We have selected a diverse list of topics for Written Ability Test (WAT, also called essay-writing) and Group Discussion (GD) administered in the recent past at some of India’s leading b-schools.
Written Ability Test (WAT) topics
- Will GST transform India’s economic landscape? (IIFT)
- The Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India is against the basic nature of democracy. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Some investors have noted that angel investors must invest in startups that solve country-specific problems.
- Share your opinion on this. (IIM Bangalore)
- Cinema has deeply influenced the Indian society. Has the influence been detrimental or beneficial? (IIM Calcutta)
- Change the plan but never the goal. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Religion divides us, problems unite us. (MDI)
- Is globalization good for workers and their rights? (IIM Indore)
- Would the concept of Smart Cities solve India’s economic and social problems? (IIM Kozhikode)
- Transformation in social and cultural values is the only way to prevent violence against women in India. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Can India become a cashless society? (IIM Lucknow)
- The world got ‘Trump’ed! (IIFT)
- Is free market a prerequisite for growth? (IIM Lucknow)
- Should income tax be abolished in India? (MDI Gurgaon)
- Aadhaar – opportunities and challenges ahead. (IIM Indore)
- Is establishing an IIT and an IIM in every state a right move? Will it affect the brand value of these
- institutions? What challenges will it present? (IIM Bangalore)
- ‘Free Basics’ by Facebook can be seen as a disadvantage for the digital have-nots. (IIM Bangalore)
- Mass Media – a boon or bane? (IIM Kozhikode)
- Is terrorism something which originates because of religion or deprivation? Or is it that some people with vested interests want to leverage their personal benefits out of it? (IIM Kozhikode)
- Your young cousin is confused about what she should pursue for higher studies. How will you guide her? What factors would you consider before giving her advice? (IIM Indore)
- What skill set should be imparted to Indian students to ensure that they become force to reckon with in the job sector? (IIM Indore)
- Earlier people did not fear people who migrated to their city, but nowadays they look at them with suspicion. Is migration raising fear among locals? What can the state do to avoid this conflict? (IIM Calcutta)
- Private sector promotes employability and public sector promotes employment. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Can a developing country afford to preserve its monuments, natural wonders, living heritage like culture and
- performing arts? Do you think they should be preserved? Share your views. (IIM Calcutta)
- Is cricket killing other sports in India? (IIM Indore)
- The best way to destroy your enemy is to make her/him your friend. (IIM Kozhikode)
- I love India and detest Indians. (IIM Indore)
- Is obesity becoming a problem of urban India? (New IIMs)
- One plus one cannot be two. (IIM Indore)
- What do you think has an immediate impact on humans – an economic disaster or environmental destruction? (IIM Kozhikode)
- The Supreme Court ruled that national anthem should be played in cinema halls. Is it the only way to promote patriotism? What is your opinion? (IIM Indore)
- Can the world economy bank upon India for growth? (IIFT)
- Can India achieve 9% GDP growth rate? (IIFT)
- Democracy is hampering progress in India. (MDI Gurgaon)
- Should violent video games be banned? (MDI Gurgaon)
- Women in politics: empowerment or tokenism? (MDI Gurgaon)
- Is Third Front the future of Indian politics? (MDI Gurgaon)
- Smartphones: boon or bane? (MDI Gurgaon)
- If companies are cozy with the government, then it promotes them. (XLRI)
- Inclusive growth in India is a myth. (XLRI)
- Are foreign managers better than their Indian counterparts? (XLRI)
- Hard work or smart work – which is better? (NITIE)
- Democracy in India cannot be successful until equal representation is given to each state. (XLRI)
- If beauty is skin deep, then how can truth be beautiful? (XLRI)
- Is secularism still relevant? (XLRI)
- The golden rule is that there is no golden rule. (IIM Lucknow)
- Patents on medicines should not be applicable to underdeveloped countries. (IIM Lucknow)
- Is a college degree required for achieving success in today’s life? (IIM Lucknow & IIM Kozhikode)
- Mangalyaan is not a breakthrough in science but just a nasty kick to diseased economy. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Should capital punishment be abolished in India? (IIM Kozhikode)
- As long as cricket is there, betting will be there. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Cyber law bill has failed. Cyberspace patrolling is just not possible. (IIM Kozhikode)
- Entrepreneurs cannot be produced inside business schools. (IIM Lucknow)
- Should the budget for space programme in India be invested in poverty alleviation? (IIM Lucknow)
- ‘What do I want to do in life’ is the least pondered question for most of us. Your thoughts on this issue. (IIM Lucknow)
- Grass is always greener on the other side. (NITIE)
- Business and ethics – can they go hand in hand? (NITIE)
- Recession is the mother of innovation. (NITIE)
- Is love marriage better than arranged marriage? (Goa Institute of Management)
- Is honesty still the best policy? (FORE Delhi)
- Should school children be allowed to use and own mobile phones? (Goa Institute of Management)
- Should mobile phones and tablets replace text books to save the trees? (NITIE)
- Joint Family is the solution to today’s ailing society. (LBSIM Delhi)
- Should Income Tax be abolished in India? (XLRI)
- Can all good individual performers definitely transform into good leaders? (XLRI)
- Discuss the influence of the media on the society? (XLRI)
- Can there ever be peace with Pakistan? (NITIE)
- Should local language be the medium of instruction in primary schools? (NITIE)
- Can the world economy bank upon India for growth? (IIFT)
- Can India achieve 9% GDP growth rate? (IIFT)
- What should India do to have its own Facebooks, Alibabas & Googles? (IIMK)
- Reading after a certain age reduces creativity. (IIMK)
- The government ban on Maggi noodles was not justified. Discuss. (IIFT)
- Whistle blowers or disloyal agents? (NITIE)
- Secularism in India: Challenges & concerns. (TISS)
- Try not to be a man of success but a man of value. (IIMK)
B-School Interview Experiences
Interview for: IIM Ahmedabad
Qualification: B. Tech. (CSE)
Work ex: 20 months
Hobbies: Literary prizes, working with NGO.
Anything extra: Working on business plan.
The number of panelists: 3, to be called P1, P2 & P3.
P1: Tell me what your company does?
P1: What kind of financial data?
P1: You seem to be uncomfortable with financial fundamentals? Do you want me to move to computer science directly? (Sir, let me put it in a better way again.)
P1: We don’t have much time over here.
P1: Okay, now explain in two lines why your project is crucial to your company?
P1: This is easy work to do. (P1 remained unconvinced.)
P1: Okay, so why do you want to do an MBA? (Sir, I want to become an entrepreneur. I am already working on this project – explained the b-plan in brief; asked permission to use paper and pencil to explain all the verticals of the b-plan using block diagrams.)
P1 (looked interested): Why do you think you have the skills to do this? This plan is rural in nature. You are completely in the IT corporate world. (Sir, I believe, it is not about skills, it is about passion.
P1 (Sarcastically): Do you really think so? What is the percentage of people dependent on agriculture in rural areas? What is the revenue model of your planned venture? Why do you think it will work?
P2: So, you are from DB team, explain normalization.
P2: What is the full form of BCNF?
P2: Explain 1 NF, 2 NF, 3 NF.
P2: Okay, why do you have this interest in mythology?
P2: What is the name of Hanuman’s son? (Unable to recollect the name.)
P2: Who was his father? (At that time, it just struck me that Hanuman never married.)
P2: Okay, now tell me, who was his son? (Sir, he did not marry, so technically, he should have no son.)
P2 started laughing, saying that he loved the word ‘technically’.
P2: This is fine, but I believe that at your age, spirituality and mythology don’t suit you. You should go around girls. Do you have a girlfriend? (No, Sir, but I am in a search mode.)
P2: (laughing) Of course, if you go around telling girls about mythology, what else do you expect? (Sir, in that case, my second hobby – writing Hindi poetry – would be useful; the two professors smile.)
P3: What is your favourite subject? (DBMS)
P3: Tell me about Boyce-Codd normal form.
P2: Thank you, we are done. Please take a toffee.
Interview for: IIM Lucknow
Qualification: B. Tech. (ECE)
Work ex: 30 months
Hobbies: Kathak, glass painting, & rangoli.
Number of panelists: Two, P1 & P2
P1: How do you spell your name?
P2: How do you spell your surname?
P1: Is it your father’s name or something else? (My community’s name, Sir.)
P1: So, you are from Andhra. Is it? (Telangana, Sir.)
P1: Ya, ya, you guys fought for it for many years.
P1: Can I have a look at your file, please?
P1: What is this? (I had my passport placed in the file.)
P1: Why is it called Republic of India?
P1: Is India a republic or democratic? (I said ‘democratic’.)
P1: Then why is it a Republic?
P1: What is the U.S.?
P1: Really, I’m shocked! (raised his voice)
P1: Where do you get good biryani? (Discussion on various Hyderabad restaurants; the student is from Hyderabad.)
P1: Do you know how to cook biryani?
P1: Please give me the recipe.
P1: Is there something called a vegetable biryani? (Yes, there is, Sir. I’m a vegetarian but my parents are non-vegetarians.)
P1: Why did you stop eating non-vegetarian food?
P1: Tell me about your parents, their work.
P1: What is your father’s salary?
P1: Where is your brother’s college? Give us the address of your college.
P1: Tell us about your work.
P1: What tools do you use? What are the other uses of the technology?
P1: What are your hobbies? (I’m a trained Kathak dancer in Lucknow Gharana.)
P1: You are from Hyderabad. So, where did you learn Kathak in Lucknow Gharana?
P1: Explain the differences between Bharatanatyam and Kathak.
P1: Can you dance for us? (Yes, Sir; I was about to get up – but was asked to sit and show some mudra.)
P2: Why is it called Kathak?
P1: What are your other interview calls? (Calls from IIMs B, I, K and the New IIMs.)
P1: So, which one will you join? (Non-committal answer)
P1: You are familiar with Lucknow Gharana and you can cook biryani, why not join IIML? (Both the panellists laughed hard when the student said ‘yes’.)
P1: Please take a toffee and leave.
Interview for: IIM Ahmedabad
Qualification: B. Tech. (CSE)
Work ex: 33 months
Hobbies: Quizzing & watching magic tricks.
The number of panelists: Two, female professor (FP) and male professor (MP).
MP: Where do you work? (Company X – we have deliberately left the company’s name out to make such questions universally applicable.)
FP: Who are the competitors of Company X?
FP: What is the market capitalization of Company X?
FP: What is its share price?
MP: What is its revenue?
FP: How much did Company X pay to acquire Company Y? Has the acquisition worked well for Company X?
MP: Draw the graph of |x| / (1+|x|).
MP: Is it differentiable at x=0?
MP: Is it continuous at x=0?
MP: How do you find the differentiation at a point?
MP: Draw the graph of x / (1+x).
MP: Is it differentiable at x=-1?
FP: What are your hobbies? (Watching magic tricks and quizzing.)
FP: Share some tricks.
MP: As an engineer, which trick appealed to you the most?
MP: Share a quiz fact you learnt recently. (Morarji Desai won Pakistan’s highest civilian award.)
MP: What is the exact name of the award?
FP: Did any Pakistani get Bharat Ratna?
FP: Name another famous Indian who received an award from Pakistan.
FP: Why was there a controversy then?
MP: Just as India has tensions in Kashmir, Pakistan has some issues – which part/state?
FP: How do I go from Mumbai to Mount Kilimanjaro?
FP: If I want to see penguins, where do I go? (Antarctica or New Zealand, Sir.)
FP: If don’t want to go to Antarctica or New Zealand, then?
FP: What’s the capital of Chile?
FP: Is Chile a democracy?
FP: Who is Augusto Pinochet?
MP: Thank you, you may go now.
Reading Ladder: A Guide to Mastering RC
The importance of the reading skill cannot be overemphasized. It is an integral part of management entrance tests such as the CAT. In addition to the Reading Comprehension (RC) segment of any management entrance test, many question types in the Verbal Ability (VA) segment, such as para jumbles and para completion, test your ability to read and comprehend well. The other sections of management entrance tests, viz. Quantitative Aptitude, Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation, also require you to read and assimilate vast amounts of text.
RC is an area that bothers almost everyone. While students do recognize this, they are confused as to how they should start working on this area. The paradox is that the recognition of the imperative role of reading in reaching the goal is not matched with or accompanied by the effort to embark on the journey. In this article, we present a road map which will help you not only become aware of the route to the destination, which is mastering RC, but also recognize that the road blocks are all in the mind. This road map is designed not just to enable you to excel in the RC section of the CAT but also to hone reading skills that can help you in manifold aspects of your life or career.
The fear of reading
The main issue here is the inherent fear of reading. The first thing you need to tell yourself that reading is an enjoyable activity. Most students fear reading. Throughout their childhood, they have had the single-minded devotion to ‘mugging up’ whatever they read so that they could perform well in exams. Further, most reading was confined to text-books with the objective of cracking exams, which, of course, kills the pleasure of reading.
You will be glad to know that the CAT does not require you to remember vast quantities of information that needs to be reproduced verbatim in the examination to score marks. What is being tested is the ability to read and interpret the written word. When you read a newspaper, do you ever try to memorise its contents? So, whenever you are reading, do not try to memorise; focus on understanding the issue and that will automatically make you remember the contents. Reading will become an enjoyable and rewarding activity. As a wise man said, “Reading a good book is like conversing with a great man”. Take up reading as you would take up a pleasurable activity to fill the empty spaces of your mind, or as a committed friendship, because reading is, after all, a silent conversation.
The need for a road map
As a discerning traveller on the ‘Reading Comprehension Journey’, carry a backpack of patience
and perseverance with you. Start with the curiosity of a traveller, not the idée fixe of a tourist.
A roadmap can help you:
1. know your level of preparedness, which, in turn, would give you a starting point for the journey;
2. show the way forward, and
3. evaluate your progress and make mid-course corrections, if required.
The basic premise of this road map is that if you are trying to improve your reading speed and comprehension, you should read at a speed slightly higher than your current speed, without compromising much on comprehension. Your current speed of reading is the fastest that you can read, while understanding much of the stated ideas in the content. If you push your reading speed considerably up, you may not comprehend much of the content. This will only leave you feeling dejected. Aiming for incremental improvements in your reading speed will not, to a large extent, adversely affect comprehension. If this is done on a consistent basis, both reading speed and comprehension can improve.
How to read correctly
Reading is effective only when there is conscious participation from the reader. Keep a pencil handy when you read and whatever you find difficult to understand, underline the difficult portions or words. Once you have read the article, look up the difficult words in a dictionary. Understand the related and difficult-to-understand general awareness concepts by browsing on the internet. Then, read the article again. This ensures that you understand the words in the right context as well as get the complete meaning of the article. Many students find the meanings of the words in the dictionary, but do not read the article again. This is only semi-productive. This exercise helps you sharpen the valuable skill of decipherment, a priceless art in comprehension. Additionally, try to summarise the contents of the article, focusing on the important ideas. Writing summaries will help you become a better reader. This can be done better if, as habit, you note (mentally or on paper) the focal ideas in each paragraph, thereby understanding the author’s flow of thought. Both these pieces of advice are for students at all rungs of the reading ladder (discussed below).
The roadmap a.k.a. The ladder of reading
The Bottom Rung
1. The bottom rung of the reading ladder consists of students who come from a background of Non-English medium of education at school or college level and are not able to read English newspapers. If you fall in this category, then start with simple magazines, books and newspapers. Keep a basic dictionary handy.
1.1. Read The Hindu and other similar comics in English. Tinkle is a simple and informative magazine with good quality English. You will understand simple conversations through comics and informative panels. If you find Tinkle tough, then you can even start reading Champak in English. After some time when you become comfortable with Champak, you can shift to Tinkle. You can read some simple and basic novels such as Chetan Bhagat’s works.
1.2. Read NCERT books for Classes VI to X. You can read English, Science and Social Science books. Start with the books for Class VI and finish them in whatever time it takes. Then move to books of Class VII and so on. Later, you may read English books of Classes XI and XII and the course books in English medium for whatever subjects you had chosen in those classes. For example, students who studied Commerce in Hindi or Tamil medium may re-read commerce books in English. This will build a lot of basic vocabulary since the books are designed to improve the students’ vocabulary and knowledge.
1.3. Read parts of newspapers meant for beginners/children. Some newspapers, like The Hindu, carry supplements for young children (8–14 years age group). These are yet another good source of simple vocabulary, simple sentence structure as well as good comprehension.
1.4. Once again, bear in mind that when you read, you are not trying to memorise anything. Just read along for understanding and enjoyment. Continue these exercises, till you are comfortable with this reading material. Then move to the next step.
The Second Rung
2. The second rung consists of the students who enjoy basic comfort with the English language but find it difficult to understand the moderately tough sections in English newspapers/other reading material. If you come in this category, then you can do the following:
2.1. Start by reading a quality newspaper completely. You can choose from TOI or Hindustan Times or Indian Express or any similar publication. Read news articles on national and international issues, and, of course, the editorials.
2.2. Read magazines like India Today, The Week, Outlook, Swarajya and Reader’s Digest. MBA Education and Careers (ME&C), published by T.I.M.E., will help a lot.
2.3. Read works of fiction by authors such as R. K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Khushwant Singh, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Arthur Hailey, Sidney Sheldon, and Fredrick Forsyth. V. S. Naipaul’s fiction is also doable at this level, but not the non-fiction. That is for later.
2.4. Read the ‘Harry Potter Series’, which is pretty good for beginners.
2.5. Start with simple non-fiction, like The Hindu .
2.6. Many students perceive Philosophy to be tough. ‘Sophie’s World’ is highly recommended in this case.
The Third Rung
3. The third rung consists of the students who are fairly comfortable with the English language but find it difficult to understand the tough sections of reading materials. If you fall in this category, then here’s what you have to do:
3.1. Start reading a quality newspaper. The Hindu is possibly the best newspaper for you. Start with the main news page and then read the middle two pages completely. It could be initially challenging to read serious issues and articles dealing with society’s problems but that is what is required! Read the editorials, articles, and opinion pieces completely.
3.2. Read Frontline and foreign magazines like TIME, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Fortune; look up their websites.
3.4. Try reading non-fiction. Books on self-help make for good reads. Start with basic books in the areas of Sciences, Psychology, Sociology, Arts, History, and Philosophy. Here are some recommendations: How to Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie), The Road Less Travelled (Scott Peck); The Third Wave, Future Shock, Power Shift (all by Alvin Toffler), Lateral Thinking (Edward De Bono), India Unbound (Gurcharan Das) and India After Gandhi (Ramachandra Guha). A Brief History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson) and Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari) can excite one’s interest in the sciences. Biographies are also recommended – The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Mahatma Gandhi), Iacocca (Lee Iacocca), and Made in Japan (Akio Morita).
3.5. Start with simple poetry. Ogden Nash and Nissim Ezekiel are good choices.
The Top Rung
4. The fourth rung is of the students who are pretty comfortable with the English language and want to peruse even tougher work/texts to ensure that their CAT preparation is up to the mark.
4.1. Along with the material mentioned in the last rung, you can start to read The Economist (www.economist.com) and the McKinsey Quarterly (www.mckinseyquarterly.com).
4.2. Start to read difficult fiction, like ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller, works of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, and Vikram Seth. Ayn Rand (We the Living; Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged) is a perennial favourite at this level. J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is a good choice.
4.3. In non-fiction, Robert Pirsig (Lila: An Inquiry into Morals; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), Bertrand Russell, and
J. Krishnamurthy are recommended for philosophy. You can read Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud on psychology. Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics) and Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time) lend a strong base for an understanding of the sciences.
4.4. Try modern poetry. Don’t overdo it. Poets to read are Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and William Butler Yeats. You can search for their poems on the internet.
4.5. Supplements of The Hindu and articles from Frontline are a good source of critiques and reviews of fine arts, including paintings and other cultural aspects. Book reviews of non-fiction works provide good practice for strengthening your RC capability.
Computer Based Test – CAT
Due to the CBT nature of the CAT, you should be comfortable with reading on a computer. You should practice the RC material on the student homepage on www.time4education.com. Additionally, you can make use of the following websites:
a. www.aldaily.com (Arts and Letters Daily) – a good website for moderate to tough articles on a variety of areas like philosophy, ideas, criticism, and language.
b. www.magportal.com – a website that is essentially a link guide to articles on the web.
c. www.indiatogether.org – a good collection of articles on issues faced by India.
d. www.atimes.com – good articles on international affairs from an Asian perspective.
e. www.nytimes.com – excellent op-ed section.
f. www.edge.org – a blog/website on technology and its interplay with society.
g. en.wikipedia.org – you can always read Wikipedia for the articles on topics you are not familiar with. You can click on the bibliography articles (listed at the end of most articles) to see tougher articles on the same topic.
h. You can download apps of various newspapers. Additionally, good news aggregators, like inshorts, can improve your GK and reading.
If you believe you have already crossed/aced stage 4, then start re-doing stage 4 in comparatively less time. It will automatically increase the pressure, e.g., the RC passages in the AIMCATs and the CAT are expected to be between levels 3 and 4. You can redo some of those in less time, say 75% of the time allocated earlier. That is sufficient to create the desired stress while reading.
Use library facilities at your T.I.M.E. centre where you may see quite a few books from the recommended lists. Good reading is linked to good writing too. As you read more, it will help you write better, which will help you write impressive essays. Share your thoughts on reading with a like-minded peer group as discussion helps broaden perspective. Remember that the destination is made worthwhile by the journey that shows not just places but also new paths!