CAT- GD/ PI/ Essays

I have over the years answered hundreds of questions about CAT, GDs, PIs, MBA, Job Interviews, etc. It’s less about cluelessness, and more about people thinking there’s something that could give them an ‘edge’. So, for future reference, since there are no edges to be offered really, here is a blogpost celebrating the greatness of ND Kunjika (Nandlal Dayaram).

There are four types of broad questions.  –

  • Preparing for CAT (I have no clue, I think I should do an MBA stage)
  • GD PI stages (I’ve got a call, yayy, stage)
  • The post-MBA job scenarios (I want day 0 and so, I want Investment Banking stage)
  • The MBA job interviews (I want to do consulting because I am a good problem solver stage)

The flavor of the season is GD/PI / Essays. And hence, the how-t0 for that.  Add your own points, and make it better.

  • Assess yourself. Don’t be ashamed of saying that your vocal output sucks. Or, that you are prone to making grammatical mistakes while speaking. Or that you have a squeaky voice. Unless you are ready to jot down your weakness on a piece of paper, chances are that you won’t spend time fixing them.
    • Summary assessment even as an alumni interviewer for PGP admissions – most of the aspirants have no clue how bad they are.
    • I realized very late in my preparations that whenever I was unsure, my voice became a barely audible mumble (while inside my head, I was still being pretty loud).
  • Write a detailed resume. A detailed resume is difficult to write. It means going back to all your activities and achievements. Don’t discount one thing.
    • A nice bullet point on a resume that I saw – worked in stage plays as a child artist. Deeper probing several months later revealed that it was only in a homogenous township based group. Not falsification, but projection. And if you don’t value what you might have learnt from it, don’t expect others to.
    • Write your autobiography. This is expanding your resume. Not as a bestseller. But as a way of remembering what you’ve done and what it has meant for you over the years. Resume is a set of bullet points you draw from during your interviews. Autobiography is the conversation you want to have. Chances are that it may not mean much to be an IITian. But if you are the only IITian from that tiny town of yours where there are three schools and no IIT Coaching Centers, then it’s a mighty achievement.
    • A mistake of mine – during my IIM-A interview, we talked for 45 minutes about poetry, which was my primary hobby at that time. I was happy talking about Ghalib, Meer and Qateel Shifai, but I stuttered badly when they asked me to recite a few of my own. Reason – I wasn’t prepared to do so. I spent a minute too many to pick one and the next. And I was always thinking about whether I had picked the right one. Even though, I had written writing as a hobby of mine. IIM-A was the only college I didn’t get an admit from. Because of that? I would never know, but I know I didn’t do well enough.
  • Form a group. The group should allow two things in a mutually beneficial way –
    • One on one sessions. Have someone hear your answers out. Have someone conduct mock interviews for you.
    • Group sessions. Have a watcher, and the rest as participants into discussions. Let the watcher critique. Let the participants debate.
  • Find a mentor/ teacher. Be clear on a few things –
    • How much time would you need to work on your weaknesses?
    • Those who are good, will typically be more expensive. Or, like family. Others don’t have time.
    • Do you want the mentor to be a be-all-end-all person, or a mentor for a very specific thing on your agenda. For instance, you can work with a theater artist to work on your voice modulation, but they can’t help you with content practicing.
  • Practice talking. Doesn’t matter if you have been shy all your life. Doesn’t matter if your English is not that great. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have much to say.
    • Stand in front of a mirror and talk. Get comfortable with your own face. Do not fall in love with your face. If you’re not comfortable with your own face, chances are that the interviewer isn’t either.
    • Record and playback. Most smartphones allow this. You can even video-record. If you are not comfortable with hearing your blabber, chances are that the interviewer isn’t either. At the same time, this is not bathroom singing. Everyone sounds great as a bathroom singer. But make them listen to that recording and they are devastated.
    • Practice voice modulation. Amitabh Bachchan is a great example. Its years of practice alright, but you have to start your own sometime. Loud is different from modulation. You need to be audibly loud as well. Don’t lose sight of that as you add a bit of melodrama to your voice.
  • Read, and jot down notes. Always helps. In articulating. In noticing the flaws of arguments.
    • Read a lot. In a wide variety. One of my questions during my XAT was a 10 question RC passage. It was a lift from Catch-22. And I had to fill in the blanks. Easy? Impossible? If you’ve read the book, it’s a breeze.
    • Know the context, know the names.
    • Read the backstories.
    • A friend of mine had this Wikipedia habit, which I tried to imbibe over the years. He clicked on embedded links a lot when reading articles. Gave him knowledge much deeper than a cursory reading of the topic. If you keep notes, maybe you will have to sell ten filled notebooks at the end of this month, but it will still be worth it.
    • Reconstruct stories from notes.
  • Respect other people/things.
    • The people you will talk to in a GD will have names and personalities. On an average, in a GD, its extremely unlikely that there will be more than 2 or 3 well prepared students. But that does not make the rest of the crew any less respectable.
    • During the interview, the person in front of you is looking to have an interesting conversation. Don’t bore them.
    • Always make eye contact. If while referring to someone’s earlier arguments you make eye contact with them, they are less prone to interrupting, and more likely to rallying back to you later on.
  • 15 rounds of firing
    • Malcom Gladwell wrote about the 10000 hour rule. To be really great at something, you must have done it for 10000 hours. So, Michael Jordan must have played 10000 hours of basketball before he became so good. The same rule applies to essays. Not 10000 hours. But I call it 15 rounds of firing. You need to have your own ~15 attempts at writing the answers to the typical essay questions. The list of questions for every college is most likely available online already. But even if you’ve done 5-10 awesome colleges, chances are that you are practiced sufficiently. After about 15 rounds, you are a lot clearer on your thinking about what your personality is, what your strengths and weaknesses are.
    • Critical review. Have your mentor critique it. Have your mentor suggest improvements. Clean. Rinse. Repeat. Keep doing it. 3 more times after you’ve had enough. It will hold you good for the rest of your corporate life as well.
    • Get a group of friends and independent reviewers to look at it. But don’t take everyone’s suggestion. Ask them not just about the negatives. Ask them about the positives too. Negatives generally tend to be inconsistent. But the positives “need” to be consistent.

I realize that there isn’t usually enough time. But then, if you don’t get it right, you will have to wait for another 12 months, right? And this regime does not require more than 3 hours a day for 30 days to get into a momentum.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

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