idea to do a short post on the same.

I have always preferred a test without sectional time-limits since it tests a crucial quality required for management — optimizing resources to achieve maximum return on investment. In this case, the resources are your own skills and the investment is your time. 

So how does one go about using the 120 minutes on the IIFT?

Read More

What after a horrible CAT?

Be it the day of the CAT or be it when the final admits results come out it is not easy to be a mentor — on one hand you are happy for students who crack the exam and get an admit and on the other hand you are also tinged with sadness for those who have a bad test day or fail to convert. The toughest thing was always to meet a student who is happy, knowing that the one waiting outside is sad. So with the years one develops a certain equanimity since one cannot be so happy that one is not able to empathise with the ones who are having a hard time and one also cannot get so bogged down by sadness that one cannot partake in the joy of the successful.

In some cases students just disappear, somehow they take it very personally, that they have failed, they have failed even after reading all the blogs and all attending all the sessions, they feel almost as if they have let me down. And I am left wondering, whatever happened to that guy. The others thankfully come down to meet me or reach to me through the blog comments even if it is just to feel lighter instead of heavy and burdened.


There are two things about cliches — they are dead boring since they have been repeated so often but at the same time, they are also true, so are all the cliches about failure, I won’t repeat them but I will attest that they are true.

In one of the recent posts, I spoke about how every one has to face a test and how heroes in myths are defined by overcoming obstacles. The thing about myths is that they rarely show heroes failing at a task spectacularly — they only show heroes’ failings or weaknesses (Rama in the way he treated Sita post his rescuing of her).

But if we look at real life successes, almost every spectacular success has had a a big failure or inability as well. I am not linking failure to success or calling it a pre-requisite.

All I am saying is, everyone fails, so do not go beating yourself about it.


There is nothing to be gained from self-flagellation

The first reaction understandably is to hit oneself with an emotional sledgehammer and of these the worst one is — I am useless, I am not smart enough, I suck, I do not have the skills to crack this exam, no matter what I do it will not change a thing.

Firstly, I will be happy if you are telling yourself all of these in anger rather than through a bucket of tears since anger with oneself can be a very good motivator.

But whether you are telling yourself these things through anger or through tears you need to quickly move from “I suck” to I suck at this particular aspect of CAT, from being emotional to being strategic.

  • This was the first time I took an entrance test and I was overwhelmed by it
  • My reading speed was the biggest hindrance when the paper became tough
  • Before the test I did not talk myself through what I was going to execute during the three sections
  • Before the test I did talk myself through things but everything went out of the window once the test started
  • I did not hunker down and solve 2 DI sets but flitted from set to set
  • I could not solve tough QA questions from Arithmetic, my level plateaued at easy and moderate questions
  • My technique to solve evaluative RC questions was not really upto the mark

My favourite story when it comes to dealing with doubts about one’s ability is Brian Lara’s answer when questioned about being McGrath’s bunny (he has got him quite a few times), Lara did not talk about the number of centuries he scored against Australia or the single-handed manhandling of a peak Australian team over an entire series, all he said was — someone from the opposition has to get me out some time, right?


Evaluate the extent of damage and your options and view things in proportion

The right lens to view things should not be through your success or failure at CAT 2020 but in terms of your prospects of doing an MBA from a premier b-school.

Just like the extent of damage in a war varies across the various battlefronts, the damage, if any, to your MBA dreams, varies across different profiles.

Who are the aspirants who are worst hit?

Those who already have 4 years of work-experience and had a horrible CAT 2020 are the worst hit since another shot at the CAT and the 2-year MBA is effectively ruled out; they only have the rest of the exams in this season to make it count. (It is not that you will get rejected, you can still get an admit into a 2-year program but the number of recruiters looking at a 5-year profile will be fewer; you will still be able to get the career growth you are looking for in your domain)

Those who have three years of work-ex will still have a marginal shot at the CAT next year but to stay close to the average profile in a b-school (having 4 or more years of work-ex will make the profile a bit of an outlier) they should crack one of the remaining exams in this season.

Those who have 2 years or fewer have work-ex have nothing to worry about as far their MBA dreams go, they are well and truly alive, you can still get there, not when you wanted to and in the way you wanted to but you can still get there.

Some of you might wonder whether you have it in you to take another shot. We you do not have another option.


Roger Federer played from 2012 Wimbledon to 2017 Australian Open, 17 Slams, without winning a single slam, being stuck at 17, losing to players who were not in the same league as him. At every single slam during those five years my friend and I would talk, just before the semis or finals, about how well Fed was playing, the new things that he was inventing — the SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger) — and as usual the crazy points in the matches until then, only for him to lose again.

There were articles asking why he was still playing. I was supporting him saying that it need not be #1 or nothing, as long as he is easily making finals and semis and believes he can win he should play since he is still ranked in the top 4 and since unlike in a team sport, he is not delaying a transition or eating into the prime years of a youngster. In effect, even I had ruled out the chance of him winning again, I was happy that he was competing well.

Federer is great not because he has won 20 Slams but because he believed in himself so much, believed in himself through four years of heart-breaking failures, four years of aging and his body breaking down in 2016, while others were catching up with him.

I am sure no victory tasted sweeter to him than the 2017 Australian Open when he finally won a Slam again. (I have never felt more elation at the end of a sports match than while watching him win the 2017 Australian Open)


All of you are so young, this exam season is still young, you have enough time to acquire the skills your skills to crack the CAT at another shot (if required).

Cut all the negative voices out of your head, your own voice, that of your parents as well, if necessary (since all most Indian parents seem to care about is the timing of your wedding and how another shot affects that).


They will release the paper with your response in a day or two and we will release a tool to calculate your score — this can cause another meltdown, it is never easy to actually see the marks, if you know you did not do well do not try to find out, let the results come out when they come out.


Some of you might be raring to go smash the other tests to smithereens, and some of you might be feeling out of gas and motivation to pick yourself up.

The latter, please give yourself a break, do the things you like to do, eat the things you like to eat, and relax for the rest of the week, restart on Monday.

There is little you can do right by pushing yourself without a break or good rest and being a bunch of ragged nerves.


Getting ready for the next event

It is not easy to crack the test on your first or second attempt unless you are on the top of your game for at least 10 to 15 mocks with additional reserves to handle a tougher paper. I cleared the test on my second attempt.

Even those of you who have set your sights firmly on the old IIMs will be taking a few more tests, at least the IIFT exam and the XAT. Now that you have the CAT monkey off your back go ahead full-throttle on these other tests.

Even if you have decided on another shot at the CAT and IIM-A, give the other tests you have registered for seriously, crack a final admit to IIFT, NMIMS, SIBM, or even XL and then reject it. — achieve something this season and set yourself higher goals for next year.


Some of the comments to this post are very good and some of you might find an echo of your performance, current state, and questions in them.



P.S: The picture with this post is not of Federer but of Marin Cilic (crying) after he lost the 2017 Final to Federer.


“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”