5 Tips for Group Discussion in B-schools

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Here is post for students. It is a known fact that competition among the students for MBA and other top B-school programs is growing at a breakneck speed with increasing number of students aiming for post-graduation courses. Only few hundred candidates make it to the final list from lakh of aspirants each year. Getting admission into an MBA course is not so easy and it requires rigorous practice and grooming on your behalf.

Group Discussion

Clearing the various entrance exams such as CAT, GMAT and the GRE can be a difficult exercise. The written exam tests the aptitude of the candidate in a number of areas such as quantitative ability, data interpretation, logical reasoning and general awareness about the real-world human capital issues and present solutions relevant in today’s fast-paced global economy. It is rightly said that there is no shortcut to crack such entrance tests.

Having crossed the first step to securing an admission successfully, there is no time to get complacent because you are still inadequately prepared for the next two stages of Group Discussion and Personal Interview. A Personal Interview looks at how you react to various situations and observes your overall conduct along with testing your thought process and aptitude.

On the other hand, a Group Discussion (GD) is a simulated exercise used to gauge whether the candidate has certain personality traits and/or desired skill levels. In this methodology, the group of around 8-12 students are given a topic or a situation, along with few minutes to think about the same, and asked to discuss it among themselves within a given time limit. A panel will observe the proceedings and evaluate the members of the group.

Personality traits put to test in a GD

  • Ability to synergize in a team
  • Communication skills
  • Reasoning ability
  • Leadership skills
  • Risk taking
  • Energy levels
  • Flexibility
  • Innovativeness

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts of carrying through you to pass the test with flying colors.

Tips to Succeed in a Group Discussion

1) Make Yourself Get Noticed

Mostly, the GDs are leaderless in nature. They’re deliberately designed in such a manner to bring out the dominating personal traits from the candidates in an unstructured group. Hence, the prior most consideration for you should be to determine your objective in the group and contribute in a meaningful way; such that you’re adequately recognized by the evaluator in an attempt to build the right consensus within the group.

In other words, you should get enough chance to speak, take active role through participation and discussion and create positive energy around yourself through assertiveness and structured arguments.

2) Be the First Speaker on the Topic

Your role and contribution in a GD will send a clear message to the panellist as to whether you are a ‘Leader’ or ‘Follower’ by nature. Leaders should lead from the front and set a benchmark for the followers to replicate. People with positivity and thorough frame of mind will not hesitate to be an opening speaker in a GD; at a time when other members are still trying to understand the basic issues in the topic, or are too nervous to speak first up.

Grab the opportunity and squeeze-in maximum uninterrupted airtime to be noticeable to the judges as an initiative-taking student. If you are successful in making a favourable first impression with your content and communication skills, it will help you to survive the initial hiccups of the GD and provide you with extra-confidence to deal with your remaining participative role. Lastly, do remember that false starts are extremely expensive.

3) Engage in Meaningful Discussion

Speaking blah-blah on the podium won’t win you brownie points. The more you talk, the more likely you’re to get through the GD – is a mythical belief. It is the quality of the content that counts in the final analysis. In fact, by consuming longer airtime without any relevant discussion and valid points could cost you a negative remark.

A good leader should be able to carefully articulate his thoughts into words and can persuade his audience with ease. You should be able to demonstrate your intellectual excellence by showcasing the level of preparation, the ability to organize your thoughts in a logical way and understand the topic in its totality through your discussion. Further, your ability to innovate could earn you an extra point in case of tight competition among the participants.

4) Controlling Emotions – the ‘Hidden Dynamic’

GDs are used as a selection tool because they provide lots of information about the candidate’s personality, including behavioural skills and your body language. The person so speaking should not be interrupted during his opportunity to speak. You should listen respectfully to the other, even if you disagree with the perspective so narrated. It is often said that aggressiveness is negative while assertiveness is positive.

Often, panellists might allot students a fairly controversial topic and ask them to decide whether they agree or disagree or have an opinion; making notes on their main arguments and show of emotions, if any. Immediate reactions to problems often disguise deeper feelings. The main aim of the judges is to check as to how the participants address emotional issues and still save the face.

5) Building a Consensus

The last aspect is building the group’s consensus around your perspective of thinking, personal traits and arguments on the topic. It determines how well you jelled along with the group participants and whether you were able to do justice to your role from the perspective of group’s objective and ultimate goal.

Perhaps the most common hazard for teams is a lack of consensus especially in case of unstructured and leaderless groups. It is a particularly thorny problem, and brings a lot of teams to heated arguments. However, a leader can help in structuring discussion and keep it from endlessly going in circles by encouraging respect for strong opinions, provide for valid comparison of options and support decision-making in a manageable framework.

So, are you ready for a Group Discussion now?

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