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GDs can test you for various abilities

B-schools, through group discussions, want to test a candidate’s lateral thinking or check how knowledgeable he or she is about certain issues

education Updated: Feb 24, 2010 09:21 IST

Not all group discussions (GDs) are equal. Business schools use several types of GDs to test applicants. While there are some GDs that test the knowledge of a candidate on a topical issue, others are designed to assess ‘lateral thinking’. Another type of GD comes in the form of a short ‘case-study’, where applicants are asked to analyse a situation and frame responses. Yet another type of GD is a ‘group exercise’, where a group is given certain props and asked to create/assemble something. Behaviours, both group and individual, are noted. A discussion about the exercise may follow.

“There are three types of GDs: factual, abstract, and case study. While the factual ones are based on contemporary, controversial topics, abstract topics involve lateral thinking and unconventional perspectives,” says Satwinder Singh Saimbi, co-founder, “Knowledge-intensive topics are focused on specific areas such as the economy and its various sectors, like information technology or telecom, society, politics, sports, or media. Non-knowledge intensive topics can either be ‘concrete topics’, or ‘abstract topics’ that can be totally open-ended,” Saimbi adds.

Types of GDs

Topics on contemporary issues. Sometimes, they could be inherently controversial
Abstract: Topics that involve lateral thinking and unconventional perspectives
Case study: A corporate situation or a person/organisation-based situation is given and participants have to arrive at an optimum solution with the help of defined methodology.
GD topics are classified under the following categories:
Knowledge-intensive topics: These can be...
. Economics-based topics (example: liberalisation is leading to jobless growth).
. Social topics (example: dowry continues to haunt Indian brides).
. Political topics (example: the reservation issue is just a way to garner votes).
. Sports/ media-related topics (example: one billion people, one silver medal — with reference to India’s performance at the Olympics).
. Sector-based topics (example: the retail boom spells doom for the local grocer).

Non-knowledge intensive topics: These can be...
. Concrete topics (example: greed is good)
. Abstract topics that are left open to interpretation (example: Zero)

So, you could start listing different topics under each area, or refer any GD book and start reading up on such categories.
For economics-related topics, look at fundamental concepts, such as foreign-direct investment, stock markets, liberalisation, the employment scenario, capital convertibility, rupee versus dollar, inflation, export-import scenario, different kinds of economies in the world, socialist versus capitalist viewpoints, etc.

For sector-based topics, one could make a two-page note per sector, including information technology, IT-enabled services, banking, insurance, retail, telecom, healthcare, infrastructure, power, agriculture, logistics and transportation, and nuclear issues, etc. Try to study what has been happening in each sector in the last one year, what are the problems, who are the major players, what are the trends, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each sector.

Success Mantras
Ahmer Khan, 99.98 percentiler in CAT 2008
IIM Kozhikode, 2009-11 batch

What advice would you offer on the group discussion (GD) and personal interview (PI) rounds?
Be aware of what is going on in the world. A little extra knowledge can see you through. I was comfortable with GDs and PIs, so I just fine-tuned my approach through preparation.

What success mantras would you would like to share with MBA aspirants on GD and PI?
Do not jump into a discussion unless you have something concrete to say. Also, airtime that you get is not as important as the relevance of the points you put across. Try to steer the GD and get other participants to discuss the points you put across. For PI, go with well-prepared answers to the standard questions.

Some issues that are likely to feature in GD and PI rounds

Should there be a restriction on the number of engineers gaining entry to an MBA institute?
You can start by stating some statistics on the number of engineers admitted to MBA institutes as opposed to students from other backgrounds. For IIMs, the ratio is highly skewed in favour of engineers. Then, you can discuss the pros and cons of the trend.

Students from non-engineering backgrounds have a lower chance of getting through MBA institutes because engineers traditionally do better at quantitative and data interpretation/logical reasoning sections.

On the other hand, the common entrance test is open to students from all backgrounds. Thus, everyone has an equal chance to prepare for and write the exam.

Engineers should not be discriminated against.
Engineers joining the management bandwagon will mean a loss for India as it needs industry-specific engineers. However, MBA-holding engineers joining the corporate world would add value to industry by specialising in engineering as well as management.

Will India ever be able to host the Olympics?
You can start by stating your stand on whether you think India will ever be successful in hosting the Olympics. Then, you can go on to state points for or against the topic.

Discuss the minimum budget required for hosting the Olympic Games and the countries that have hosted the Olympics. Does India have the infrastructure? You can draw inferences from India’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games 2010.

Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008 and was very successful at it. If China could do it, one could argue that India could, too. Discuss the hurdles that India could face in this endeavour and how it could overcome them. What factors could contribute to India successfully hosting the event? Discuss the political and economic situation of the country and how that might impact this aspiration. Discuss these points depending on the stand taken in the discussion.