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

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