IIM-K Interview Experience of an English Literature Student

How often do you get to hear interview experiences of students from as diverse academic categories as B.A. English Literature? Well, here's a beautiful transcript of a recently held IIM Kozhikode Interview by Ratula Bandyopadhyay. Ratula has been a member of Harvard Business Review, a Contributing Writer at Thrive Global and Feminism in India and has many more accolades to her name.

She has been kind enough to not only pen down her IIM-K interview experience but she has also shared some WAT and PI preparation tips for the members of the blog. Let's hear her out :)

Ratula Bandyopadhyay

In Ratula's Words:

Hello Reader!

I am Ratula Bandyopadhyay, an English major from Presidency University, Kolkata. Through my CAT 2019 and XAT 2020 scores, I received WAT/PI calls from premier B-schools of the country like IIM-K, XLRI (both BM and HR), SPJIMR, MDI, and all new IIMs. I have settled on IIM-K after much consideration, letting go of final conversions from SPJIMR (Marketing), a wait-list spot for XL-HR, and the like.

In this article, I will detail my IIMK interview (WAT/PI) experience, hoping it is of some help for an aspirant out there!

My interview was scheduled for Mar 6 (I remember because the country was in the stage before entering lockdown due to the pandemic, and sanitizers were being plied in the hotel complex as I entered), at the Kenilworth hotel in Kolkata. We had a reporting time of 8:30 AM.

Document verification took place in an open-to-all-candidates area where we were asked to sit upon entry, and WAT subsequently took place here, too.

Our WAT topic was:

Religious education should be made compulsory in schools.

I wrote against the topic, as I found I had more topics worth mentioning in that direction.

Tips for WAT Preparation:

  • Practice some essays beforehand, at least 4-5, in a specified time limit. I practiced with a time cap of 15 minutes but the IIMs allow 25, and that helped me as I finished the essay beforehand and had time to revise and add more points.

  • Make your essay well-structured, with an intro, about 3 paragraphs in the body and a conclusion.

  • Include a paragraph or at least a few points in the opposite direction of the stand you took, so as to not sound radical or uni-dimensional in your thought process.

  • Read up on current affairs, and include relevant real world info and happenings to strengthen your arguments.

  • I enrolled at both IMS and TIME coaching for GD/PI prep, and I practised on topics from both places and worked in close consultation with mentors from there to improve the quality of my essays – so that is one way of preparing. However, you would find a lot of topics online as well, if you don’t want GD/PI coaching.

Suggested | More WAT Tips

After the WAT was done, the students were divided in 4 groups with different PI venues for each group/panel. I was in the first group, and we stayed on in the open area as our interview would be conducted in a room opposite to the area.

I was the penultimate person to be interviewed in my panel. I remember the professors asked the students to wait outside the PI room as the person before them went in, but the students weren’t aware of their panel sequence numbers. The professors had to come in and fetch the next candidate after each interview, getting visibly annoyed. Therefore, I made it a point to find out my sequence number and wait in line, perhaps the first person to do so in my panel. I like to think the professors were pleased. Small actions go a long way.

There was one sir (I’ll call him S going forward) and one ma’am (let’s call her M) in my panel, both quite pleasant and friendly. We exchanged laughter at quite a few points in the interview. There was no grilling at all.

IIM-K Interview Transcript:

S: [reciting a line from John Keats, poet, at the beginning of the interview] Ratula, can you identify which poem that line was from?

RB: No, Sir.

S: Do you know of Keats?

RB: I do, Sir.

S: You do? You’re the first person among the candidates we interviewed this morning to know, then. [Looking at my CV, quite surprised] You’re an English student?

RB: Yes sir.

(I think this piqued their interest in me)

S: What does your name mean?

RB: Sir, it means seeker of truth, and lotus feet of the Goddess.

S: What is lotus feet? How is it different from ordinary feet?

RB: Sir, lotus feet grants peace and prosperity to those who ask and pray before such feet of the Goddess.

S: What is your favourite area of English Literature?

RB: Victorian Literature, Sir.

S: Why Victorian? What does Victorian Literature talk about?

RB: Sir, Vic Lit was composed in changing, unpleasant times for Britain. The Industrial Revolution brought people from the villages to the cities in search of work, and there was crippling poverty and high crime rates, along with a pronounced lack of mental well-being among the British. The cities were dirty too, reflecting perhaps their troubled state of mind. Also, twilight was dawning on the mighty British empire, contributing to further unease of the British. Vic Lit generally places the human psyche and its perversion against the backdrop of a troubled UK, and I feel that resonates with the uncertainty of our times. That’s why I like it.

S: [seeming satisfied] Was S.T. Coleridge a Victorian?

RB: No sir, he was a Romantic poet.

S: How were the Romantics different from the Victorians?

RB: Sir, the Romantics focused on nature, her wrath and beauty, and human beings’ relation to her. On the other hand, the Victorians focused more on people and their inner states as a product of changing times, and on the resulting (often psychotic) conditions they acquired.

M: Ratula, what are your career goals and how does an MBA fit?

RB: Ma’am, I take an interest in Marketing and would like to see myself as Marketing Manager of a reputed firm in the short term, and National Head/VP of Marketing in the long term. My successes in marketing roles in my job and internship have further cemented my interest. I believe an MBA will help me achieve these goals through practical and theoretical learning, world-class mentorship and industry exposure, and that is why I want to pursue it.

M: How will you contribute to the classroom with your background?

RB: Ma’am, as I have had practical experience in Marketing, I believe I will be able to contribute to peer-to-peer learning. Also, I hope to be able to bring in perspective due to the diversity I have in my background.

M: So you’re currently working? Where do you work?

RB: Yes Ma’am, I am. I work at Wordpandit, a CAT and other management entrances prep website, as a VA/RC content writer. I am also involved in marketing functions of the company.

M: How many days a week do you work?

RB: Five to six days a week, depending on the targets I have to meet.

M: Doesn’t it get hectic staring at a screen all day? How do you balance work and prep?

RB: Ma’am it does, but I think my job being work-from-home helps a little. Also, I have designed charts and routines for myself to be able to manage my time.

M: [to Sir] I think I got what I wanted.

S: I see you write on feminism. What do you think of current feminist practices like women cutting off hair or wearing masculine clothes to resemble men? Doesn’t that undercut the essence of the movement? I noticed you use ‘she and he’ in sentences instead of ‘he and she’. How does something so trivial contribute to feminism?

RB: Sir, language is a useful thought-influence tool, which has historically awarded precedence to men (I referred to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s “Infection in the Language” concept here). Therefore, that contributes, even if in a minor manner on the surface, to how people think about the hierarchy of the genders.

(I was going to speak on the clothes/hair part when Sir moved on to the next question)

S: What other IIM calls do you have?

RB: Sir I have Shillong and all the other new and baby IIMs.

S: So if we take you, you’ll come here.

RB: Yes sir.

M: [smiling] or maybe Shillong? Closer to your home.

RB: No ma’am, distance is not a problem. I’ll come to IIM-K.

S: Yes, both Malayalis and Bengalis like eating maach-bhaat (fish and rice)!

RB: Yes sir!

I was asked to take a toffee.

M/S: Thank you Ratula, we are done. Please tell the next person to not enter till we call them.

RB: Thank you Ma’am, Sir. I will.


Tips for PI Preparation:

  • Have an open and approachable body language. I was smiling as often as I could.

  • Avoid negative descriptors like the plague when you are asked to opine on or describe something.

  • Read up on things relevant to your profile. This includes name, college, academics (pay special attention here), geography and history of your state, and about whatever random thing you can lay your hands on. Helps beyond measure. If you have an unusual name like I did, be aware of its semantics. I was asked the name question in many interviews!

  • Know of these things in reasonable detail. Cross-questioning will easily reveal a superficial interest if you aren’t thorough/actually interested!

  • Stay abreast of current affair happenings. This helps in WAT too.

  • Double check all your documents, and please be on time!

  • Keep clothing clean and formal.

  • You may or may not enroll in coaching centres. IMS coaching proved essential and excellent for me though. Their online portal has all questions you can think of relating to GD/PI prep, and their answers from some of the best mentors in the country.

  • Attend a few mock GDs or PIs at a coaching centre or beyond if you have enrolled. This majorly helps with body language, tone and other personal facets of communication that are essential if you aren’t used to formal communication.

  • Do not panic. Believe in yourself, and give your very best.

ATB everyone! :)

So, that was Ratula Bandyopadhyay, can't thank her enough for sharing such a unique interview experience for the benefit of all the readers. I'm sure a lot of students from diverse backgrounds will benefit from it.

If you're preparing for B-school Interviews, there's a link which can truly benefit you - All About IIM Interviews. It contains preparatory material on interviews from how to dress up to how to handle a stress interview.

If you're someone who has appeared for a B-school interview this year and would like to share your interview experience with us all, please do contribute - Write on Non-Engineers.

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