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Ashu Airan was working as a manufacturing engineer at Applied Materials when he cracked CAT with 99.20 percentile. A B.Tech graduate, he was also shortlisted by IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore and Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi for the selection procedure. Having around two years of work experience, the interview panellists asked most of the questions regarding his work experience and HR. Despite grilling and cross-questioning on the common questions, Ashu tackled the situation with confidence and composure. Ashu shares his WAT-PI experience at top B-schools in India in this interview with Careers360.
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According to Ashu, the CAT selection procedure was similar in the IIMs. Initially nervous, he conquered the shortcomings with his hard work and intelligent preparation strategy. He made sure not to waste too much time on thinking during the WAT round and lays out a sample structure to follow while writing them. Although he felt specific preparation for WAT is not necessary if you are aware of the current affairs and have a basic flair for writing, he did join an online PI course to prepare for the frequently asked questions at interviews.
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Excerpts from the interview.
Careers360: What is the selection procedure at IIM Lucknow?
Ashu: Candidates were shortlisted on the basis of CAT score, academics and work experience for WAT and PI. The final selection is on the basis of the initial score as well as score from WAT and
Careers360: What was your overall experience of attending the selection procedure of IIM Lucknow? Could you share with us in detail?
Ashu: Overall, my experience at the selection procedure at IIM-L as a candidate was good. Mine was the morning slot in Bangalore. We were made to wait in a room during document checking. That was pretty smooth.
It was followed by WAT for 20 minutes. I didn’t perform well over there. The WAT was followed by PI. I was the first one in my panel and the interview lasted for around 20-25 minutes. The interview was majorly around HR questions and work experience. It was in my comfort zone. So, that surely went well.
Careers360: Which other B-Schools’ selection procedure did you appear for? How was your experience in other institutes vis a vis in your institute?
Ashu: Apart from IIM Lucknow, I attended selection procedure for IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore and Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi. In all three IIMs, my overall experience was quite the same as they followed almost the similar procedures.
IIM Bangalore also has an SOP or Statement of Purpose as a part of the interview. IIM-Bangalore requires you to prepare a Statement of Purpose if you have made it to the initial shortlist. Your SOP should contain a brief background about you. Make sure that you highlight your major achievements and spend some time detailing why MBA will help you with your goals.
At IIM Kozhikode, the Written Ability Test or WAT is followed by GD or Group discussion and the rest was similar to IIM-L. While IIM-I has similar processes as IIM-L, FMS was slightly different, as the shortlisting is based solely on CAT score. Final selection also had 85 percent weightage for CAT, 10 percent for interview and five percent for extempore.
Careers360: What was your WAT topic and how did you structure it?
Ashu: My topic was “Cultural diversity impedes democratic governance”. I started by introducing the topic in three to four lines. Then I wrote both in favour and against the topic and concluded on a neutral tone. I found the topic decent to write on, neither easy nor difficult.
Careers360: How did you prepare for WAT? When did you start your preparations for PI-WAT rounds?
Ashu: I didn’t prepare specifically for WAT. I was just keeping myself updated with the day-to-day happenings and current affairs. Other than that, I joined the WAT-PI course in an institute that helped me practice a couple of WAT topics. I started preparing for WAT-PI soon after CAT results were out without wasting time.
Careers360: Do you think that a separate preparation strategy is required for WAT?
Ashu: Not exactly. There is not much time between CAT results and interview to change your writing skills. No fancy words are needed as well. The only preparation needed is to keep the WAT in a proper structure and using proper grammar.
Careers360: What were the WAT topics which you were asked during the admission rounds of various B-schools?
Ashu: The topics are as follows:
IIM-L - Cultural diversity impedes democratic governance
IIM-B – Demonetisation
IIM-K – Name should be more important than money
Careers360: How should one tackle a WAT topic, if s/he does not have any knowledge about it?
Ashu: If the topic is very specific then you can hardly do anything other than cursing your luck. But this is not the case normally. You will get a topic which is very generic. Focus on the words in the topic, and try to relate that to whatever you know. Introduce the topic, discuss it, if the topic needs a stand, then take it. Else you can write both positives and negatives. Finally, conclude the topic on the basis of what you wrote previously.
Careers360: What are some of the Dos and Don’ts for WAT?
Ashu: Dos: Think before you start writing, make a blueprint, keep it simple, use proper grammar and give a proper structure.
Don’ts: Writing upfront, too much of jargons, lengthy sentences and paragraph, redundancy to fill the pages, abrupt ending, spelling and grammar mistakes.
Careers360: Do you think there are some time management skills required for a student to write a complete structured WAT?
Ashu: Normally, there is enough time to think and write the WAT. Just ensure that you don’t end up spending too much time on thinking.
Careers360: How was your personal interview experience? How big was the panel and what were your feelings while facing them?
Ashu: My PI revolved around work experience and HR questions like - Why MBA? The interviewer kept throwing questions at me picking words from my previous answer not allowing me to complete my sentences. I enjoyed my interview and overall it was a nice experience.
There were two male interviewers on my panel. There were no expectations on the basis of previous candidate’s interview as I was the first one to be interviewed in the panel. Also, I remained calm during the interview and it’s important for everyone to do so.
Careers360: Among all the interviews you have appeared in, which one was the best and why? Share your best PI experience with us.
Ashu: My best PI experience was at IIM Lucknow. The interviewers were interrupting in between and never allowed me to complete my sentences. So, I never ran out of words and that gave me an edge! Here are some questions I was asked, or rather bombarded with:
Q - Is this a company name (Applied Materials)?
Me - Yes and explained what my company does and my job role there.
Q- Why MBA?
Me – I started with a job and felt the need to acquire some managerial skills...
Even before I could complete my answer, from here onwards the interruption by the panellists had already started.
Q - What will you gain from here?
Me - Knowledge, faculty and alumni interaction
A sort of rapid fire on all three points.
Q - What you will add to the batch?
Me – I talked about my industry experience which is different and a club I had started in college. They kept cross-questioning me about the club for a while. Further, they questioned me about QFD or Quality Function Deployment, regarding my work experience, my rank in my graduation, class strength and even attendance.
However, they asked me a question regarding BOM which I didn’t know. I clearly mentioned it to them. But not knowing the answer didn’t make me feel unconfident about myself. Clearly, we had to move on.
Careers360: What were the questions which you found most difficult to answer? What were your answers to those questions?
Ashu: For me, the most difficult question to answer was ‘Why MBA?’ It seems easy to answer but it is not. They were grilling me on everything that I was answering. I answered in terms of learning, exposure, alumni interaction and faculty experience.
Careers360: How did you handle the questions for which you had no answer? Was the panel rude or easy on you?
Ashu: I didn’t know the answer to one of the questions regarding academics. I said that I don’t know and they moved ahead. The panel was very friendly.
Careers360: What were the most interesting questions you were asked? Please share your answers as well.
Ashu: The most interesting part was the questions regarding the organisation where I worked. They assumed it to be an Indian start-up. I told them that it is an MNC and explained about the industry too.
Careers360: How is an IIM interview different from a non-IIM yet top B-School interview?
Ashu: The only non-IIM interview I attended was FMS Delhi. In comparison to interviews at IIMs, the one in FMS was very short and more about current affairs.
Careers360: How did you prepare yourself for PI? What were the PI questions that you searched for your preparations?
Ashu: I joined an online PI course. Apart from that, I brushed up the subjects regarding management I studied in my under-graduation. The questions that I prepared were the ones most asked.
I had prepared myself well with answers to questions like – Tell me about yourself, Why MBA, strengths, weakness, biggest achievement, biggest failure, role model and so on. I encourage every aspirant to prepare well-thought answers for these as well.
Careers360: What factors or qualities do you think the PI panel looks for in a candidate?
Ashu: They look for confidence and how much you know about yourself and your background.
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