Tips to crack Written Ability Test (WAT) for IIMs

    Anam Shams Anam Shams
    Content Curator

    Written Ability Test was introduced to replace Group Discussion (GD) from the selection process, in 2016. In a WAT, candidates have to write an essay on a current social issue or a generic thought-provoking issue. The test will hold more than 10% weightage in the selection process of CAT 2020. 

    CAT 2020: Key Features of Written Ability Test for IIM

    • Test duration: 15-45 minutes (depending on the IIM)
    • Word Limit: 200-400 words (depending on the IIM)
    • Weightage: More than 10% (depending on the IIM)
    • Start Date: Last week of January or first week of February (Tentative)
    • Last Date: End of April (Tentative)

    CAT 2020: Tips for Written Ability Test

    Preparation Tips Writing Tips 
    • Keep the reader in mind while preparing your written task 
    • Make sure that you are not nervous during the writing assignment since it will affect your handwriting
    • Your handwriting should be legible and coherent
    • Keep your ideas and pointers structured and consistent 
    • Make a mental structure of your entire essay so that you have a semi-structured outline to reduce ambiguity
    • It is better to have a simple structure that can be elaborated well rather than a complicated topic that has very little substance 

    • Maintain a knowledge of quotes / pieces of information that can be utilized for various topics
    • Backing up your arguements/ pointers with data will increase the strength of your statements 
    • Follow through on your perspective, do not provide contradictory statements
    • Try to avoid generalized or ambiguous statements
    • Make sure that the piece is gramatically correct and proofread it atleast once before submission
    • If you decide to use complicated jargon, make sure it is placed correctly and in the right sense 
    • Instead of using connecters such as ‘and, but’ etc, try using better transition words such as “Nevertheless/ Hence/ Therefore/ However”

    Weightage of WAT in IIM Selections
    Weightage of WAT in IIM Selections

    Different IIMs allocates different weightage to the Written Ability Test factor. While appearing for multiple IIMs, a candidate has to attempt only one WAT. The IIMs share the WAT score with each other, which helps to speed up the process. Although, the interview process is distinct for every IIM.

    Details regarding the same are tabulated below:

    InstituteWeightage (Percentage)
    IIM Bangalore10
    IIM Calcutta10
    IIM Lucknow10
    IIM Ahmedabad10
    IIM Trichy14
    IIM Indore20
    IIM Sirmaur15
    IIM Jammu10
    IIM Rohtak30 (PA)
    IIM Ranchi10
    IIM Amritsar15
    IIM Visakhapatnam10
    IIM Raipur10
    IIM Udaipur21 (PA)
    IIM Kashipur10
    IIM Kozhikode15
    IIM Bodh Gaya10

    (PA - Personal Appearance)

    Some IIMs participating in the common counseling process have only disclosed the weightage for personal appearance, which accounts for both WAT and PI.

    Time Limit for Written Test (WAT) for IIMs

    Every institute allots a different time limit for attempting the test. The following table depicts the estimated time limit allotted by different institutes for the process:

    B-SchoolTime Limit (in minutes)Suggested Word Limit
    IIM Ahmedabad20-25300+
    IIM Bangalore30400
    IIM Calcutta20-25400
    IIM Lucknow15-20200+
    IIM Indore20-25250
    IIM Kozhikode25300
    IIM Shillong20-25300
    New IIMs25-30300

    WAT for new IIMs

    The new IIMs are participating in a common counseling process (CAP), which organizes a common WAT process. These new IIMs are IIM Kashipur, Raipur, Ranchi, Rohtak, Trichy, Udaipur, Amritsar, Bodhgaya, and Sambalpur. The common counseling will be majorly held in these cities:


    Read more about the CAT counseling and selection process.

    The purpose of a WAT in a CAT exam is to have a better insight into your philosophy of life, your thought process, and your moral structure. Even in general writing, a person requires a high discipline of intellect. Thus a candidate should be well versed with current topics, leaders, and discoveries, etc.

    Preparation/Writing Tips for WAT

    While attempting the written test, a candidate should focus on time management. For this test, you have to put a pen over paper, thus an article with a lot of cutting will send a wrong message to the panelists from IIM. Candidates have to visualize the entire article in their mind before they start writing. Following tips will help you to understand the dos and don’ts of WAT for CAT 2020:

    Time ManagementTake the first 2-3 minutes (not more than that) to gather your thoughts
    StructureThe structure should be Concise, engaging, informative paragraph
    Introductory ParagraphThe idea of the article should be clear in the first paragraph
    One IdeaExplain one idea in one paragraph. Avoid ambiguity.
    VocabularyAvoid using heavy vocabulary. Use the simplest language to express your views.
    CuttingAvoid Cutting. It tends to send a negative message.
    ExplanationAvoid explaining in detail.
    PositivesEmphasize more on positives than negative
    Concluding ParagraphYour concluding paragraph should summarise your views effectively. Use a quote if you can.

    Suggested Reading List for WAT
    Suggested Reading List for WAT

    The more you read more information you will have on multiple topics. From news and latest updates, newspapers are a useful medium. Reading more will eventually also complement your verbal comprehension skills. Written Ability Test tends to check the reading ability and information processing and presentation of the candidate. Some of the recommended newspapers are mentioned below:

    1. Economic Times
    2. Business Standard
    3. The Mint
    4. The Hindu

    You can also buy a yearbook, like Manorma to update yourself with the latest trends and topics. Newspaper reading should be a part of daily activity. Focus on the editorial articles. You can also buy some other books or novels, which help you to see from a different perspective.

    Books to read while preparing for WAT:

    Books are responsible for the overall personal development of a person. For an MBA aspirant, books will help you improve speed, vocabulary, and context. One can start with classics:

    1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    2. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
    3. The Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

    Apart from these classics, the following books can help you to have a general context about different circumstances and situations:

    1. The monk who sold his Ferrari
    2. The Freedom at Midnight
    3. The Argumentative Indian
    4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
    5. Steve Jobs
    6. The Social Network

    A few more books are listed below, which have been recommended multiple times by IIM alumni:

    Book NameAuthorGenre
    The AlchemistPaulo CoelhoAdventure, fantasy
    The ZahirPaulo CoelhoNovel
    The Monk Who Sold His FerrariRobin SharmaFiction, inspirational
    Nineteen Eighty-FourGeorge OrwellPolitical satire, social science fiction
    The Compassionate SamuraiBrian KlemmerMotivational
    The Great GatsbyF. Scott FitzgeraldFiction novel
    The Catcher in the RyeJ. D. SalingerRealistic fiction
    The FountainheadAyn RandPhilosophical novel
    Narcissus and GoldmundHermann HesseHistorical fiction, philosophical fiction
    Atlas ShruggedAyn RandPhilosophical, Mystery and Romance

    Examples of WAT Questions
    Examples of WAT Questions for CAT

    The Written Test covers a wide range of topics from social to political, from management to environmental, etc in IIM. The topics are chosen in order to test your knowledge of the subject matter. Thus it is advisable to practice topics from previous years to get your thought process in-line. Below mentioned topics have been asked previously during WAT process:

    1. Values Challenged
    2. Media Influence
    3. President Rule vs Parliamentary Rule
    4. Corruption in India
    5. How do you measure success?
    6. India has a large pool of manpower but still very few patents.
    7. Allowing foreign universities in India will have a negative impact on the Indian education system.
    8. Patriotism vs Nationalism
    9. Demonetization in India: Decision is more appreciated than criticized
    10. GST: Aim to take the economy on a faster growth path
    11. "Make in India" Ground realities; India leaps to surpass China
    12. Rising Population of India could be turned into an asset
    13. Corruption is the root cause of current economic and social woes in India
    14. FDI in multi-brand retail is a boon or bane
    15. Ethics and morals cannot be taught in classrooms only
    16. Net Neutrality: Very Essential to Make India Digital
    17. Union Budget: Merging the General & Railway Budget will save exchequer from unnecessary spending
    18. E-commerce: Unrealistic Discounts are Dangerous
    19. Aadhar -Utility is more than perceived
    20. Smart City Project: India’s new urban vision
    21. Bank Recapitalization: Will it restore faith in Banking Industry?
    22. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao will change the orthodox mindset?
    23. Law should be an instrument of Social Change
    24. Browsing at Workplace affects productivity
    25. Social Activism is necessary for the survival of democratic society       
    26. RERA should win the trust of home buyers
    27. Moody’s Rating Upgrade to boost the economy of India

    A candidate needs to be updated about different sectors of life and corporate in order to be well versed with these randomly chosen topics. Additionally, one should practice attempting one topic with different time limits, like 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 45 minutes.  

    Click here  for CAT Cut off 2019.

    Written Ability Test (WAT) Solved Samples for CAT 2020

    WAT in CAT 2019 is still a new step in the selection process. Some of the solved sample solutions for previously asked questions are given below. It is important to note that there is no official structure for answering the written ability test. The only thing that matters is the clarity of the idea.

    XAT Sample Question: The Climate Change Summit in Chile, Comment.

    Every country in the world is a signatory of the Paris Agreement. But the question is, will it be enough to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s a tough target when you realize that the earth is 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial period. Still, more than 190 countries are expected to pledge more ambitious goals to prevent climate change in this coming Climate change summit in Chile. 

    Climate Change Agreement: The Need

    1. Negotiations on climate change are being conducted between global leaders for over two decades. Many global physicists and environmentalists have emphasized the need for taking the necessary steps to prevent the overheating of the earth. 
    2. All the experts have pointed out the rise in greenhouse gases, mainly Carbon Dioxide, as the reason for this increasing temperature. The increased level of greenhouse gases increases the temperature. 
    3. With an increasing level of greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth will soon cross the threshold mark beyond which global warming will become irreversible and catastrophic.
    4. The threshold is expected to be 2 degrees which is expected to be crossed by 2040 if necessary measures not implemented.
    5. As per the scientists rising greenhouse gas emissions, arising from our use of fossil fuels and our industries are the reason for higher temperatures.

    Climate Change Summit in Chile

    The Climate Change Summit is going to take place in Santiago, Chile from December 2 to December 13. The venue is important since neighboring countries are fighting the fires in the Amazon forests, which accounts for the biggest rainforest in the world and an essential element in balancing the temperature on earth. Chile is already providing all the support to Brazil and other affected countries. 

    As the host of COP25, Chile specifically and Latin America more broadly have a wide-open opportunity to demonstrate vision and leadership on ambitious action that helps the entire world avoid the direct consequences of climate change.  

    “A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and freer.” In December 2015, that was the world President Barack Obama envisioning the future, coming generations deserve. 

    Despite his commitments Donald Trump, the president of the world’s biggest economy, decided to exit the Paris deal as soon as possible, giving a major blow to the Paris Agreement. Fortunately, instead of abandoning the fight, people across the country and around the world are ramping up efforts to drive the clean energy advances needed to meet the goals of the accord and put the brakes on dangerous climate change—with or without the Trump administration.

    What to expect from the Chile Summit:

    The following key elements are expected out of the Chile summit:

    1. Committing to phasing out coal completely by 2030; 
    2. Committing to a 100 percent renewable energy grid by 2040 (an idea President Piñera floated while on the campaign trail)
    3. Get a double win on energy efficiency & climate simultaneously by setting performance standards for air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances that use coolants so that they also eliminate HFCs, the short-lived climate pollutants that have hundreds or thousands of times the heat-trapping power of CO2;
    4. Push Latin American countries to become even more ambitious together and build a regional implementation of climate action; and
    5. Think big when creating the new climate change law and updating the country’s international climate commitment, so that Chile is on track to adopt a 1.5°C -consistent target.


    The U.N. Paris Agreement was not strong enough “to prevent the world from continuing on a path that could end in tragedy,” the Chile president, Sebastian Pinera, told a news conference. Chile, fronting the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of South America, will also advocate for the protection of Antarctica and the oceans, Pinera said. 

    As of now, China has invited the United States for the Chile summit. As of other countries they are also committing to the stricter measures but there’s still a major disparity regarding the commitment of the governments, especially at the ground level. 

    Read more CAT 2020 Syllabus

    Sample WAT Question: An MBA is necessary to succeed in life?

    Whether an MBA is necessary for success, merely depends upon your definition of success. It varies from person to person. If success means having an edge over your colleagues in the corporate then yes, an MBA is necessary. MBA refurbishes your communication skills, body language, uniformity, time management, etc which a non-MBA might or might-not acquire with experience. 

    Arguement in Favour

    According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, on analysis and ranking of the performance of 2,000 CEOs around the globe, 40% of the CEOs in India have an MBA, 60% don’t. That’s a lot to back one degree and maybe these numbers are the reason why Indian youth is seduced by the scope of the MBA degree.

    1. MBA, being a master's degree gives you an edge over others in not only the field that you are in, but also in the managerial as well as in leadership skills.
    2. Most of the organizations prefer a postgraduate degree for the employees working in their organization or while hiring a new employee. 
    3. An MBA degree helps in attracting more remuneration as compared to a graduate employee, especially with a number of multinational companies coming into the picture.
    4. An MBA or any postgraduate candidate has more chances of growth and promotion at his workplace.
    5. If an individual is running his or her own small business then the MBA degree will sharpen his or her managerial as well as leadership skills which will help in managing the business more effectively.

    Arguments against the notion

    On a personal note, I won’t agree with the statement to the fullest. There are many successful people around the world, who succeeded without any MBA degree. No doubt, an MBA degree boosts your professional skills and give you a holistic perspective to lead life. Moreover, success is a subjective idea that depends upon a person’s own efficiency and skills.  

    1. Though the MBA curriculum provides closer to reality assessment of the business world nothing teaches better than real-life experience. 
    2. Business schools now find themselves criticized in several directions. For example, for paying too much attention to the return on their students' investment. 
    3. The students are often too young and inexperienced to learn skills that, in any case, are often easier to acquire in the workplace than sitting in a classroom.
    4. Many prominent global business leaders namely Warren Buffett, Herb Kelleher, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and many more, who are considered to be the paragons of leadership do not possess an MBA degree.  
    5. In the classroom, students often spend a lot of time working out projects to the tiniest detail. But in the real world, the situation is different as it calls for a quick decision to stay ahead in the face of fierce competition.
    6. With an increase in the number of B-schools, the MBA is becoming a fad among the masses. The quality of education provided is on a constant decline. 


    But that doesn’t mean that an MBA graduate is destined to succeed. That actually depends on your career plans. If a person is opting for an MBA just to get a 6 digit salary, then it's worthless. And if someone really has a keen interest in the MBA, then he/she must go for it. So the famous saying "Investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.'' There's nothing wrong with an MBA because it will surely help you get a successful career in life.



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