Till recently, a group discussion was a crucial part of the selection process at the coveted Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). Breaking away from this tradition, six new IIMs scrapped the GD round last month and replaced it with a written test.
Ordinarily, in a GD, students who fared well in the Common Admission Test (CAT) — for entrance to the IIMs — are divided into groups of 6-10 and asked to deliberate on a topic from areas such as current affairs, moral and social issues for 10-20 minutes.
Six IIMs out of 13, namely Rohtak, Raipur, Tiruchirapalli, Ranchi, Kashipur and Udaipur, will now have a written test to explore if a candidate is fit for a career in management. The test will be aimed at gauging the analytical ability, comprehension, communication and writing skills, which are must-haves for a management professional. Candidates can be asked to write anything — a case study or an essay on a socio-economic issue.
IIM Bangalore had done away with the group discussion format earlier.
We asked students and academicians whether a group discussion format is a suitable one, which resulted in a difference of opinion. Here are some of the arguments put forth and split into a debate format for easier analysis.
1 Ankur Gattani, an IIM Calcutta alumnus, recalls his experience of the GD round. “We were given an abstract topic to deliberate upon. It was necessary for us to represent our thoughts well by exhibiting our listening skills. A GD can be biased and in favour of those who are aggressive but it is vital for admissions.
2 “GD should be retained as it helps you showcase logical and coherent thinking patterns, conviction and acceptance of a proposal,” says Vipul Kedia, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad.
3 What about opposing views that GD is of too short a duration to help someone judge the calibre of the participant? “That’s true for the interview and for all exams. One could argue that engineers have an advantage in the CAT due to the analytical questions. At the same time, if a candidate doesn’t do well in GD, it can be brought up in the interview. It happened with me during my GD for IIM Calcutta. I didn’t talk much during the GD because it turned into a fish market. I explained the reason during the interview,” says Kedia.
4 Himanshu Aggarwal, a student of IIM Lucknow, suggests that it’s not right to do away with a successful format unless an equally transparent method replaces it. “At times, good candidates are left out due to occasional hiccups during the GD. This can be avoided by improving the process instead of completely removing it. The number of participants in a GD can be optimised to give ample time for everyone to speak,” he says.
1 According to Gaurav Suri, an alumnus of the executive postgraduate programme, Class of 2010, IIM Indore, “I am in favour of the written test because it gives candidates from varied backgrounds (irrespective of education and communication skills) an equal opportunity to be assessed. The assessment of the candidate is thorough. The written essay test probes the candidate on various elements such as analytical skills, reasoning and decision-making abilities — all of which are critical skills in the repertoire of managers/leaders.”
2 For Saurabh Pratap Singh, batch 2010-2012, IIM Ranchi, the introduction of an essay-type test means moving towards a fairer assessment process. “In GDs, many students are not able to prove themselves because everyone tries to speak at the same time and score more than others. However, in essay writing, we come to know about an individual’s perspectives on important and varied issues. Here, everyone stands at par without being dominated by those who speak out loud.”
3 MJ Xavier, director of IIM Ranchi, agrees. “We have observed that during the GDs boys tend to be more vocal than girls. Ideally, we should have a combination of a personal interaction to verify the aptitude of the candidates); a psychometric assessment (to assess their personality for a managerial course); a GD (to analyse their communication skills) and a written test (to gauge their ability to express themselves).” A written test will also bring in diversity in the classrooms, particularly at IIM Ranchi. “Currently, a majority of our students are engineers and we would like to bring in non-engineers as well. Students from streams such as sociology, psychology, maths, statistics, literature and economics will liven up the campus,” Xavier adds.
4 IIM Kozhikode director Debashis Chatterjee feels the GD format is passé. “Another method of selecting a candidate is by assessing his/her profile right from the school level. This will help in analysing various qualities needed in a prospective management graduate,” he says.