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How to write an essay for the WAT

Well, once you were done with school you would have never imagined having to write an essay ever again. But here you are a few weeks away from the WAT-GD-PI rounds and are not exactly looking forward to writing essays on topics that vary from the political, social, ecological to the outright esoteric.

So it makes sense to start with a classification of the topics that have appeared over the years.

  • Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen. We listen only to refute or reply – SOCIAL
  • The most beautiful thing can neither be seen nor be touched not can only be felt – ESOTERIC
  • Corruption is the root cause of the economic slowdown in India – POLITICAL/ECONOMIC
  • Select one of the statements and then justify the same and substantiate it with the help of relevant examples 
    • Poverty is a big menace in India. Due to its complexity and magnitude, most of the government initiatives fail
    • Poverty is a consequence of the failure of government policies due to the governments not targeting the root cause – POLITICAL/ECONOMIC
  • Analyse the following argument: The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not load himself with the most unnecessary attention but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council or senate whatever and which would nowhere be so dangerous in hands of man who had folly and presumptions enough to fancy himself to exercise it POLITICAL/ECONOMIC
  • Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed — SOCIAL/ECOLOGICAL
  • Gender imbalance would lead to third world war — SOCIAL
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing or riches and the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries — ECONOMIC
  • Economic growth without environmental damage – a mirage or reality — ECONOMY/ECOLOGY
  • India has one of the largest pools of talented manpower, but few innovations and patented products — ECONOMY
  • More than one billion Indians: A gigantic problem or a sea of opportunities — SOCIAL/ECONOMIC
  • Asked at the age of 83, as to which of his project he would choose as his master piece, Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect answered “The next one” — LATERAL
  • To give real service, one needs to add something cannot be bought or measured like sincerity and integrity — SOCIAL

A run through the topics will reveal that topics have broadly tended towards politics-economics-society-ecology matrix.

But the last two years have sort of broken this pattern, something possibly stemming from not wanting to repeat topics and not get to too specific as well. This year has already thrown up enough general issues such as rising authoritarianism across the world and climate change. We need not be surprised if one of the two turns up. A topic on social media might not also be totally ruled out.

In this post, we will look at the way one should go about writing an essay irrespective of the topic at hand.

Why are they asking for an essay?

It always makes sense to try to tease out the underlying causes/motives/motivations behind things since it will help us approach them with the right attitude.

As you know the aptitude test is geared towards evaluating capability to do an MBA in terms of academic ability. Through the WAT  they want to select candidates who know and have in them something beyond  VA, RC, QA, DI & LR.

The structure of an essay

It goes without saying that the XAT Essay or the WAT is not about piling your thoughts on to the blank sheet in front of you.

You are required to organise, present and cogently articulate your views.

So every essay needs to have a structure, one that you are very familiar with — Introduction, Argument 1, Argument 2, Conclusion.

Opening Overtures rather than an Introduction

Let get the word introduction out of the way since it results in 2 or 3 sentences that just blindly restate the topic and perform a purely ornamental function.

Most topics that you will encounter will be based on or will be a reflection on specific events that have transpired in the past year or large scale trends in society.

Your first paragraph should be 2-3 sentences long and should offer your opening remarks on the topic.

Do not waste time your time and that of the evaluator’s by

  • restating the topic — they gave it you, so they would know it
  • writing stock phrases such as — in this essay I will argue that etc.
  • trying to come up with a quote

Let us take a few topics from the list above and try to understand what I mean by Opening Overtures

Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen. We listen only to refute or reply.

Nothing could describe our times now better — noise has replaced debate, name-calling has replaced understanding and going by the ratings of news channels, the biggest bully wins.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.

The topic is particularly relevant in light of the two movements that have captured a lot of our attention — sustainable development and colonising Mars.

The most beautiful thing can neither be seen nor be touched but can only be felt.

If sublime beauty cannot be perceived through the senses or rather if what is perceived through the senses is not the most beautiful then what we discussing is the very nature of beauty — is it something that moves our senses or is it something that moves our spirit?

As you can see from the snippets above, you can

  • agree with the topic, as in the first one
  • connect it to the current events or trends
  • examine the statement

Unless you have a very strong opinion about a topic and can substantiate it do not take sides in the introduction.

It is similar to making opening remarks in a debate (the proper formal ones not the ones on our news channels). Even if you have strong views you are not supposed to front-load them, just provide the context for expressing them later.

Build an argument using examples

One of the reasons essay writing becomes a tough proposition is because aspirants try to focus too much on the topic in isolation alone without evaluating it in a real-life context.

You cannot write an essay without using the right examples to substantiate your arguments.

You do not need to litter it with facts but you have to draw on the world around you to make your point. Otherwise, you will find yourself repeating the same points.

Separate arguments into paragraphs

Given the time constraints, you cannot make more than 2-3 main arguments in your essay, even two well-argued positions will suffice. This portion will form the crux of your essay so you have to

  • present each argument in a separate paragraph or paragraphs; the people evaluating your essays can read longish paragraphs so you do not really split an argument into multiple paragraphs but if you feel the need to, you can do it.
  • add minor but related arguments in the same paragraph if necessary or move it into a different paragraph; whatever makes for better organization.

Let us take one of the topics above and see how arguments should be constructed.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.

The topic is particularly relevant in light of the two movements that have captured a lot of our attention — sustainable development and colonising Mars.

While a few decades ago, development in itself was a goal worth pursuing, today the word is usually prefaced with the word sustainable. This in itself is an explicit recognition that the bounty of the Earth is not infinite and that our actions are excessive enough to endanger the planet. A new mining project might add to the GDP and provide jobs for a few but it also removes the forest cover, adding to adverse consequences of climate change.

Development brings about rising incomes and rising incomes make people move from needs to wants and from wants to greed. From Roti, Kapda & Makaan we move to making choices that deplete the planet such as choosing electrical appliances that consume more power (fans to ACs) to polluting vehicles.

The responses to the realisation that our way of life is endangering the planet have taken two paths. One is the move towards putting the environment in the forefront of policy-making, examples include, the Delhi government’s odd-even policy, the climate-change summits and the usage carbon credits. Other related but niche movements include the embracing of a more minimal lifestyle, growing and eating seasonal and organic food, veganism to combat the greenhouse gases released by the meat industry. Some firms such as Tesla Motors are changing the face of the automobile industry by making electric cars a viable alternative to regular cars.

The second movement is towards exploring life on other planets, most notably Mars. Firms like Space X are trying to be the first ones to profit from colonising Mars. The significance of this movement is also reflected in popular culture such as the movie Interstellar that raises pertinent questions about our role on this planet — are we supposed to be caretakers of the planet for the generations that will succeed us or are we explorers? While the explorer theme casts the whole endeavour in a positive light, it side-steps the fact that our greed might not spare the new planet as well. It is interesting to note though that Elon Musk is pioneering efforts in both directions — electric cars and colonising Mars.

Closing remarks, not conclusion

One of the things about Essay Writing is that you can look at it as a way to explore a topic. It is about looking at the topic from all sides. There need not be a correct answer to a topic.

So you need not make your conclusion emphatic and take a position. You can conclude by

  • presenting a direction that to be taken
  • spelling out the key issues that need to be tackled going ahead or
  • stating your position

Let us continue the previous topic to look at one of the ways of concluding.

Perhaps this is where the views of Mahatma Gandhi about the futility of a civilizational model based purely on consumption becomes most relevant. We don’t need more man-made natural disasters to alert us about the impact of our choices. We will be better off trying to first move from greed to wants and from wants to needs.

Use the rough sheet to map out your essay

One of the things that you should without fail is to map out your essay on a rough paper before you start.

Do not start writing straight away. You will start planing to write one kind of essay and end up with a totally different one.

Think about it, can you write a full-fledged essay after thinking about it for a 1 minute?

In the first 30-60 seconds, you will only come up with one or two of the most obvious points that everyone else would have come up with.

So this is what you should do for the first 5 minutes

  • roughly compose the introduction in your head
  • jot down the main arguments on the question paper or rough sheet
  • start composing the body of each paragraph in your head, look for examples; jot them down on the rough paper next to the arguments

Start writing only after this exercise. It is not different from what we used to discuss during our CAT sessions do not jump to put pen on paper!

Write at least 5 essays before the WAT-GD-PI

Writing an essay is one thing but writing in a straight line is an entirely different thing! Especially for working professionals who would have swapped the writing pad for the keyboard.

So before the second round ensure that you write at least five essays using the process outlined in this post.

The importance of reading

By now you would have realised that WAT & GD  tests how well-read you are and how aware you are about the world around you.

Remember, the more you read the greater the probability that something you have read turns up!


  1. Pulkit Tyagi says

    Hello Sir,

    what should be the area of biggest challenged faced in life (professional or personal)?


  2. Akshay Raj says

    Your essay on Gandhi’s quote was really awesome.Especially mentioning of Mars colonization part


  3. Bhaargavi Agrawal says

    Sir I have got 95.6 percentile with 10 CGPA in 10th, 92.8 % in 12th, and 84% in undergrad with 6 months of work exp. I am a General (F). I have no calls from any of the IIMs, What can I expect from private colleges like MDI/SPJIMR. I think I will get a call from IMT but is it worth joining or there is no hope from any good private college at all? Please help. I was expecting IIM Indore call people told me I should get it, but there was none of it, And now, I just don’t know, I don’t want to go for CAT next year, but I don’t know whether I will get any calls or is this percentile totally useless??


  4. Karthik Nayak says

    The sample essay is so beautifully written! That alone can guide one to write an amazing essay.

    Just a clarification sir, is it better to use fancy vocabulary words or should we stick to simple words? How will subtle grammatical errors impact on our rating?


    • Hi Karthik,

      If using those words comes to your naturally then use them else keep it simple; minor grammatical errors will not have a major impact on the WAT rating.

      All the best!


  5. Ayesha Agarwal says

    Hi Sir,
    Could you please tell me some topics for NMAT case discussion that the kind of subjects they usually ask to discuss so that I could streamline my prep for them?
    Thank you


  6. Arshpreet Singh says

    Sir Mars One company has gone bankrupt and it was liquidated in feb 2019.
    their fake mission was just to earn money.


    • The essay is a bit old the idea is to give a guideline to how to construct a WAT instead of describing a specific topic. Thanks for the update!


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