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Group discussion: tips and tricks

When to speak, what to speak and what is expected from you in a group discussion

education Updated: Jan 12, 2011 09:23 IST

To help MBA aspirants excel in the GD, PI and essay writing rounds, MBAUniverse.com brings to you the what, why and how of the personal assessment round, the stage for which is already set with the exam results now rolling out.

This article introduces you to the concept of group discussions for MBA admissions, talks about the different types of GDs, provides you important tips on how to prepare well.

Objective
While the written exam tests the quantitative, reasoning and verbal skills of an applicant, that’s not all that a future manager should excel in. In fact, that is just the start. A successful manager should not just be good with his quota of work, but s/he is also expected to contribute as part of a team. And, that’s what GDs aim to test.

GDs are conducted to test managerial attributes like interpersonal skills, leadership, analytical and rational thinking, knowledge and personality traits.

It is a way through which the B-School panel measures the calibre of the candidate on parameters like content and knowledge, rational thought process, communication skills, group behaviour and leadership skills.

Types of GD
Not all GDs are the same. B-schools use several types to test applicants. While there are some GDs that test the knowledge of a candidate on a topical issue, others are designed to test the ‘lateral thinking’ of the candidate.

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 a GD is a ‘group exercise’.

GDs can be classified into three types: factual, abstract, and case study. While factual ones are based on contemporary but controversial topics, abstract topics involve lateral thinking and unconventional perspectives.

Topics can either be knowledge intensive or non-knowledge intensive. Knowledge-intensive topics are based on areas like the economy and its sectors like IT or telecom, society, politics, sports or media. Non-knowledge intensive topics can either be ‘concrete topics’ (like ‘greed is good’), while ‘abstract topics’ can be totally open-ended like ‘Deep Blue is not blue enough’.

Preparation strategy
So, how should you prepare for the GD? Experts opine that you should work on developing your knowledge base, while at the same time focussing on improving your communication. Some specific lessons on managing yourself during the GD are important too.

Up your KQ
The first step in your quest to do well in a GD is to improve your knowledge quotient. Read, watch, listen! Read newspapers and magazines on current issues, especially year-end issues that capture highlights of the year gone by. Also, watch and listen to the news and current affair programmes on news channels. Candidates must keep abreast of contemporary issues with help of the media.

There are some group discussion topics of perennial interest.

For economics-related topics, read fundamental concepts like FDI, stock markets, liberalisation, employment scenario, capital convertibility, rupee vs dollar, inflation, export-import, socialists vs capitalists etc.

For sector-based topics, start by making a one-or-two page note on important sectors like IT, ITES, banking, insurance, retail, telecom, healthcare, agriculture etc. Find out about the developments in last year and prospects in the coming ones.

Express yourself
Knowledge itself is not enough. The next step is to improve your ability to express yourself. You can practice speaking in a GD scenario by forming a discussion group that meets every day and takes up a topic for discussion. Practice ease of expression because clarity, brevity and word choice are keenly observed by evaluators.

Courtesy MBAUniverse.com

DO’S & DON’TS

Be natural
The best mantra is ‘to be your natural self’. Do not manufacture artificial responses.

Must speak
A key principle of participating in a GD is that you must speak. For any GD, take a piece of paper and a pen with you and use them unless discouraged by evaluators. Before you start speaking, think through the major issues in the topic in the first two minutes. Start speaking only when you have understood and analysed the topic.

Free-flowing chat
Avoid speaking in turn as it leads to an unnatural discussion. A GD involves a free-flowing exchange of ideas among participants. Even though there will definitely be chaos in most competitive GDs, because all participants will be keen to be heard, any suggestion of order, such as speaking, in turn, is unacceptable.