Imagine sitting in front of the interview panel of your dream B-School but the very first question comes as a bolt from the blue and you end up being tongue tied. Similar situation happened with Subhra Pratim Halder, a student of IIM Lucknow, 2016-18 batch during his interview at the B-School. But rather than being perplexed, he handled the tricky question by keeping calm and answering it in basic terms. In this interview with Careers360, Subhra Pratim shares his experience of WAT and PI rounds at IIM Lucknow.
Realising the importance of the selection rounds, Subhra Pratim had started preparation even before CAT by reading newspapers and regular practice of writing and speaking. For the Writing Ability Test or WAT rounds, he suggests CODER approach, i.e. Collect, Organise and Develop your ideas followed by Editing and Reviewing the same.
Read the full interview below:
Careers360: What is the selection procedure followed at IIM Lucknow?
Subhra Pratim: The selection process at IIM Lucknow consists of a) a 15 minutes Written Ability Test (WAT) and b) Personal Interview (PI). Both these evaluations are done in a single day and no change request in the allotted venue and time slot are entertained.
Careers360: What was your WAT topic? How confident were you with the topic?
Subhra Pratim: My WAT topic was – ‘East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet’. As I had practiced some abstract topics beforehand in strict time limit, I didn’t have much difficulty in attempting it.
Careers360: When did you start your preparations for WAT-PI rounds?
Subhra Pratim: I had started my WAT-PI preparation much before the CAT exam. I feel there is no harm in enriching yourself with regular news updates and being mentally prepared for subsequent interviews.
Careers360: How did you prepare for WAT?
Subhra Pratim: When it comes to WAT preparation, there is no substitute to extensive writing practice within a fixed time frame. I went through lots of current affairs topics ranging from economy, politics, business, entertainment and society at large to develop my own thoughts on them. It helped me to generate ideas and content, whenever I faced an uneasy topic to write.
Careers360: How should one tackle a WAT topic, if s/he does not have any knowledge about it?
Subhra Pratim: An essay should be properly structured and logically coherent with the topic provided. Short but well-articulated explanation fetch maximum marks over lengthy and ineffective write-ups. In case, the candidate doesn’t have any knowledge about the topic (especially in abstract ones), one should relate it to the nearest associated meaning and jot down points through CODER approach. CODER basically refers to Collect, Organise and Develop your ideas followed by Editing and Reviewing the same.
Careers360: What should be the approach, structure and Dos and Don’ts for attempting WAT?
Subhra Pratim: The candidate is supposed to determine the kind of writing that goes in sync with the topic i.e. descriptive, critic, persuasive or analytical one. Depending on that, one should structure the content into the introduction, body and the conclusion paragraphs. Try to introduce a new idea in separate paragraphs and don’t be too verbose. Simplicity is the key and your content will be judged on your thought process keeping in mind the paucity of time.
Dos – Give examples, state facts and figures, write an effective and impressive introduction & conclusion
Don’ts – Refrain from giving own opinion, unless asked. Don’t be verbose and avoid grammatical errors 5.
Careers360: How was your experience of sitting in a personal interview?
Subhra Pratim: Well, IIM interviews are way enriching and self-evaluative in nature. Though I had taken four to five mock interviews to brush up some basic HR and technical questions, real interviews often take you on a roller-coaster ride. For me, IIM Lucknow interview was no exception to that and I had to keep the confidence bar ticking high all the time with a smile on my face and optimism in my heart.
Careers360: Among all the interviews you have appeared in, which one was the best and why?
Subhra Pratim: Among all the interviews, the IIM Lucknow interview was the best one for me in terms of the unpredictability and wide range of questions associated with it. My initial responses were not up to the expectation and I tried my best to re-direct the flow of the interview to my strengths and achievements. I succeeded in that and the rest of the interview was on my hobbies, interests and favorite pastime. I answered them with passion and some real life experiences, which helped me in better articulation of answers. And in turn, the panellists didn’t lose interest over my candidature. So, it’s very imperative to note that – ‘It’s not over until it’s over’.
Careers360: How did you handle questions for which you had no answer? How did the panel react about it?
Subhra Pratim: My first question was on explaining the phenomena behind lightning and thunder, which came as a sudden jolt to me. Never in my preparations, had I expected a question of this genre. However, I kept my calm and explained the same in a very layman term and politely conveyed that I was unable to recall it. The panel was neither rude nor easy to me. Rather, they asked me to keep thinking on those lines and come up with a better explanation of the same. It is always advised to keep calm when one gets a jolt of the blue during the interview. It might be the case that the panel members are planning to check your behavioural aspects more than your answer. So, just be yourself and stay mentally prepared for contingencies.
Careers360: How is an IIM interview different from that of an interview at a non-IIM yet top league B-School?
Subhra Pratim: Well, IIM interviews always have a surprise element in it. Believe it or not, the candidate gets a lot of chances to turn the board in his/her favour. It solely depends on your logical and sensible approach in answering the questions and most importantly, keeping the conversation going in his/her favour. As IIMs look for a balanced profile, there is a chance of getting interview questions based on all academics, work experience, general awareness as well as interests and achievements. So, it is advised to be thorough with all of these well before the actual interview day.
Careers360: How did you prepare yourself for PI?
Subhra Pratim: PI preparation is a perennial process. We can definitely improve our way of answering but we can’t generate content in those one-two months of preparation slot. That’s why my interview preparation started much before the actual CAT exam through regular reading of newspapers, blogs and articles on my subject of interests. There are some very basic HR questions that needs clarity of thought and expression while answering it e.g. – Questions about yourself, strengths, weaknesses, role model, biggest achievement, biggest failure, short and long term goals, purpose of pursuing management and many more. These questions require a lot of brainstorming and introspection in its initial stage. Later, one should always get the answers reviewed by some senior/faculty or confidante for their inputs. I had taken ample number of mock interviews at my coaching centre and made the best use of faculties to improve the quality of my answers and body language.
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