Preparation for GDs

As a regular reader of newspapers and magazines, content generation on normal topics was never a problem. The areas that I was afraid of, were- not speaking up enough in a GD or having too specialised a topic to deal with. To combat that, in the days leading up to the GD/PIs, I identified some of the most hot/current topics and prepared a 1-2 para summary on them.

I also attended a few mock GDs where I tried to overcome my fear of speaking. A lot of times, I felt that the GD was going completely off topic and I was becoming disinterested. The trick was in identifying when it happened and to either try getting the GD back on track or still keep on bringing my ideas to the table.

Some tips:

• You should have some polite phrases prepared- when you want to interrupt a person who is taking too much air time or when you want yourself to be heard, if the GD is turning into an outshouting match.
• Phrases like “I have a new idea”, help, since the group’s attention is now focused on you. But you need to back it up with a NEW idea!
• If you are speaking in the first few minutes, approach a topic in a structured manner- First try to get a consensus on the overall topic and then identify the problem and then try to solve it
• Keep a track of what others are saying. It will come handy if the panel asks you to summarize the GD. You CANNOT give your views at this stage, only the proceedings of the GD
• Try backing up your points with examples, however small

My experience
For: IIM Lucknow
Topic: Insanity is doing same thing over and over again and expecting different results
Number of people present: 9
Panelists: 2
People were not very clear on the topic. I tried to bring out the fact that perhaps the actual thing that you are trying to do is the same but you keep tweaking your means to get there. So, in effect you really don’t, or rather can’t do the same thing over and over again. I cited the insane number of trials that Edison undertook to finally come out with the light bulb. Also, I gave the example of the Greek Euro Zone crisis, where they are actually doing the same thing again but the fate is unknown. Later on I built upon other group members’ points.
Verdict: Converted

-Kartika Mittal
(IIM Ahmedabad, Class of 2014)

About Kartika

Kartika is currently a first year PGP student at IIM Ahmedabad. She pursued her B.E. (Hons.) in Computer Science at BITS, Pilani and graduated in 2011. Kartika was among the top 21 entrants at IIM A and has always been a consistent academic performer. In her spare time, she can be found with her nose buried in a novel.

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GEAR UP FOR GROUP DISCUSSIONS

Congratulations! You have finally cleared that one elusive hurdle- the CAT! A good percentile is great for opening up the golden doors of many of India’s top b-schools, but your journey is far from over. The exam just leads you to more, even tougher hurdles to cross- group discussions (GD), personal interviews (PI) and in some cases, written ability tests (WAT). Only one out of ten shortlisted candidates on an average manages to clear this stage and your performance can make or break your b-school dream.

In a group discussion or GD a number of candidates, say around ten, are made to sit together and are given a topic to discuss. It sounds simple, but it’s not as easy. For one, the topic can be from anywhere under the sun. It can be an analysis of recent socio-economic or political issues, or an abstract topic, or a philosophic one, or just about anything you can think of. The best way to prepare for this is to read as much as possible. Read the newspaper- both a daily and a business one, know the personalities in the news, and most importantly don’t just read to absorb facts but question and analyse them. Your performance in any GD will be rated both on your knowledge of the topic and your opinions and suggestions. They are looking for leaders who can take intelligent decisions.

Speaking of leaders, how exactly do they judge whether you have good leadership qualities or not? The answer is how you behave in the GD. The key is to be polite. It is just as important to be a good listener as it is to be a good speaker. One must learn the art of cutting in with one’s points at the right moments without rudely cutting someone off. There is a very thin line. Be too mild and you may not get a chance to speak, or be too dominating and you might just score negative points. By the end of the GD the group should come up with some solid concluding points. You, as a leader, can give the group direction, organize the points given by different members, highlight and elaborate on any member’s seemingly inconspicuous yet highly relevant point.

Quite often in a bid to win this competition, and in the fear of losing a chance to be heard, the discussion turns into a fish-market. These situations must be avoided at all cost as if things get out of hand, the whole group could get rejected. (Yet majority of GDs turn into fish markets!) One must avoid arguments and cross talks, and endeavour to retain order or at least bring out some sensible points from the chaos.

Last but not least, the classic saying- “practice makes perfect” hold strongly in this case too. Holding mock GDs with friends, watching discussions and debates on news channels, or even some light discussions with your colleagues over coffee can go a long way.

-Shrinwanti Banerjee
The author is currently pursuing her MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode

GD/PI tips

After the results for the written exams are declared, we tend to go into deliberations about whether or not we will get calls and start to Google the answers and hunt for that algorithm which has worked so far. 

Well, take a break from this frantic search and just wait for the calls to come in, as there has been always one term to describe the calls, “random”!

And now when you have at least one call from the institute of your dream then get set go to convert it and book a ticket in the destination you have longed for. Just for clarifications, getting many calls in no way increases the probability of getting selected, as, my friend, everything in this world is subjective! So, no need to celebrate many calls or deliberate over your single call of this race season. Just pack your other work for a few days and plunge yourself into the GD/PI preparation as if it is the only thing left worthwhile in your life.

A few suggestions to take note while you sit for preparing for the GDs:

• Current debatable topics are a ‘must prepare’
• Start looking at both sides of any topic (because for a manager this skill is held in high importance)
• Try to be very professional in your speaking style and while expressing your views
• Be polite and firm at the same time
• Prepare facts very well as they form the logic of the arguments you shall give
• Fluency in English and speaking correct English is vital here
• Mind your gestures, they should not be rude or intrusive into other’s personal space
• Try to participate evenly throughout and also give chance to others
• If you run out of valid points, try to add a new dimension to the discussion

Though there is no formula for success here but the above steps shall make it sure that there is no reason to reject! Some institutes also ask for Essay writing and hence inculcating a habit of writing in paper and pen is very essential. Handwriting should be legible and well-spaced and the pace of writing and thinking should be well coordinated. All this comes with daily timed practice.

The next step is the dreaded interview which takes life out of almost all the candidates!

Below are some must have’s for the Personal Interview-
• Know about the institute and the place it is situated in, for which you are giving the interview
• Know about the state as well as city to which you belong to and in which you have studied (which may or may not be different)
• Know about at least 2-3 subjects quite well from your graduation 
• Know about your goals very clearly and manage to rope in the institute and the course (MBA) in it very well
• Know about current affairs and have opinions on the burning issues 
• Know about the management subjects already studied as a part of your graduation
• Know about evolution of the Indian Economy (from 1991 liberalization to the present scenario in brief)
• For girls especially: Know about some successful business women and their journey
• Be prepared for questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we choose you”, prepare an answer covering a range of points and delve into the details only when asked

All the Best!

-Sakshi Rastogi
(XLRI – 2nd year student)

Life is never easy

It was about fifteen days after the start of my college life that an interesting comment caught me grappling with a dichotomy. Interestingly and most unbelievably, a friend of mine called me ‘Smart’. With the various interpretations that the word has (you could take it as handsome, street smart or both or even something else; with all interpretation carrying a positive connotation); I was pretty clear that it could not represent me. This was especially after the fact that not more than eight months back someone else had called the same me ‘Chambhu’. While many of us definitely understand the meaning of the word; the others who don’t just need to understand that it is not the most innocuous and pleasant comment on your personality. While I was pretty certain that it could not be me, the dichotomy was that some other voice from inside was forcing me to believe what I was being told.

Today, around six and a half years after that phase of dilemma, I am pleased I heard the other voice of mine. It is very easy to believe what you are but not as easy to try and change it- First in your head and almost as a thumb rule next in front of the world. It was essentially difficult to believe that comment then because I had, till then, been a victim of teasing which I always took as comments. Being fat, dumb and featuring in the worst performing students academically I had always had girls and boys twitching their noses at the first look of mine. Their expressions could speak much more than any word could. People never preferred noting down class work from me believing that I could never get it right. The fat was always to add to the woes. A tap, sometimes on the belly some other times somewhere else, suggesting where the fat had most pleasantly settled; creating a play ground for the ones who wanted to have fun. And, by the way, the one who called me ‘Chambhu’ was none other but the one my heart had missed a beat for and that too for the very first time. You might want to forget such crushes as some cute incidences of your childhood but words, they say, are sharper than swords. They cut you into pieces and there are hardly any adhesives unearthed which could get those parts together again. They somehow always stay with you- sometimes negatively hurting you badly while some other time positively motivating you to do things better. However, I somehow got lucky and got to believe in the latter.

Lightening, it is said, doesn’t strike at the same place again. Fortune, I believe, doesn’t either. That comment was like a lightening of fortune which I had to grab and fortunately I did. It all worked a combination. Losing thirty kilos in eight months wasn’t enough; I needed more to turn it around. I needed a friend and a guide which I got in the one who, now, has chosen to spend her entire life with me. My friend who taught me the art of being myself. My guide who didn’t only tell me how dumb I was but even motivated me to work on my English. And now a little more, my wife who is constantly next to me, giving me still those lessons of motivation. People might say she hasn’t done her MBA but if not, what is it that she has done to make this dumb weed to turn into the Best Student of the best communication institute of Asia?

It has been a story of desperate struggle with some non dying dedication. Being through all the lows gave me the motivation to enjoy the highs and work very hard to make them stay for long.

And if you are wondering towards the end as to why this piece of crap? This has been put in place for all those students who believe life is easy. It never is. They believe it has all been smooth with me all throughout. Probably they will now know how it has been. You should respect what you have because you might not get the opportunity again.

– by Mohit Masand

Mohit is an alumni of MICA, Ahmedabad- where he was adjudged the ‘Student of the year’. He currently runs his own content-only creative agency. Visit wordisticcreations.com to know more about it.