I am Trishna Nair, a 2018 graduate from IIT Madras. I will be joining IIM Bangalore this year. I also have admits from IIM Calcutta and ISB (through the Early Entry option).
Getting into IIMs this year was a huge (and pleasant) surprise. My original plan had involved joining a PGP program in 2021, hence I had applied for ISB through the early entry option and was going to prepare for CAT 2020. I had prepared very little for CAT 2019 and so, had only put in PGP at IIM ABC while filling the CAT form. Getting 99.79 percentile meant that I had a good chance of making it to at least one of the Holy Trinity.
Since I am not really qualified to talk about CAT prep, this article is about how I prepared for the IIM interviews and WAT. I did not get a call from IIM-A, so I had two interviews lined up. Given how I had put in very little effort for CAT, I was determined to ensure that I would not waste this chance that I had been given. I was going to give my 100% to this.
I will divide my preparation into the various topics that I needed to cover
1. Current Affairs/ General Knowledge – I joined Career Launcher’s online WAT/PI preparation. They had fantastic resources to help you understand all about current affairs. I also developed a deep understanding of the Indian economy and polity. I simply loved this bit.
Apart from that, I picked one newspaper to read – the Economic Times. I read that thoroughly and then read the editorial pages of the Times of India, the Hindu and the Mint. This was to help me see a topic from various view points so that I could develop my own opinion with information from as many sources as possible. (I read all these newspapers online and only had to pay for about 2 months of the Hindu) You need to have in-depth knowledge of all current topics because interviewers will easily know if your opinions are superficial. I made notes of everything, so that I could revise any topic before the interviews.
2. Domain knowledge – I was working for a supply chain consulting firm (I developed an interest in supply chain through my minor of Industrial Engineering during my undergrad). I had done a bunch of online courses on supply chain, so I looked those up and tried to keep up with the latest developments in the field through sites like Supply Chain Dive.
3. CV questions – This is very important. You need to be thorough with everything that you have done, whether it’s an internship, project, blog etc. Basically, the funda is that you have really done something you should be able to answer even tough, probing question regarding it. I went through relevant documents when possible. I also mentally mapped all the work I had done – it is very easy to forget pertinent details, so going through everything beforehand meant that I could start any answer with the best details.
4. HR questions – You need to be prepared for standard questions like Tell me about yourself, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are your short term and long term goals etc. I googled HR questions, saw various answers and tried to come up with my own answers. The most important is ‘tell me about yourself’ because it gives you the chance to set the tone for the entire interview at the very outset.
5. MBA questions – this is a subset of HR questions but are very important. You should be very clear about why you want to do an MBA. I wrote and practised this. It will be great if you have a story here, showing why you need an MBA. Or like me, you can show it as a logical next step in your career. They might also ask why that specific college. Do take a look at the college website as well. I looked at the various clubs and bodies in all the B-schools and identified which ones I was interested in. When the interviewers asked if I had any questions, I was able to ask them questions based on what I had seen on the college website. If you have multiple calls, they might also ask which IIM you will choose, so be prepared with a diplomatic answer for that as well.
6. WAT – For content, I relied on my general knowledge preparation. I did however practise writing a bunch of these in order to get used to the time and word limits. I would start with a rough outline; dividing the essay into introduction, body and conclusion was helpful.
Some general tips:
- The interview will be more of a conversation. The interviewers will all be very friendly.
- You can direct where the interview is going. If you have an area of strength, try to move the conversation towards it and then talk at length about it. I love reading. I have read a few thousand books by now. So in both my IIMB and IIMC interviews, I talked at length about the book I had been reading just before- why I was reading it, what I had learnt from it etc.
- It is completely okay to say that you don’t know the answer. In my IIMC interview, I was asked a few chemical engineering questions and a few about an elective I had taken in my second year of college. I couldn’t answer a lot of them, but I did talk about what else I had learnt from that course, so maybe that saved me!
- Also, you can ask for a minute to think. This way you can structure your answer rather than spouting things off the top of your head. I did this a bunch of times in my IIMB interview.
That's all from me, folks!
I hope this article helped. I will talk about my ISB application in another article.
Please comment if you have any queries, I am more than happy to take them up.