Not all group discussions are equal. B-schools use several types of GD’s to test the applicants. While there are some GD’s that test the knowledge of a candidate on a particular topic, others are designed to test the “lateral thinking” of the candidate. A type of GD that comes in the form of a short “case-study” is where applicants are asked to analyze a situation and frame responses. Another possible type of a GD is a “group exercise”.
So then how should you prepare for the GD? Experts opine that you should work on developing your knowledge base, while at the same time, focus on improving your communication. Some specific lessons on managing yourself during the GD are important too.
There are some topics that are of perennial interest for GD’s. For economic related topics, read fundamental concepts like FDI, stock markets, liberalization, employment scenario, capital convertibility, Rupee vs Dollar, inflation, export-import, socialist vs capitalists etc.
For sector-based topics start by making a 1-2 page note on important sectors like IT, ITES, banking, insurance, retail, telecom, healthcare, agriculture etc. Try to know what are the latest developments in the last year and the prospects of each of those sectors.
But knowledge itself is not enough. The next step is to improve your ability to express yourself. You can practice speaking in a GD scenario by forming a discussion group which meets every day (or according to the frequency you decide) and takes up a topic for discussion. Practice ease of expression since clarity, brevity and choice of words are keenly observed by the people judging you during a GD.
An important thing to keep in mind is to avoid sending wrong signals during the GD. Sit in a comfortable, but upright posture with your back resting. You can keep your hands folded in your lap or use them for gesturing, but do not rest them on the table. Maintain eye contact with the other individuals taking part in the process at all the times. You can start your answer by looking at one person, but move to other individuals during your answer.
Clarity of thought, a sense of purpose, confidence, ability to work in a team, ability to perform under stress – in a nut shell, the qualities necessary to survive a B-School and the raw ingredients to make a good manager. So it’s not just the points raised or the solutions you give that determine the outcome of a GD. Remember that knowledge can be imparted but character cannot be built over two years. Thus its more the entire process that dictates the result of a GD.
Be Natural – The best mantra is ‘to be your natural self’. Do not manufacture artificial responses.
Must Speak – A key principle of participating in a GD is that you must speak. For any GD, take a piece of paper and a pen with you and use them unless specifically asked by the people judging you to not do so. Before you start speaking, think through the major issues in the topic in the first two minutes. Start speaking only when you have understood and analyzed the topic.
Make it a free-flowing discussion – Avoid speaking out of turn as it leads to an uncoordinated discussion. A GD involves a free-flowing exchange of ideas among participants. Even though there will definitely be chaos in most competitive GD’s, as all participants will be keen to be heard, but anything out of order such as speaking out of turn, is unacceptable.