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Group discussions: Myths demystified
Top Careers & You
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January 11, 2008

Now that all the major MBA entrance exams' (especially CAT) results are out, the next step in securing an admission in the best of the B-schools in India is crucial. Nobody can deny the importance of group discussions and personal interviews in the overall admission process for MBA. That is why experts from have provided some useful inputs on the intricacies of GD and PIs exclusively for readers of

We understand that GDs are a nightmare for most of the MBA aspirants. There is a lot of hype and hoopla surrounding the GD process. One of the most often asked questions about GD is about the format.

"Why do we have 10-12 persons in a GD and why the time cap? What are the parameters on which one's performance in a GD is evaluated?"

This is one crucial question that hangs in the mind of every MBA aspirant.

So, first, let us try and understand the purpose served by a GD. It is an unfortunate but true fact that GDs conducted for admission to most of the B-schools in India serve more as is a rejection tool then a selection procedure. It is a tool for mass elimination of candidates. However, the elimination is based on certain ground rules. Your performance in a GD is evaluated on the following criteria:

~ Integration of knowledge: It is about how well you integrate your knowledge into the topic with the flow of the discussion.  
~ Reasoning skills: It is about how well you put forward your arguments in a logical fashion.
~ Communication skills: It is about how well you articulate you ideas in the discussion.
~ Interpersonal skills: This evaluates your social skill and your presence in the GD.
~ Group Behavior Assessment: This is about the kind of role you played in the GD and how you influenced the dynamics of the GD.   

Now that you have a better idea about how a GD is evaluated, let us put some of the common conceptions about GD under our experts' lens:

Formals are not important
It is a truth that many organisations would like to maintain an informal environment and are increasingly accepting informal dressing in work culture, but have you ever seen the CEO or an important person in such a company ever attending a formal occasion in casuals?  

The first one to speak surely makes it
Yes, speaking first means that you have the confidence and capability to take the initiative but speaking first also lays a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. The first person is supposed to give a clear direction to the discussion and steer the GD the right way. So it essential that the person taking the initiative must make points that are relevant and make sense. If you are not able to do that, then speaking first works against you.

The more you speak the better are your chances
If two or three people in a GD believe in this concept, it is the perfect recipe for a fish market GD. Please remember that your interpersonal skills are judged by how well you listen to others. You will be able to contribute in a coherent fashion only if you are able to listen to what others say and connect what you are about to say to it.

I spoke less than the others; I do not stand a chance!
It doesn't matter how much you have spoken, what really matters is how much sense you made while you spoke. Were you relevant and in context? Were you able to capture the attention of the audience? These are the crucial questions that determine your chances. Specifically, in factual GDs, if one speaks less but contributes highly relevant statistical and factual information on the topic, one is definitely going to gain.

It is essential to memorise all the facts and figures
GDs are about ideas and the exchange of ideas, they are not about data. It is essential that you have a larger picture of the topic and most of the discussion should revolve around the macro-issues and not the micro-issues. So, it is helpful if you have some macro-statistics at hand but you certainly don't have to cram up on all the minor details.

For example, while speaking of poverty in India you just need to have a rough estimate of the number of people below the poverty line, even a rough percentage will do. It is not necessary that you should also mention the criterion that determines whether one is below or above the poverty line.

One needs to have an exceptional vocabulary to be successful in GDs
Nothing is farther from the truth. If you use words that your audience cannot understand you are going to lose the audience. Nothing worse can happen to you in a GD. All you need is crisp, plain, grammatically correct language with a pinch of humour, if possible, to articulate your ideas.      

I should have aggressive body language to attract attention
Body language is to lay emphasis on the words you speak, aggressive body language distracts the listener and diverts attention from what you are saying. GDs are all about capturing an audience for what you have to say; people won't be interested in the funny gestures you are capable of.

So as a final count let us just recall the 7 best ways to ruin your GD.

~ Dress like Elvis Presley [Images]
~ Say whatever comes to your mind, however irrelevant just to be the one to speak first
~ Keep on speaking, never mind if people are listening or not
~ Wait till you get a chance to speak
~ Show them all the statistics you know
~ Use powerful vocabulary, that no one understands
~ Make wild gestures to attract attention

Top Careers & You ( has been preparing national and international candidates for high-end tests viz. CAT, XAT, FMS, SNAP, GRE, GMAT, SAT etc. since 1998.

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