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Everything you need to know about Written Ability Test (WAT) Preparation

WAT or Written Ability Test is one of the two shortlisting rounds conducted by b-schools to assess the candidate's reasoning abilities and written communication skills. The WAT concept started anew last year by top IIMs of the country (Indian Institute of Management) to replace the group discussion round (GD). Many other B-Schools followed the lead of this protocol and have incorporated WAT as one of their selection parameters for MBA Admissions. Major IIMs and other top b-schools of the country award a significant weightage to the WAT round (more than 20%), the second stage of their shortlisting process.  This article summarizes all the tips and strategies devised by CL experts to help you with your WAT preparation. Without further ado, see how one should take necessary steps anent WAT Preparation to crack it successfully.

What is meant by WAT?

WAT (Written Ability Test) is a written examination that includes one unique essay question a student needs to answer within the time bracket of 10-20 minutes. This round is conducted somewhere between early afternoon to late afternoon. The style and type of the essay differ across several institutes. The WAT round's primary purpose is to evaluate the candidate on four major proficiency strands, i.e., understanding, fluency, problem-solving, and reasoning. This round is similar to an essay competition. Several IIMs (including new IIMs and Baby IIMs) have replaced the original group discussion round with the WAT round. The reason for this modification was threefold; the inability of candidates to creatively construct their opinions during the earlier group discussion round, GD room's chaotic environment, and lack of confidence amongst candidates to speak up their part without any hesitance.

Classification of WAT topics

If candidates believe that there is only one type of topic in the WAT round, they are highly mistaken. There are various categories of essays that are modified to evaluate criteria the panel believes to be most important. Here is a descriptive overlay of the most important topics and the significant points of focus that can strengthen your WAT preparation subject to modifications:

Current Affairs Philosophical Abstract

Resources to Prepare from:

  • Newspapers – General, business and trade publications.
  • Journals – Scholarly, General Knowledge
  • Magazines – Business, Finance, Economy Reader's Digest, Tell me why


Resources to Prepare from:

  • Internet
  • Sample Papers of UPSC
  • Journals: Philosophical
  • Simple Novels
  • Real Life Experiences

Resources to Prepare from:

  • Blogs for trending abstract topics I.e., WordPress, Pinterest etc
  • MBA websites for Abstract topics
  • Media Channels

How to Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Arguments in Favor or Arguments against
  • Quote Examples based on Facts
  • Build your Opinion
  • Conclusion

How to Structure

  • Introduction through Quotes
  • Facts supporting claims
  • Reason in a non-personal way or storytelling.
  • Anticipate disapprovals in a subtle manner
  • Persuasive Opinion Based Verdict.

How to Structure

  • Simple Introduction.
  • State Political, Social, Economic or Technological Examples relevant to the topic.
  • Justify your perspective with clear reasoning.
  • Anticipate alternate approaches.

Guidelines for WAT preparation:

Here are a few guidelines or protocols you should keep in mind in order to give substance to your WAT preparation.:

  • The Introductory line of the passage should function as an acting hook:  The introduction of your essay would decide whether you would be going for the topic or against the issue. Frame the introductory line to capture the maximum amount of attention of the reader/examiner and increase the engagement level in the very beginning. Deliver the entire essay's essence in the first line of your introduction. You can achieve this by practicing the concept of speed writing. Remember, the shorter your essay, the stronger your argument will be.
  • Citing your argument right after introduction: Cut straight to the chase. You should deliver your argument's opening lines in the next paragraph. Remember, this round evaluates your core reasoning skills clubbed with your writing skills. Clarify your main idea first and exercise critical judgment through supporting sentences. This practice makes way for the reader to understand your perspective without slowing down his/her reading speed.
  • Be aware of the complexity of the topic: It would be best to note the complexity and the “confusing” nature of the topic. Refrain from jargon, I.e., lengthy sentences. Ensure the voice command of your content is active and intrusive. Do not go all out on vocabulary. Using complicated words can hurt your essay by making it more illegible in terms of clarity. At the same time, do not dumb down your essay. Ensure you take a technical slant to present viewpoints in a more polished and specific manner.
  • Present, support and introspect facts: Check for the genuineness of the facts you present as a backing for your arguments. The facts you present should highlight your argument and help you drive your opinion home. This will also make your essay more enjoyable and less redundant to read.
  • Do not sidetrack from the main idea: Going into a tangent can weaken your argument. Ensure you keep your article brief and to the point. This will help you keep in check the article's wordiness and the word-limit provided to you. It can also help provide context to your essay, which the reader might be exclusively searching.
  • Keep the conclusion brief: Do not rehash the statements already mentioned in the body of your essay. The conclusion part of your essay should be extremely concise, stating the final verdict of the entire essay and wrapping up the things in an extremely tasteful way. It should be no more than 2-3 sentences in length and provide a sense of closure.

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Seven watchwords to map out your WAT preparation

Here are the necessary steps to win over the WAT round:

  • Create a perfect logical flow in your writing. Your essay should begin with a proper introduction, two short body paragraphs summarizing your main argument and a brief concluding paragraph.
  • Do not mention bullet points, tables, or any such formatting. It would give out an impression of “not putting much effort.”
  • Justify your arguments with relevant examples, facts or incidents.
  • Be very careful regarding the punctuation of your essay. The sentences have a literal stop between them. Make it a point to not overuse conjunctions.
  • Only include details which are central to the main idea of your essay.
  • Condense your sentences. Use semi colons, hyphens, full stop, etc to foster readability.

Things can deter your WAT preparation

  • Assuming that writing an extended essay would be better and not following the provided word or page length limit.
  • Explaining your main argument in an overly complicated manner, without leaving room for introspection.
  • Writing a lengthy introduction or conclusion.
  • Plagiarizing the essay by copying someone else’s content in your essay.
  • Making grammatical, punctuation and spelling mistakes in your essay.
  • Using heavy words to represent simple events.
  • Making up your own facts and using them to justify your argument

Here is a detailed stepwise approach to lay the groundwork for WAT round.

Written Ability Test (WAT) for IIMs

WAT is an inextricable part of IIM Admission process. During the WAT round, the candidate is either handed over an essay topic or a case study. Further, a candidate has to analyze the topic and frame an opinion around it. In keeping with this, the candidate should also ensure they do not surpass the word limit (generally 200-300 words) and time limit. The time constraint for WAT varies from institute to institute. Some IIMs have added WAT rounds along with group discussion rounds for their various Management programmes.  Here is a summation of the time frame allotted by IIMs and other top most b-schools of the country:

Name of IIM Estimated Time Limit
IIM Ahmadabad 20 minutes
IIM Bangalore 30 minutes
IIM Calcutta 25 minutes
IIM Lucknow 20 minutes
IIM Kozhikode 15 minutes
IIM Indore 30 minutes
New IIMs (IIM Kashipur, IIM Raipur, IIM Ranchi, IIM Rohtak, IIM Trichy and IIM Udaipur) 20 minutes
XLRI 20 minutes
IIFT Delhi 20 minutes

IIM Ahmedabad's AWT round

AWT (Analytical Writing Test) is the same as WAT (Written Ability Test). IIM Ahmedabad specifically conducts the AWT round to shortlist candidates' logical and reasoning abilities. In other words, AWT is IIM Ahmedabad's version of WAT. The primary intent of IIM A behind renaming this process was to make it clear amongst candidates that this round would examine both their writing skills and ability to analyze and fractionate the question logically. AWT questions can be up to 2-3 short paragraphs that put forth the author's arguments at the candidate's disposal. The candidates must pen down better ideas either in favor of the author or against the author. IIM Ahmedabad has not released individual weightage of the AWT round but instead computes an FCS score (final composite score) of the candidate who appears in the AWT round and PI (Personal Interview Round).

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