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Group Discussions: Don't get emotionally involved
Brijesh Singh, Arun Mittal
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February 22, 2007

Akriti is on top of the world these days. She received calls from all six IIMs and her percentile is in the top 0.1 percentile category of candidates who appeared for the test.

She is now preparing rigorously for her second phase of B-school admissions, ie, Personality Assessment (group discussions and interviews). She has great communication skills, but her performance in the GDs is not consistent.

As a B-school aspirant, she needs to understand different types of GDs and personality traits that are given weightage.

A GD, as discussed before, is defined as a formal discussion involving 10-12 participants in a group. A topic is given to them, with some time to collect their thoughts, and the group is then asked to discuss the topic for 20-25 minutes.

The sole objective of a group discussion is to analyse the personality traits of a candidate. We explore the different types of GDs.

1. Case Study

A type of GD where a situation is given to candidates, with some time to analyse it, followed by a discussion of around 20 minutes. You are expected to analyse the situation and reach a solution.

A common blunder made by many while discussing a case study is to announce your solution to the group at the beginning of the case study. Basically, you have declared your solution without generating and discussing different possible solutions or alternatives for the problem mentioned.

In a case study, you are expected to reach a solution, but even if you are not able to, the panel gives a lot of weightage to the process followed by candidates to analyse the case study. In short, the panel asks themselves, 'Is the approach taken by the candidate towards the case correct?'. 

Any case study can be approached and analysed through the following five-step proven methodology:

This step-by-step process highlights the problem-solving and logical approach of a candidate.

2. Role Play

Similar to case studies, here too, a situation or case is given to the group, but a candidate is not expected to find a solution. Instead, he is expected to play the role of a particular character in the case. Role plays primarily check the ability of a person to empathise with the character in a given case.

3. Normal Group Discussion

This can be divided into three broad categories based on the topic:

~ Argumentative

As the title suggests, this type of GD generates a lot of argument. Topics given are argumentative or controversial in nature, and often, tempers run high. Candidates get emotionally attached to the topic and forget the basic tenets of the GD.

A few examples of such topics are 'Should India attack Pakistan', 'How real are reality shows?', 'Should action channels be banned' etc. These topics test how assertively (not aggressively) a person can put his or her content across to the team and leave a winning impression on them.
 
~ Factual

Most factual topics deal with day-to-day happenings in our environment. A factual GD is highly content-intensive and gives the candidate a chance to prove his or her knowledge about micro and macro issues.

Some factual topics include 'India's foreign policy', 'Impact of Indo-US relations on Indian economy', 'Is Indian economy better than that of China?', etc.

~ Abstract

One that means different things to different people. These are mostly intangible in nature. They are perception-based and check the creativity and lateral thinking of the candidates. Some examples include 'A rolling stone gathers no moss', 'Sweet are the uses of adversity', 'A black dot on the white board', 'Square pegs in round holes', etc.

As mentioned above, different types of group discussions put an emphasis on different personality traits of candidates. So, to excel, you must understand the different types and demonstrate personality traits in accordance with the expectations of the panel.

-- Brijesh Singh is City Business Head, Bangalore, Career Launcher India Ltd and an alumnus of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. He can be reached at brijesh.singh@careerlauncher.com

-- Arun Mittal is DGM, South and West, Career Launcher India Ltd, which prepares students for exams like GRE, CAT, GMAT, etc. He can be reached at arun.mittal@careerlauncher.com


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