Over the last few years, essay writing (also known as Written Ability Test) has gained prominence and become a part of the selection procedure of some IIMs and a number of other MBA institutes. This makes it vital to understand how to approach and attempt this task.
Written Ability Test (WAT) typically consists of a generic topic or a brief paragraph on which the candidate is required to write 300-400 words. There is no set pattern or genre for the question – it could be a situation analysis question or a multi-level task. It is, therefore, important that the candidate be prepared for anything and knows how to use a specific method to tackle the question, regardless of the question.
Why is WAT important?
· WAT is a crucial step for the selection procedure because it provides an equitable platform to MBA aspirants and an appropriate medium to show their communication skills. Older methods, like Group Discussion (GD), have proven to be less fruitful in analysing a candidate’s abilities.
· This changed had to be introduced as the selectors were unable to give much attention to candidates because despite assigning a specific duration to each candidate.
· A Personal Interview (PI) is still mandatory. so the combination of WAT and PI has become the most efficient test for the interviewers.
· WAT is especially important in examining a candidate’s abilities because one has to express the in a cogent manner in a certain time limit.
· It lets the selectors test the candidate extensively on three criteria:
(i) Knowledge – The topics of WAT can vary from current affairs to socio-political-economic issues to historical incidents to abstract issues.
(ii) Approach – This is essentially how you structure the arguments and what devices you use to substantiate them.
(iii) Ability of expression – This is a big challenge because one has to express as much as possible while adhering to a word and time limit. It tests how one examines various perspectives from a neutral point of view and then reaches a logical conclusion.
Possible Topics and Categories
· Current Affairs: This may include topics pertaining to burning national or international events. This also covers those subjects which have been in the news for quite a while. Therefore, it becomes important that you keep track of various issues and be aware of things that are happening around you.
· Generic Issues: This category is a little different from the first one as it is more about social, political, or economic matters. Since the range of this category is vast, these topics may often induce an opinion and demand you to adopt a stand on an issue. For example, topics such as “Are nuclear families better or not?” need you to clarify your stands. In such cases, one must offer different perspectives of the topic with ample anecdotes and then present a well-drawn conclusion.
· Case Study: More suited for GDs, this type of topics usually requires the whole group to present a synopsis of the issue or the problem given. When converted into WAT, it may require the candidate to analyse the topic from various viewpoints and then come up with a logical solution.
· Abstract Statements: These are open-ended topics. A simplistic statement is given as the topic. It tests the candidate’s ability to weigh an elementary idea in as many lights as possible, thus examining creativity. This type of topics have immense scope as different people can view the same phrase in different dimensions.
Topics from Previous Years
These are some of the topics from the WATs of last few years.
· “Many Bollywood movies grossed over 100 crores in 2014. It was a golden year for Bollywood.” Analyse the statements.
· Ancient Indian scientists haven’t received due recognition. According to ancient scriptures, Indian scientists had developed aviation technology long ago. But the Wright Brothers are unduly credited with the invention of the airplane. Analyse.
· Case Study: Entrepreneurship in India.
· Case Study based GD: Village has all amenities, crop failure, loan on cash, minister help. What as farmers could be done?
· How would you control farmer suicides?
· Sensationalism in media should be censored.
· FDIs in Educational Institutes.
· The educational system is quelling creativity in Indian children.
· Reasons for disproportionately lo number of women in top managerial positions, and how this issue can be solved.
· Privacy Intrusion versus Surveillance.
· Give your views on book launches, social hype around books and bestselling novels.
· Case studies suggest that enrolment is increasing in Indian schools and that India ranks 2nd from bottom in reading and mathematical abilities. How would you explain the contribution of B-schools?
· Is privatization the only way to bring down the real prices in the power and electricity industry?
· “The true essence of democracy can be judged by a ten-minute conversation with a voter.” – Winston Churchill.
How to approach WAT?
Different institutes give anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes for WAT. In some institutes, like IIM Lucknow, only 15 minutes are given to write 200-plus words. IIM-Bangalore, on the other hand, asks the examinees to write close to 400 words in 30 minutes. You should keep the following in mind while approaching essay writing:
· Ideally, there should be a logical analysis of the topic and a meaningful conclusion should follow. Both of these should fit well together and not look like disjoint entities.
· Your content will vary as per the topic but following a set structure helps as you then only need to worry about the content and not the form.
· Before starting the answer, you should make a rough outline of all the points. This will help in creating the flow for your essay. While jotting down the broad pointers, if you leave one line between two consecutive points, it will be easier for you to add or eliminate points as you go ahead.
· Since you cannot predict the genre of the topic, it is important to have a particular structure prepared.
Structure for an Essay
An ideal essay consists of three parts – introduction, main body and conclusion.
· Introduction: The first paragraph should be devoted to the introduction. You should try to open it with an eye-catching element – a relevant fact, statistical figure(s), quotation, anecdote or definition. After the first two or three lines, the premise or the basic idea should be touched upon. This will provide flow to the whole essay and a link to the main body.
· Main Body: Once your introduction is done properly, you will get a strong basis to write the whole essay upon. This part involves building upon the premise and supporting it with relevant ideas, concepts and, if needed, contrary perspectives. You should expand on the core points and a thorough, however brief, explanation of each should follow. Since you have limited time and words, incomplete or irrelevant points should be avoided. It is important to provide a logical flow to connect consecutive paragraphs, and only then you can do justice to both the word limit and the topic. Depending upon the genre and the vastness of the topic, the structure of the main body should be altered.
· Conclusion: This is the final test for your essay. It should be ensured that all the broad points are used and cited here. A conclusion is essentially the summary of your essay but to make your answer stand out, you can weigh the different viewpoints and present the ones which are stronger. It should touch upon all the core points and bind the whole text together by logic because otherwise, it will look unhinged.
· Reserve the last few minutes to recheck for any grammatical, semantic or syntactic errors. Make the necessary modifications and then submit your final draft.
Final Tips for WAT
· Cultivate a habit of writing: In today’s gadget-centric era, most people have lost the habit of traditional pen-paper writing. Thus, instead of practising on your tablet or PC, it is ideal to make a separate notebook and practise the essay questions in it.
· Make a rough outline before writing: You should refrain from directly attempting the question in fair form. It is better to make a rough outline and structure of your essay and then expanding on each of the elementary point.
· Structure should be strong: As mentioned above, divide your essay into the three broad parts – introduction, main body and conclusion. Following a structure as basic as this actually comes in handy when you are attempting the WAT.
· Use Simple Language: Focus on making your language simple yet unconventional. Refrain from using highly technical vocabulary and stick to the basics. Long and complex sentences should also be avoided as they make the essay monotonous.
· Proof-read in the end: Make sure to keep the last few minutes reserved for revising and proof-reading. It is better to improve upon your essay than to devote those last minutes in making it longer. Plus, this way you can make important modifications and check for any errors.
These are the primary points to be remembered while attempting the Written Ability Test for MBA exams. If you can understand these well, you can easily ace it.
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