While B-schools shortlist candidates for admission on the basis of their MBA exam scores, most of them also put major emphasis on testing various aspects of candidates’ personality and competence during the second stage of admission process which may include different testing tools such as group discussions, personal interview, essay writing, case discussions. In this article of Careers360, we bring you expert advice and toppers’ insight on cracking Group Discussion (GD) exercise at top B-schools. Group Discussion (GD) is one of the major parts in second stage of selection process at many top B-schools.
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Group Discussion, according to Vinayak Kudva, Head – PG India & Mumbai Region, IMS, evaluates personality traits such as clarity of thought, communication including listening skills, ability to critically evaluate and ability to interact in a group.
“The objective of a group discussion is to appraise a candidate’s ability to critically analyse a given piece of information and collectively work in a group to arrive at a solution or develop a perspective. B-schools conduct GDs to find out whether candidates possess the qualities that are critical to becoming an effective manager,” says Vinayak Kudva, adding, “The rationale behind this exercise is that when a group of human beings are given a task to accomplish within an unstructured situation, they will try to accomplish it by establishing some order or structure. In this process, they will reveal some of their personality characteristics.”
The GD exercise for MBA admissions at top B-schools usually lasts for 20-35 minutes. The candidates are divided in the group of eight to 15 members. First, a moderator briefs the group about the generic rules of GD and then assigns the group with a topic and generally intervenes only after the specified duration of GD is over. In most of the cases, the moderator allots one to two minute to the group for summarising the discussion of the group.
A good performance in GD can make or break your chances into your dream B-schools. So, how do you score high in GD? How do you take edge over others in a GD? We bring you seven success tips for GD.
Enhance knowledge and keep yourself abreast of current happening:
You should be abreast of current happenings and issues that have made news over the last one year. The GD topics can range from issues of social importance to issues based on current affairs. The topics that appeared during the GD of different B-schools can bring you a fair idea on the probable GD topics. Experts suggest that you should regularly watch television news and read at least two newspapers – one general newspaper and another business daily.
CAT topper Royston Menezes who cracked FMS, University of Delhi GD-PI to secure admission to the top B-school, says, “I took help from newspapers, television debates to strengthen my current affairs knowledge.”
Another CAT topper Mayank Taparia who secured admission to MDI Gurgaon says, “Knowing about current affairs helps one accumulate points that can be put forward in GD. It would also help the aspirant come up with points to chip in when the GD is not going in right direction or when there is no different aspect to GD that can be provided.”
Build opinion on issues:
Group Discussion is also a tool for B-schools to assess your thought process. Therefore, while gathering knowledge you should also build opinion which you can justify and defend during your arguments. It helps one win the trust of group members and take lead in the group.
Vinayak Kudva, says, “While reading up on news-making events, candidates should consider various aspects and arguments and use their own judgement to decide what their stand should be.”
Gautam Puri, Vice President, Career Launcher, says, “Aspirants must read a newspaper on a daily basis, browse through magazines and build on content spanning across legal, political, social, economic and sports spectra. They must try to build their opinion rather than just gathering facts, therefore it becomes important for students to focus on the editorials and analysis given in newspapers and magazines.”
Mayank Taparia recalls how he tackled the GD topic assigned to his group at MDI Gurgaon. He says, “My group was assigned to discuss – ‘Political parties or voters: who are more responsible for criminalisation of politics in India’ ”.
“I had read a lot about politics and knew what points I wanted to raise. I gave a couple of examples from recent happenings. I had my view that both Political Parties and Voters in some way were responsible for the criminalization of politics and had points that supported this view,” he says, adding, a balanced approach helped him influence his selection at the top B-School.
A clear opinion about the topic helped Mayank to crack the GD. “My logic was based on the fact that the voters are the one who elect political parties into power. Secondly, there are people who don’t vote or vote without knowledge which eventually result in wrong parties coming in power. Also, the false promises made by politicians was a concern, Where in the genuine voters are taken for a ride and the promises are not kept subsequently,” Mayank says.
Make facts basis of your arguments:
Experts suggest that you should bring facts into your argument to make your argument strong and credible. The factual information during your arguments also helps you to frame counter arguments.
Nitin Tibrewal who made it to FMS Delhi after cracking CAT says that putting the facts forward influenced his selection at GD stage. “Some of the members brought in the other side of the same coin and tried to weigh them up against my points to determine if the complexities are indeed creating or solving problems. I defended my logic by quoting relevant authors on their perspectives and supporting them with relevant facts.”
Find time to put forward your arguments in a group discussion
In the Group Discussions, there are rare possibilities that group members will allow you to speak unless you really make efforts for it. You need to find gaps and enter the discussion while picking a tread of the arguments. Sandeep Manudhane, Head, PT Education, says, that a candidate must make it sure that he is able to speak. “My benchmark is clear: in a 20 minute GD, if you can speak for three to four times making a lot of sense without repeating, and with examples and facts, and 30 to 50 seconds each times, WOW! You've made it,” he says.
Mayank Taparia says, “Just knowing the topic won’t help in a good performance. The importance of GD is communicating what you know. So listening and putting across the points in an understandable manner is equally important.”
Structure your argument
In a GD, you should follow a structured approach while presenting your thoughts. Experts suggest that you should be able to present your understanding of the topic and communicate your opinion on it. Thereafter, you should be backing your opinion with arguments that are supported with facts and data.
Sandeep Manudhane says talking sensibly brings you edge over others. “Talk sense, talk sense, talk sense. That's point number one. Nothing will work if this does not happen,” he says.
Sharing his key to success in GD, CAT topper Royston Menezes of FMS Delhi says, “I believe my structure of discussion and ability to moderate the group, coupled with my inputs in the form of key points would have been the deciding factor in my selection.”
“My approach was to look at all the dimensions of the topic. Thereafter, to analyse each issue at length and listing out how the political system was responsible for it,” Royston adds.
Be a Team Player:
During your Group discussion, you should always exhibit that you are a team player.
In some cases, your opinion and argument might be very strong about the GD topic; still you should accommodate thoughts of other members in the group. Even when you don’t agree with a particular argument, you should be able to accommodate that argument in the course of discussion. This brings out your ability to work in a team, which is key to be a successful manager.
Practice a lot, be confident but don’t be over-confident:
Toppers suggest that regular practice is important to carry and present your thoughts during the actual GD exercise. The regular practice and participation in mock GD, also makes you confident during the actual discussion. But you also need to be cautious that you don’t become overconfident.
“The preparation for GD should start with your analysis of strengths and weaknesses, followed by planning on how to improve and/or tackle them. Finally, practicing as many GDs as possible on varied topics to gain confidence is very important,” says CAT topper Nitin Tibrewal who cracked FMS- Delhi GD.
You should respect opinion of group members and take the GD to a logical conclusion which may represent views of the majority without neglecting the views of the other team members, says an expert.
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