Why WAT is getting an upper hand at top B-schools?
Ashish Jha, 29 Mar 2017, #CAT
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During the admissions process, B-schools are most likely to evaluate your communication skills and thinking pattern based on your ability to understand a given topic, analyse it, and presents the same in writing. Though they earlier conducted Group Discussion (GD) to evaluate communication skills of candidates, many top institutes have now replaced GD with Written Ability Test (WAT) or added WAT as an additional parameter in their admission processes. Except for IIM Kozhikode, all other IIMs have gradually scrapped GD and adopted WAT.

Careers360 looks at the reasons why B-Schools increasingly prefer WAT to GD as a part of their selection process.

Evaluation of written communication skills


While Personal Interview (PI) is already an essential tool to evaluate verbal communication in MBA admission processes, many B-schools think that there is no requirement for a separate tool like GD to evaluate the same. Instead, they advocate WAT in place of GD as it helps admission panel to judge candidates on their written skills also.


Janat-shahIIM Udaipur Director, Dr Janat Shah says that from past experiences, it was found that the communication skills are assessed during the Personal Interview process and there is no need for another verbal assessment. “Also, there was a concern that written communication skills have been declining. IIMs wanted to ensure that writing skills are adequately assessed as well, hence the introduction of WAT in the selection process,” he says.

With WAT in place, admission panels get a better understanding of candidates’ hold over language, grammar, and vocabulary. Ravi Shankar, Training & Development - Programs Officer at IFMR Chennai, says, “For our first 12 batches, we had Group Discussion, and found over a period of time, that it was generating more heat and providing less light on the suitability of the candidates. WAT helps us check the ability of the applicant to articulate basic ideas in writing. If a candidate does not have the required level of this ability, he/she will find it very difficult participate in case presentations, quizzes and exams. That is why we have been using WAT for the last few years.”


Even opportunity for all candidates


Since WAT is a more personalised test and helps a candidate to put his/her thoughts in a composed environment, B-schools think that it better suited for all candidates including those who either don’t get an opportunity to speak in GD or lose their voice in the din of GD. 

Dr. Bibek Banerjee, Former Director, IMT Ghaziabad explains, “Group Discussions turn out to be fish market over the course of time and we can hardly evaluate the verbal communication skills of the candidates. Many a times, soft spoken or female candidates who have a good point to share are overruled by the loud members of the group. Testing the written communication skills of the candidates is a better method of selecting the prospective students.”

Dr. Sanjay Dhir, Coordinator - Stakeholder's Engagement, Strategic Management Area, DMS, IIT Delhi agrees. “Now‐a‐days selection of the best from a lot becomes a challenging task for the B‐ schools. Traditionally GD has been a right process to evaluate a lot of skill sets required for the business world. However, with the rising competition and limited time available in a GD might sometimes limit the evaluation of a group with a single aggressive person dominating it,” he says.

With a similar view, XIMB officials felt that GD was increasingly becoming artificial, so it was eliminated from XIMB admission process in favor of WAT.

watWAT evaluates thought process and creativity


WAT is getting greater acceptability at MBA selection process as it also helps admission panel to understand thought pattern and creativity of candidates at the individual level. As Prof Mareena Mathew, Admissions Coordinator, XIME, says, “WAT adds value to the selection process as it tests the ability of the candidate to think clearly and in putting down ideas comprehensively within a limited time. It helps those candidates who are not aggressive during a GD, but has clear thinking and imagination.”

Dr. Sanjay Dhir, DMS, IIT Delhi agrees as he feels that “WAT as a part of the selection process helps B‐schools overcome the limitation of analyzing individual student’s potential to creative thinking and their thought process to assess the problem from various perspectives.”


Brings input at Personal Interview Round


While the WAT helps admission panel to judge the candidates for their thinking and writing in ability, it also helps interviewers at PI stage. “WAT helps us to see abilities for quick and logical thinking, and for clear and correct articulation. Also, since WAT is conducted and evaluated before the PI, it becomes good input for Personal Interview also,” says Prof Arun Kumar Paul, Associate Professor, XIMB.

Below is the list of IIMs with GD-WAT-PI options

* The B-schools above are placed in random order

Is GD still relevant?


Though many B-schools still have GD in their selection, WAT has entered as a definitive tool in their admission process. Dr Anil J Pinto, Registrar, Christ University says that though Christ University has not replaced the GD but it included a written skill assessment to be able to assess both the written and spoken skills of the candidate.


Amrita School of Business (ASB) also puts more emphasis on WAT than GD. “We initiated WAT because this would provide an opportunity for the candidate to better express himself, not only in terms of his subject knowledge, but also in terms of attitude, readiness to take a management course, awareness,” says Dr Raghu Raman, Chairman, ASB, Coimbatore.

XIME Bangalore Associate Dean, Mareena Mathew states, "At XIME we have not done away with GD, but have added a WAT (Written Ability Test) before the commencement of GD. We feel GD is still relevant as it helps us to understand a candidate’s ability to communicate, convince and share ideas. This is an important quality of a manager." She also adds, "WAT adds value to the selection process as it tests the ability of the candidate to think clearly and in putting down ideas comprehensively within a limited time. It helps those candidates who are not aggressive during a GD but has clear thinking and imagination. For the B-schools too, WAT is an additional tool in assessing a candidate as it overcomes the shortfalls of GD."


“While GE helps us test the confidence, leadership and team dynamics of the person, WAT helps us to evaluate the written communication and structure of thought process of the candidate,” Dr. Pratima Sheorey, Director, SCMHRD rounds off.

Other Feature Stories on B-School and MBA:

What B-Schools look for in a Candidate?

GD-PI-WAT Topper Interview

Director Interviews

Top B-schools MBA Fee

Life @ B-School Campus

Top B-schools Admission Criteria

MBA Internship Series

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