‘Knowledge will be a key differentiator at GD/PI/WAT rounds’, says T.I.M.E. expert Ramnath Kanakadandi
After the declaration of CAT 2015 Results by IIM Ahmedabad, the next big step for the shortlisted candidates is to prepare for the GD-PI-WAT rounds. Besides CAT scores and cutoff, candidates overall performance at each round will finalize his/her selection at IIM or top b-schools. To prepare you for the next level of the selection process, Careers360 brings you Expert Interview on GD/PI/WAT.
In this interview, CAT Course Director for T.I.M.E., Ramnath Kanakadandi shares his expert inputs on what does an interview panel looks for in a candidate, the Dos and Don’ts for each round and how one must prepare for each round.
Ramnath states the importance of WAT and advises candidates to be diverse in their reading habits to do well at this stage. To perform well in WAT, Ramnath recommends CODER structure for the students which support them in identifying the topic, organizing ideas and expressing the same in a best-structured way. Further, he recommends the GD/PI/WAT shortlisted candidates to read everything they can lay their hands on as knowledge is going to be the key differentiator in the selection process of the top B-schools.
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Read expert interview below:
Careers360: WAT is being preferred over GD as many B-schools have scrapped GD from their admissions process. What is your take on this?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: According to me the possible reasons why WAT or Essay could be used in place of GD are 1) to give every participant a fair chance to voice out their opinions, which is not always possible in GDs with participants interrupting others 2) to see how one builds up an argument. That said, while the IIMs have shifted to the Essays, most other B-schools still see merit in retaining GDs in their admission process.
Careers360: What must be the approach, structure, and Dos and Don’ts for WAT?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: We recommend students to use "CODER" structure and approach.
C - Collect ideas O – Organize them D – Develop them E – Express them R – Review
Content – Identify the key words in the topic, think of the information you have, and what ideas or views you could develop on the basis of this information.
Organise Ideas - Now organize the random thoughts and ideas and group them coherently. You must think of the following questions - What would be the purpose or theme of the essay? What would be the appropriate ideas to start with? What are the further ideas that one could continue with, and what would these ideas lead to? What ideas would be the right ones to end with?
Develop - Explanation and elaboration – You now begin to develop those thoughts. Think of - What sort of information would hold the readers' attention best? What sort of examples would they relate to? What pieces of information, what sort of explanation, and / or what examples, would support the ideas, the theme, and the purpose? How long should the essay be?
Express - Structure of an essay – Now the actual part. A typical essay would start with an introduction, using statements and information of general nature that provide some background to the topic and point to the nature of the specific ideas that follow. The body of the essay would contain the specific ideas, presented in a clear and coherent manner. Each broad idea or set of ideas would form a paragraph. The flow or sequence of paragraphs would lead to the conclusion which would sum up the purpose of the presentation.
Review - You must devote the last few minutes to reading through the essay to satisfy yourself that there are logical flow and coherence and that the language is error-free. Correction, replacement or repositioning, if any, should be carried out in a manner that ensures that the flow remains or is improved.
It would be advisable to keep a track of time and not get lost in the ideation stage so much that you do not leave any time for writing the essay. The reviewing stage is often ignored, and this may end up in students presenting essays which are riddled with typos. So, remember to allocate at least 10% of your time for reviewing.
Careers360: Is there any Time Management strategy to be followed by the students?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Time management is crucial, as there will be a limited time given to complete this assignment. I suggest that, you devote about 30 percent of the allotted time to steps C O and D, about 60 percent to the actual writing, i.e. E, and about 10 percent to R. It is important to allocate time to review the essay, to avoid submitting an essay riddled with typos.
Careers360: Any expert advice for the candidates who’d be appearing in the WAT soon?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Improving on your knowledge levels should be an ongoing activity, the more time and effort you put into this, the better off you will be. It is essential to practice writing a few mock essays and getting them reviewed by experts. This will help in plugging any gaps that may come in your way of writing a good essay.
Careers360: How difficult and important is PI for students? What does a panel look for in a candidate?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: The interview process is designed to evaluate on how you react to various situations. An interview provides an opportunity to the interviewer to probe you and understand your thought process and gauge your attitude. There could be anywhere between 2-5 interviewers in a panel.
Careers360: What must be the criteria of a candidate to tackle PI stage?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: First up, the candidate must be well prepared in the following topics - academics, about self (strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, inspirations, role models etc.), career plans and work experience. In addition to this, the interviewers may pose tasks such as speaking extempore on a topic, puzzle etc. It is important to stay calm and composed under pressure and answer to the best of one’s ability. While the interviewers do not expect the candidates to answer each and every question, how one reacts when a difficult question is posed is very important.
Careers360: What are the key/influential factors for the selection at PI?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Some of the key qualities that you, as a B-School aspirant are expected to possess are: Good level of knowledge and clear understanding of core concepts of various issues (current affairs, historic events etc.), Clarity of thought, Communication skills, Personality, attitude, and the way you react to situations, and thought process in terms of career planning.
Careers360: What are the Dos and Don’ts of this stage?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Dress code: As Interview is a formal occasion; you are expected to be dressed for the occasion. Entry into the Interview room: You may be asked by one of the panel members or one of their assistants to enter the room. At the door, ask for permission to enter, "May I come in, Sir / Madam?"
Sitting posture: Sit comfortably in the chair. You may cross your legs if you wish to. Your arms may rest on the arm-rest of the chair or on your lap. The folder that contains your certificates and other documents should be kept on your lap, and not on the table.
Body language: While a lot has been written and documented on body language, it will suffice and will actually help you if you can be your natural self.
Language to be used: Use formal language and speak in English only.
Conduct inside the Interview room: Listen carefully and attentively to the questions asked. If you are unable to comprehend the meaning / hear the question, request the panel member to clarify / repeat the question.
Recce - It is important to be on time, better still would be to be on time, so that your mind is in a calm state. It is advised you do a recce to the interview location, make a note of the time it would take to reach the place from your home and ensure you give a good buffer time to account for an unexpected delay en route.
Careers360: What are the factors to impress the moderator of a GD?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Content - In a GD, unless you know something about the topic, you will not be able to make a positive contribution to the topic or give direction to the efforts of the group.
2) Communication (Speaking, Listening & Body Language) - It is important to note that marks are awarded for the confidence and ease with which you make your points. You are expected to be a good listener. Unless you are a good listener, you will find it very difficult to add to or counter the ideas expressed by the other participants.
3) Group Behavior - The moderator expects you to make points logically and rationally as a mature adult.
4) Leadership Skills - Leadership, in the context of a GD, means showing the direction to the group when it is running out of points to speak on or when it is straying from the given topic.
Careers360: What are the Do's and Don’ts of GD stage.
Ramnath Kanakadandi: Moderators may ask students to introduce themselves. Be prepared with a 15-20 second introduction which clearly states your name, the place you come from, the degree and the name of the university from which you are pursuing / pursued your degree.
You might be asked to summarize the GD verbally or in writing. So, carry a small notepad along with a pen to the GD to take down notes.
Address the group members and not he moderator. Once the GD starts, as far as you are concerned, the moderator ceases to exist.
Be very sure of your points. Do not try to start the GD just for the sake of starting it. Start the GD only if you are sure that you are adding value to the topic straightaway.
You get marks for each idea only once. Do not repeat a point that you / someone else may have already made in the GD.
Be crisp in your communication. If you get into a long sentence, there is every possibility that you will be interrupted even before you come to the main idea.
Do not take a stance in a GD at the beginning. This, theoretically, halves the number of points you could possibly make.
Make it a point to come into a GD (of 20 minutes) at least 4-6 times.
Do not address a GD participant by name. You are not expected to remember their names. “As he / she said/ our friend said”, will do.
Do not seek the assistance / intervention of the moderator directly / indirectly at any time during the GD.
Always discuss the pros and cons of the topic given. Remember, it is a discussion and not an argument or a debate where you need to take sides.
You do not get points for proving other participants wrong. Make your point and move on.
Do not point fingers at your co-participants or get aggressive with them. It won’t endear you to them and certainly not to the moderator.
Do not use slang or vernacular.
Maintain eye contact with the group.
Do not show disappointment or disgust on your face in case you are not being allowed to speak or when you do not agree with the point that has just been made.
Practice as often as possible with different groups, different topics, and in different situations.
Careers360: How should candidates defend their logic during the discussions? (What if a candidate is informative and knowledgeable but has a low pitch voice)
Ramnath Kanakadandi: To defend logic would mean getting into a duel with people having other views on the topic. This is avoidable; accept that there could be multiple views on a topic and move on. As for the other question, low pitch voice can be worked on, with enough practice; one can learn to speak in a confident, audible tone.
Careers360: When and how should an aspirant start serious preparation for GD?
Ramnath Kanakadandi: It is never too early to begin preparation for GD. Sooner, the better. The 'how' part is easier to answer - read anything and everything that you can lay your hands on. Knowledge is going to be the key differentiator in GDs.
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