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How to prepare for WAT-GD-PI – I

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? It all seems like a vast sea with no beginning and no end. A single post covering all the three — WAT, GD & PI — will be unwieldy, to say the least, so I will do a series of posts that will help you kick-start your prep for the second-stage.

What is the common thread tying WAT, GD & PI?

On the face of it it might seem like WAT, GD & PI are different beasts altogether and besting each one of them requires different skill-sets. Well at some level they can be equated to the different formats in cricket — Test Cricket, ODIs & T20s (not in any order) — while the format is different and there are specialists in each format, the core skill tested are cricketing skills.

Over the years the core skill tested in each of GD, WAT  and PI is your awareness of Current Affairs.

That GDs and WATs test GK and Current Affairs is something that need not be stated. But even in PIs interviewers want to test how aware you are of the world around you. For example, they might ask you to

  • name all the districts in your home state as you travel from North to South
  • the names of CEOs of leading companies in your sector
  • your view on recent political events in your state or sector
  • your view on events of national importance or policy

Your knowledge of people and important trivia about what you call your hobbies (it is trivia because it is just a statistic but it is important because you have mentioned something as your hobby)

So what you need to first understand is that at some level the second stage is closer to preparing for the Civil Services, albeit a very watered down version.

In this post, we will deal with how to go about preparing for the WAT.

What kind of topics crop up in GDs & WATs?

The topics for GDs and WATs broadly fall into four categories:

  • Policy-based
  • Issue-based/Topical
  • Lateral-Abstract

Policy-based WAT-GD topics

These are the kind of GD-WAT topics you do not want to encounter in the second-stage since their focus is on important policies or legislation that has been in the news in the year past. For example, what were the big policy-based debates in the last year?

  • The CAA, NRC, and NPR
  • Privacy and Big Tech
  • Article 370
  • The Collapse of the Paris Accord
  • India and the RCEP

The topics above revolve around policies/legislation/agreements that have been passed/inked or are in the process of the same.

The challenge as it will be obvious is that they don’t lend themselves to easy opinion-making. A lot of the discussion or the essay has to revolve around the facts and only from there can a position be argued.

Some institutes such as IIFT, tend to favour topics based on economic policy such as the last one in the list above.

Thankfully every year there are only one or two heavy-weight policies such as these. So this year, the key policy-related topics will be the ones listed above.

Issue-based or Topical WAT-GD Topics

Every year there are a few issues/events that capture both public and media imagination, generate a lot of debate and hence become topics worthy to be discussed in a WAT or a GD. The IIMs and other premier b-schools would like to see how prospective students view this issue, what sort of a perspective they have and how well they are able to put forth their arguments.

What have been the big issues over the past year? To name a few

  • Citizen versus State 
  • The rise of the strongman politician 

It is important to note that the topics might not always be presented in a straightforward manner. The topics above would need you to know not just about what is happening nationally but also about what is happening internationally both in terms of issues and in terms of politicians.

While these are specific issue-based topics. There are other topics that are based on wider debates of a more topical nature. For example,

  • Can India overtake China in terms of  GDP?
  • Economy versus Ecology
  • Should capital punishment be abolished?
  • Entrepreneurship and India

Lateral-Abstract WAT-GD Topics

And then there are topics that do not test your knowledge of current affairs or policies. For example,

  • It is better to trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.
  • If there was one invention/discovery from the past(recent or distant) that you would have liked to have made which one would it be and why?
  • A true traveller is never bothered about the destination and is not intent on arriving.
  • Space.

How and where does one start preparation for WAT-GD-PI?

Well, if there was a pill or an injection or a book that would deliver all the information you would need neatly packaged, I would give that to you.

But from this point on, the point after you have cleared the written test, your success in life will not rely on your ability to reproduce things from books or the ability to solve problems that have nothing to do with the real world. The road to success is not paved with MCQs and past papers, it will be more hard to win.

So I would want you to start your WAT-GD-PI Prep by putting in the effort to gather information/opinion/analyses from various sources.

And if there is one place to really get in-depth information around the Indian economy, industry reports, policies, future roadmaps, it is this

You might have to create an account to download PDFs but do it.

Please understand that you will be facing similar GDs three months into your study at a b-school when faced with Summer Placements.

You need to stop being a student or a techie and start thinking like someone who wants to enter the world of business management and build a great career. And that will not happen if you are not curious enough to read all the McKinsey articles.

For articles on issue-based topics, you need to look no further than these three sites ScrollOpen, Caravan.

If you start reading from these sources straightaway then by the time you get our GD-PI Handbook with previous year’s topics and questions arranged college-wise you will be in a position to tackle them.

So start your WAT-GD-PI preparation by

  • Reading the newspaper inside out every day, including the Business, World News & Editorials sections
  • Researching the policy-based topics listed above
  • Reading articles from the sources mentioned

All IMS classroom students will get access to

  • 35 “How To” videos that will cover all aspects of how to handle — GDs, WATs, CDs, GEs, GIs and PIs 
  • 5 e-Books that cover Current Affairs, Previous Years’ PI Questions, Insitute Specific PI Transcripts, MBA Specializations Information, Form-Filling Guidelines
  • WAT-GD practice, Mock PIs, and
  • 2-day National Achievers Workshop (a boot camp that usually reduces a few students to tears)

You can learn more about the IMS GD-PI Module here.

For starters, I have put together a GD-PI Toolkit with relevant articles, I will be adding more articles as we go along.

The next post will be on how to prepare for your PI.



    • Hi Paras,

      I think I mentioned in a post that I had a pretty forgettable, terribly rusty, CAT-day; so only a 142.

      I need to start teaching again, can’t just show up on test day 🙂

      Hope, unlike me, at least you are happy with your performance!


      • Srimonti Kundu says

        With all due respect sir, don’t you think with pro tutors with their field expertise especially concentrated to specific sections in CAT badly skews the Sectional cutoffs and causes genuine candidates to miss calls from particular colleges due to that? Why sectionals, even overall cutoffs are skewed especially when your applying or not applying for admission doesn’t matter as ALL IIMs release the cutoffs before the actual test. You have had your time you have competed with your batch and are where you are today; now you need to STOP! When it’s your students out there competing for covetous seats in colleges you need to act as a positive catalyst not a negative one. I mean no hate, and i know it’s not limited to you but there are many such individuals out there whose very profession is to teach how to ace management entrances and who pit themselves against their own students and cannibalize their opportunities. If you argue that a deserving candidate will stand out no matter what; I would like to draw your attention to the demographic situation of India where population outnumber resources by a huge margin. In such a situation pushing in professionals(with years of experience streamlined to mentor for a particular test, sometimes their expertise limited to a particular section of the test) in the competition pool is completely unfair for genuine candidates(who are using the test for what it’s meant to be; seeking admission).


      • Hi Srimonti,

        Firstly, as teachers at IMS, we are not individuals who use our test scores to market ourselves in any way since it is what we offer as a brand that draws students to us (we do not rely on 4-5 individuals within our system who get great scores).

        So, the reason we take the test regularly is twofold — the test changes every single year in some subtle way and we want to be able to design our programs as well as give the students the right advice when they enrol with us.

        Even so, if our taking the test would affect our own students there is no chance that we will take it. Our taking the test does not affect students and given below is the detailed explanation — rationale as well as the calculation behind it (using the actual data that we have to create our percentile mappers). And it goes without saying that we do not apply to the programs.

        A. Clearing a cutoff is not the same as getting a call. How many people who have exactly the sectional cutoff get the call? Pretty much none. Same with overall cut off – it maybe 90 but no one actually gets a call at 90.

        B. If we didn’t take the test, what would change? The number of calls would be the same (the IIMs decide on a call ratio, and then accordingly they call a certain number of people out of those who have applied – if you notice, the sectional and overall at XL dropped this year because they couldn’t get the required number of people who would have cleared last year’s cutoffs. And IIM Bodh Gaya gave an extended merit list as the CAP cutoff would end up leaving their seats unfilled. They will ensure they call the required number of people). The exact same bunch of people, pretty much, would get the calls as we faculty don’t tick the colleges and so are not even in the consideration set.

        The only difference would be that the percentiles of those people would be marginally higher (based on our estimates of the number of tutors who actually have the courage to take the test every year and declare their scores to their students), and so the actual cutoff (as opposed to the theoretical one, which is much lower) would go higher. For example, for an IIM Cal call, a General Male with decent academics would need let’s say a 99.7 rather than a 99.65. Similarly, for A,B and L, the composite score cutoff would go up a bit and the actual calls would not change perceptibly. The guy who was at the theoretical cutoff was never going to get that call anyway, and still won’t. His sectional might go from 84.9 to 85.3 (see point (d) below for why even that is unlikely). That would only give him bragging rights, nothing more. (And that’s apart from the fact that someone on the borderline who actually gets a call has a very very low chance of actually converting.)

        C. Both the IIMs and the aspirants are well aware of the faculty who take the tests (which is why they place their cut-offs comfortably lower than what they actually expect to call, to account for such aberrations….in fact they place a buffer several times what they expect to need, to play safe; that’s why the cutoffs are so low. In the days when they did not announce cutoffs in advance, the sectional cutoffs tended to be in the 95 range for A&C and 90-92 for B (because B was already doing diversity then). When I was an aspirant, I was well aware that several faculty were taking the test, but as long as they were not actually competing for the seat I didn’t see that I should care. The number of seats were fixed at “x” and as long as I was in the top “x” candidates trying, I would get my due. That hasn’t changed.

        D. An 85%ile in CAT is around 30000 rank. At that score range, there were roughly 1000 students per mark in the overall and 2000-3000 per mark in the section*. So, in DI in 2019 for example, for any given percentile in that range, there were roughly 3000 people who all got pretty much the same percentile, let’s say 84.95. For any of them to cross 85, 3000 people would need to vanish from above. For VA and QA, it would be just over 2000. If you feel that there are that many folks teaching DI (let alone taking the test and capable of scoring that much, I myself did not cover myself in any glory) then you have some really inaccurate data.

        * Reasonably accurate data for 2019:
        80%ile: VA – 31 DI 24 QA 23.5 OA 74.5
        85%ile: VA – 35.5 DI 27 QA 28 OA 85

        Feel free to check this data against independent sources and do your own calculations if you don’t believe/trust mine. If you understand how percentile works, chances are pretty good that you will come to the same numbers. Even if you settle on half the number, the point still stands.

        Of course, if you prefer to believe the rhetoric of people who are looking to pacify students, pander to their anger, and malign others then you can choose to, my conscience is absolutely clear, and I personally know all the people whom you call pro-tutors who consistently score great percentiles and all of them are not just pro-tutors but exceptional people with great academic credentials and absolutely committed to their students, who know what they are doing and understand the Math behind it as well.

        Hope you take this in the right spirit.

        If you are an aspirant as well, hope you get into your dream b-school at the earliest.

        All the best!


  1. Nishant bafna says

    Hi sir,
    I love your blogs TBH.
    I have a little off topic question. Can you put some light on the normalisation process used by IIM I, L and others for 10/12? I have done my 10/12 from TN state board. I have got 93.4 and 94.67 respectively. In the IIM L list, I got shocked to see my composite scores. It was as if they just neglected or gave me 1 mark for my 12th. I don’t think my percentage is that bad? I’ve lost hopes of all IIMs. I have EWS reservation and despite lower cutoffs I wasn’t able to make a cut for IIM L due to this idiotic normalisation process.

    P.s. I have filed an RTI regarding the same.

    I felt atleast IIM I or K would consider me because of their emphasis on 10. 12 but it just seems a distant dream now. Please tell me more about this normalisation thing. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nishant,

      IIM-L does normalization only for Grad Marks and not for XII Marks. For your XII Marks, you would have got 8 marks out of 10 for 94.67, and since it has 10% weight, it will have become 8*.10=.8 marks, X Marks are not considered.

      So, you are right in that you scored about 1 mark, anyway the maximum effective marks that anyone would have scored for XII is 10*.10 = 1 mark.

      Given that, work-ex, education diversity and gender diversity account for 20%, it will be tough for a fresher male engineer to crack the call. there have been cases of those with even a 99.94 percentile not getting a call.

      As of now leave the math to the colleges and instead of the worrying about the calls you did not get, will not get and will get, just focus on preparing for the second stage so that you convert whatever call you get.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


      • Nishant bafna says

        No sir,
        I was talking about composite score, where 12th mark has 10 marks out of 100 and I have scored just 1 or 2 marks. I have 12 months of work experience which would have given me 3 out of 10.

        And IIM L this time considered 12th percentile instead of percentage and that has hampered my composite score.

        So, how does normalisation of IIM I work? Is it same like calculating percentile?


      • You are right Nishant, and since TN State Board is very generous with their XII marks, the percentile for 94 percentage might be lower.

        Normalisation is not based on percentile but based on means and standard deviations within respective boards and disciplines. So it all depends on how many standard deviations away from the mean your 94% and in which direction.


  2. Tejas N says

    I have been working in family business. But i haven’t taken salary. Will i be able to produce the salary slips of all 6 months in single payment stating as ARREARS.

    But I can definitely produce work ex certificate.

    And I also read that only Work Ex Certificate from Company will suffice. Is it true ?

    Family Business pays all the tax and has GST registration etc


    • Hi Tejas,

      As long as the firm is registered and you have a work-ex certificate and salary slips it is fine.

      The catch in your case will be that it will be evident that salaries were deposited for the interview stage.

      Be that as it may please take it along for verification, if they accept it, great, else you lose whatever marks they award for work-ex.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


      • Tejas N says

        thank you for the clarification sir. But will i just loose marks or will they cancel my entire admission process ?


      • As far as I know, they will not cancel your process. Get salary deposited for atleast 2 months once in Jan and once in Feb.


  3. Natasha says

    hello sir,
    I have scored 90 percentile and landed up with terrible Di – Lr score of 79 percentile.My grades are 10/12/grad – 98/98.6/78. I will graduate this year. Got placed in core company, which has a bond for 2 years. So, can you please suggest me if I should try cat after two years or go for MBA and complete education in one shot.

    PS:- General engineer Female.


    • Hi Natasha,

      It depends on which specialisation you are looking for post your MBA. If you want to get into Marketing then doing it straightaway might be the best option (though not the only one). If you are looking at Operations or General Management roles then the work-ex is almost a must.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  4. Rushabh Shah says

    Hello Sir !
    I read the above post and it gave me a good way to start with my WAT-GD-PI preparation.
    I wanted to know the specifics for WAT-GD-PI preparation for IIFT since it is my best call until now and I really want to convert it. Please suggest how I should go about and what important things to prepare.


    • Hi Rushabh,

      The only difference in the IIFT process is that they give two minutes to everyone to make their opening remarks in the GD and that the topics are usually titled towards economic policy.

      The content you will get from IMS, which I have outlined in the post, will more than cover the gyaan you will need and do ensure that you attend enough mock GDs before the actual process.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  5. Rushabh Shah says

    Hello Sir !
    I read the above post and it gave me a good way to start with my WAT-GD-PI preparation.
    I wanted to know the specifics for WAT-GD-PI preparation for IIFT since it is my best call until now and I really want to convert it. Please suggest how I should go about and what important things to prepare.


  6. Rutul Jain says

    Hi Sir,
    Can you please throw some light on NMIMS CD PI process? How should I prepare for the same?
    I am enrolled with IMS , so how will IMS help me in this process and what material should I collect from the center ?


  7. Pulkit Tyagi says

    Hello Sir,

    I have 34 months of work-ex, I left my job got 96.86 percentile with all sections above 90, apart from preparing from WAT-GD PI what else can i do in this meantime to improve my profile.


  8. Pingback: How to ace write an essay for the WAT | The CAT Writer

  9. Nikhil Jindal says

    Hello Sir
    Don’t know whether it’s too late to write a comment on this post, but I just hope you see this and reply. Thanks for writing such a brief post on preparation of WAT and PI. So that now almost all the old IIMs have released their calls and I haven’t received any call since my percentile was very low (98.58) for getting a call from these colleges (BLACKI) and I am not very sure of receiving a call from Kozhikode, as they have reduced CAT weightage and increased 12th marks weight for giving calls from this year. My profile is as follows:
    Current working as a Data Analyst with 18 months work ex till date.
    Graduated in 2018 as Electrical Engineer from NIT
    Graduation: 7.98
    12th: 87.8 (C.B.S.E.)
    10th: 9.8
    VA-RC: 90.91
    DI-LR 98.22
    QA 98.81
    Scaled Score: 150.4
    Now I am left with only 3 colleges of my list ( which you told us to prepare in LMTC, Delhi) and those are SJMSOM IIT Mumbai, NITIE Mumbai and DMS-IIT Delhi. XAT didn’t go well.
    So, do I have any chances of getting calls from these three. If yes, how should I kick start my PI preparation for these colleges. Is the PI of these colleges just like other B Schools or they focus more on graduation subjects knowledge, especially IITs.


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