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Cross the last hurdle with ease

B-schools use group discussions to measure a candidate’s knowledge, rational thought process, communication skills, group behaviour and leadership skills

education Updated: Feb 17, 2010 09:12 IST

Getting ready to face the group discussions (GD) and personal interview (PI) for your MBA admissions? To help MBA aspirants, we present the what, why and how of the GD round. For this special series, did an in-depth research on the trends in this round in the past three years. Our team also spoke to directors and faculty members of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top b-schools to know their views. We also spoke to CAT toppers from past few years, who made it to top b-schools like IIMs. Here is the advice that can help you leap over the last hurdle.

The purpose of GD
While the written exam tests the quantitative, reasoning and verbal skills of an applicant, that is not all a future manager is expected to excel in. It’s just the start! A successful manager should not just be good with his quota of work, but s/he is expected to contribute as part of a team. The ability to work, and contribute in teams is an absolute must to succeed in the corporate sector. And that’s what GDs and other group exercises aim to test.

According to an expert, “The GD and PI stage is arguably the most crucial. It’s a bit like the journey from qualifying in the heats to the gold medal in a sports event. GDs are conducted to test managerial attributes like interpersonal skills, leadership, analytical and rational thinking, knowledge and personality traits.”

B-schools measure the candidate on parameters like content (on the given topic) knowledge, rational thought process, communication skills, group behaviour and leadership skills. The GD is meant to check a quality of paramount importance: team spirit. At work, you will function as a team member rather than as an individual. To do well, your interpersonal skills, your ability to put across your ideas and understanding the other person's point of view is important.

That’s what the GD focuses on.
Institutes use the GD as an elimination round, too, in the case of intense competition. And only candidates succeeding in the GD are selected for the next round, the interview.

The traits it checks
Through the GD the b-school panel measures the following qualities in the applicants:
Content: How much knowledge you possess on the topic?
Rational thought process: How good are your analytical skills and thought processes?
Communication: This covers both spoken English and non-verbal communication. You should be clear and fluent in speech.
Group behaviour: How good are your group dynamics, the way you pleasantly interact with the group and your body language?
Leadership skills: A leader will emerge in the GD because of his/her contribution.

Success Mantras
Arjun Khurana, 100 Percentiler in CAT 2008; IIM Calcutta (2009-11) batch
What success mantra will you give to MBA aspirants preparing for the group discussion (GD) and personal assessment (PA)?
Know yourself and the world that you live in. That's all the selection committees of the top b-schools are looking for.
How did you prepare for the GD and PA rounds?
What I did was to brush up on my general awareness, a bit about current hot topics and some introspection on what I really wanted, which I shared with the interviewers. I believe these stood me in good stead.