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Time to step on the gas

Aspiring MBAs get loads of expert advice on acing the group discussion at workshops organised by HT Horizons and MBAUniverse.com

education Updated: Feb 24, 2010 09:21 IST
HT Horizons Correspondent

If you plan to make it to a B-school, get into the habit of looking at any topic from the business perspective. Regularly soak up business news and join online groups of people preparing for group discussions and personal interviews. And, it’s time to step on the gas.

These were some bits of advice college students got on how to get through the group discussion round in B-school selections, during the Mission MBA session organised at the Hans Raj College, in association with HT Horizons and MBAUniverse.com.

Those without a commerce or economics background can learn their basics from sites such as quickmba.com and investopedia.com, suggested Dinup G Mathew, director, PT Education. Also, if you take a stand, stick to it, or don’t take a stand at all, said Mathew. Further, he said, “You may contradict others in the group but be polite. Say, ‘I have an alternate point’, instead of saying, ‘I disagree’.”

The four key ingredients of a group discussion are content, group dynamism, body language and communication, said Mathew.

Be very clear about why you are there in the GD — and why you are seeking an MBA. Satwinder S Saimbi, co-founder and director, MBAUniverse.com, said selectors evaluate your attitude. “Prepare — what am I good at? What are my weaknesses?”

Saimbi said, students should think hard rather than start off with whatever comes first to their minds. “Write down your points. Interject and then withdraw.”

These experts pointed out that GD participants must avoid using words and phrases like ‘according to me’, ‘you know’, ‘I think’, ‘basically’, ‘frankly’ and ‘actually’ and slang such as ‘gonna’. They added that candidates should look at the members of the group, but not at the moderator. Akash Gautam, representative, Career Launcher, emphasised that in the GD, students must quote the source of the statistics. Gautam suggested the PREP approach for content make your ‘Point’, give the ‘Reasoning’ behind it, give an ‘Example’ and repeat your ‘Point’ in different words. Students could also use the keyword approach wherein you divide a point into keywords.

Besides this, keep abreast of major business-related developments, especially from the past one year. For example, be aware of “which mergers and acquisitions took place in the last three months, or year,” said Gautam.

“Don’t try to impress,” said Saimbi. Acknowledge good points made by others, he added.

A similar session at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, received an equally encouraging response.

Speaking on ‘What do top B-schools look for in you’, Amit Kapoor, professor of strategic management, Management Development Institute, said, “To crack (the exam), it is important to read newspapers.”

Experts were unanimous in the view that students must first understand what an MBA institute is. For most, it is just a placement agency, and very few look at it as a place of learning. Dr. Kapoor said, “One must know why one wants to join an MBA institute. Do you want to go there to become an entrepreneur, or to get a good job? Whatever the case, be clear about the objective. This comes in handy when you go for a group discussion or face a personal interview.”

Giving tips on GDs, Harish Chaudhary, professor of marketing management, Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi, said, “A group discussion is an attempt to understand who you are. Do you have it in you to do things better? I would suggest that you should not try to portray a false picture of yourself.”

The perception that good command over spoken English is essential was negated by Dr Chaudhary. “Communication is not about good English but about clarity and effectiveness. We look for honesty, sincerity, willingness to learn, learning skills and an eye for detail.”

Talking about interviews, Kapoor and Chaudhary said that students should know the details of what they have learned.