WAT Preparation: Definition, Format, and Preparation Tips

Updated on 20 December 2023 | 10:35 am | #WATPreparation

Many top B-schools including IIMs conduct the WAT (Written Ability Test) as the first step in the MBA shortlisting process. WAT 2023 was reintroduced at IIMs in 2023 for MBA admission after being discontinued in 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic. Making it to the final merit list will now be challenging without WAT Preparation for MBA Admission in IIMs. IIMs have made it clear in their admission policy 2023 that a significant weightage of the final selection process will be devoted to WAT 2023. For students hoping to get into top colleges, Written Ability Test, or WAT preparation is significant. This is a critical step that evaluates your ability to write and articulate ideas clearly. Thus, WAT is a key part of the admission process, and doing well in it is crucial for getting into the college you want.

What is WAT?

WAT stands for Written Ability Test. It's an important part of the admission process for many MBA programs, particularly at top Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other prestigious B-schools.

What is it:

  • An essay writing test that assesses your writing skills, critical thinking ability, and communication effectiveness.
  • Typically conducted after you clear an entrance exam like CAT (Common Admission Test) for IIMs.
  • Usually involves writing an essay on a given topic within a limited time frame (15-20 minutes).

Format of the Written Ability Test Round

The format of the Written Ability Test (WAT) round can vary slightly depending on the specific program or institution, but here's a general overview of what to expect:

  • Time Limit
    The WAT typically lasts for 15-20 minutes, though some programs may allocate slightly more or less time.
  • Number of Prompts
    You will usually be given one essay prompt to write on. Some programs might give you two prompts and ask you to choose one.
  • Prompt Type
    The prompt can be anything from a current affairs topic to a general management principle to an abstract concept. It's important to be prepared for anything
  • Word Limit
    There is usually no strict word limit for the WAT, but most essays will be around 250-350 words long. Aim to write enough to fully develop your ideas, but avoid rambling or going off on tangents.
  • Writing Materials
    You will usually be provided with a pen and paper for the WAT. Some programs may allow you to use a laptop, but this is not always the case. Be sure to check the specific program guidelines beforehand.
  • Grading Criteria
    The WAT is typically graded on a variety of factors, such as:
    • Content: The relevance and depth of your response to the prompt.
    • Critical thinking: Your ability to analyze information, form your own opinion, and support it with evidence.
    • Communication: Your writing clarity, grammar, and vocabulary.
    • Structure: The organization and flow of your essay.

WAT Preparation Tips

Preparing for the Writing Ability Test (WAT) can significantly enhance your performance and boost your confidence. Here are some simple tips to help you prepare effectively:

  • Understand the Format
    Familiarize yourself with the typical WAT format, which often involves writing an essay or passage on a given topic. Practice writing within the time limit of 25-30 minutes.
  • Read Regularly
    Cultivate a habit of reading including newspapers, articles, and essays. This not only improves your vocabulary but also exposes you to different writing styles.
  • Practice Writing Prompts
    Challenge yourself with various writing prompts to improve your ability to articulate thoughts on different subjects. Seek feedback from mentors to enhance your writing style.
  • Work on Clarity and Conciseness
    Focus on expressing your ideas clearly and concisely. Avoid unnecessary complexity and ensure that your thoughts flow logically.
  • Brush Up on Grammar and Vocabulary
    Strengthen your command of grammar to enhance the overall quality of your writing. Use a varied vocabulary, but make sure it aligns with the context of your writing.
  • Stay Informed about Current Affairs
    Many WAT topics are related to current events or contemporary issues. Stay informed about what's happening in the world. This knowledge can add depth and relevance to your essays.
  • Create a Writing Schedule
    Develop a regular writing schedule to practice consistently. This helps in building endurance and improving your writing speed.
  • Mock Tests
    Take practice WAT tests under timed conditions to simulate the actual test scenario. Review your performance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Be Authentic in Your Writing
    While practicing, develop your unique writing voice. Authenticity adds a personal touch to your essays.
    By incorporating these tips into your WAT preparation routine, you can build both confidence and competence in expressing your thoughts effectively in a written format.

WAT Preparation: Writing The Perfect Essay

Writing a compelling WAT essay requires a strong structure that guides your arguments and impresses the B-school admissions committee. Here are two effective frameworks you can choose from, each with its strengths:

Opinion > Reason > Significance (ORS):

This framework is ideal for essays where you need to take a clear stance on a topic and support it with logical arguments and evidence. It follows a clear progression:

  • Opinion: Start by stating your opinion on the essay prompt explicitly. This shows confidence and clarity in your thinking.
  • Reason: Explain your opinion with strong arguments. Back them up with facts, data, examples, or personal anecdotes. Use transitions like "because," "therefore," or "in addition" to connect your reasoning.
  • Significance: Conclude by highlighting the importance of your opinion. Explain its implications for the future, society, or the B-school itself. This adds depth and weight to your essay.

Problem > Effect > Cause > Solution (PECS):

This framework is suitable for essays where you need to analyze a problem and propose a solution. It follows a cause-and-effect approach:

  • Problem: Clearly define the problem you want to address. Use vivid language and examples to paint a picture of its severity and impact.
  • Effect: Explain the negative consequences of the problem. Show how it affects individuals, society, or the B-school context.
  • Causes: Analyze the underlying reasons behind the problem. This demonstrates critical thinking and understanding of the issue's complexity.
  • Solution: Propose a feasible and well-thought-out solution to address the problem. Explain its potential benefits and how it can overcome the identified causes.

Choosing the Right Framework:

The best framework for your essay depends on the specific prompt and your chosen approach.

Use ORS if:

  • The prompt asks for your opinion or stance on a specific issue.
  • You have a strong argument and want to persuade the reader to your perspective.
  • You want to emphasize the broader implications of your opinion.

Use PECS if:

  • The prompt focuses on a specific problem or challenge.
  • You want to demonstrate your analytical skills and understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.
  • You want to propose a solution and showcase your problem-solving abilities.


  • Flexibility is key. Don't be afraid to adapt these frameworks to fit the specific demands of the prompt.
  • Clarity and conciseness are essential. Use strong transitions, avoid redundancy, and maintain a clear flow of ideas.


WAT in IIMs stands for Written Ability Test. It's an essential part of the final selection process for MBA admissions at most IIMs and other top B-schools in India.

Each institute at IIMs has a different weightage for WAT. IIMs determine the weightage of WAT independently, taking into account the other admissions criteria or parameters that they have chosen. It usually ranges from 10 to 20 marks.

In IIM's WAT (Writing Ability Test), candidates are given a topic and asked to express their thoughts in a written essay. The test evaluates analytical thinking and communication skills.

IIMs use WAT to evaluate writing and thinking skills after CAT results. The 15-20 minute essay tests clarity, logic, and critical thinking. This score holds 10-20% weight in the final selection, coupled with the PI.

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