Comments 11

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.


  1. Amish says

    Hi Sir,
    I am an Engineer and a CAT aspirant. I gave CAT in 2019 ( scored really really low-percentile was in thirties), and in 2021 ( Scored 84.98 percentile).
    Although I still have exams like SNAP-2nd attempt and TISS Net, I want an advice from you that if results don’t go in my favor, should I go for another attempt for CAT- 2022?
    My Acads are 93.10/87.00/66.00 and I am currently working with around 17 months experience now.


    • Hi Amish,

      If you crack a good college through SNAP — SIBM or SCMHRD — or TISS — then go ahead, else take another shot.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  2. Hi Sir,

    Too much to do, too little time.
    I feel overwhelmed with the amount of prep that GDPI requires. I need to be well versed with Personal questions & Academics & Hobbies & Current Affairs & Social Issues etc. I feel inherently dumb whenever I look at other people handling their interviews, and feel like my knowledge is very limited & inferior to theirs. I think of dedicating my time to draft sample answers for the ‘Big 5 Standard Questions’ and seem to waste the entire day only on just 3 questions, due to the amount of self-reflection it requires. I try to prepare for WAT, and end up spending the entire day researching about 2-3 topics. I have also scored a 98%ile in CAT so I also feel the pressure to convert my best calls, to keep up with high societal expectations.
    Sorry for the rant sir, but could you advise on how I should utilize this month, how I should divide my time among the circles that you mentioned above? Because this preparation has no end, I can spend an entire month just trying to understand current affairs, and still end up messing it during the interviews.

    Awaiting your reply,
    Thank you.


    • Hi R,

      Keep it simple:

      1. Work on the answers — it is your life and your work — you need not finish the whole thing in a day — do the first draft of all five questions it might take a day or two or three — and then re-read them, one a day, for an hour so every day to fine-tune them.

      2. Read the newspaper end-to-end not with a view to remember every single thing but just read it with interest.

      3. For topics, please remember that you cannot become a master on the same, read and understand the issue from different view points

      The questions around GK and current affairs tend to be geared to just checking if you are aware of the happenings around you. They are not intended to be a test of your mastery over the same.

      In a b-school interview, from my own personal experiences, you can make a case for your candidature through the Big 5 questions to the best of your abilities, on the rest of the GK-CA questions, you will at best be able to answer 50% of the questions and that is good enough.

      Please remember that this is not a test of how many questions you answered correctly; what matters more is how you handle things and how much you can maintain your composure.

      You can view to look at this through the lens of societal pressure and stuff but the crowd in the stands does not actually matter, what you need to really have is the technique to play the ball (not even the bowler, or an IIM prof) in front of you.

      The society you talk about does not really care about you — whether you get in or not will not in any way affect them, they will sit on the crapper the next morning and take a dump as usual.

      So, subtract the unnecessary elements from the head and just do the best you can (and best does not mean going overboard but doing what can realistically be done).

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


  3. Roshni Shukla says

    Hello sir,
    I scored really bad in CAT 2021 (below thirties). now I want to attempt TISSNET as well but I don’t know how to go with the Gk, can you please suggest me about how I should go with my prep specially GK?


  4. Dear Sir,

    Thank you so much for this post! I have scored a 94.45 percentile in CAT 2021. The baggage of a bad DILR section carried on to Quants, which is the primary reason for a percentile and a performance that seemed worse than even my first ever mock.

    I am a general candidate, studying law from a top NLU. I applied to the old IIMs (since I wanted only them and I still don’t mind the fact that I didn’t apply to the rest only because of the fact that I have the opportunity to start my career already at a 15-17LPA range and doing an MBA from other college did not make sense to me). But I have been told I might still have a chance only with IIMA, and awaiting its results!

    During this preparation, I absolutely loved the posts and used them all to my advantage as much as possible. Thank you so much!



    • Hi Sandhya,

      The information you have is right, with your educational diversity, you should in all probability get a call from IIM-A. Hope you have started your WAT-GD-PI Prep.

      Glad you found the blog useful, the season is not over, there is more to come!

      All the best!


  5. Muskaan Bhatter says

    Hello sir,

    I am asking something off the topic. I have scored really bad in CAT 2021[below sixties] and thought to give an another shot.
    So what are the other tests I should look for?


  6. Abhay Ahuja says

    Greetings Sir,

    I am from hospitality background, having done a 2 year PG Diploma majoring in F&B Service and Front Office. I managed Restaurant and In Room Dining Operations with a team of 40 (approx) reporting employees post my PG for 2 years.

    What kind of questions specific to my graduation and work ex can I expect, as I am unable to find any particular interview transcript regarding this in the PI Bible.


    PS: Your blogs and sessions have been a true guiding light during the entire preparation. Thanks a ton for keeping us motivated, especially during times of low motivation.


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