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Aspiring MBA? Tips to ace your Group Discussion

March 11, 2010 14:14 IST

The Group Discussion (GD) round is an important part of the selection process for MBA institutes. Different institutes assign varying weightage for GDs and interviews, but almost all institutes use this process to assess the suitability of the candidate for the course they offer.

Unfortunately, many students leave their preparation for GDs and interviews till too late. This is due to over-confidence at times, or lack of awareness on how to prepare for these rounds. In this article, we shed some light on the latter aspect so that prospective candidates can start working towards the fulfillment of their dreams.

Preparation strategy

Content
If you wish to speak well and make a good impression in a GD, you need to have a fair degree of comfort with the topic that is given to you. Without this, you will struggle to say much; or even if you do have a few points, others may state them before you get a chance.

Keep in mind that for GDs, you could be given any topic: it may pertain to politics, economics and business, sports, social issues. Also, topics are not limited to national or local issues, but could cover broader global themes.

So how can you prepare? You would need to read widely and extensively over a period of time. This will help you in bringing a unique perspective to the discussion which others may not have thought of. A sustained effort at reading about important issues, across a variety of topics, is crucial.

Having done your reading, try and predict topics that may be given to you -- what are the important issues that are playing themselves out currently? For example, for this year, topics pertaining to climate change, the environment and global warming, the Commenwealth Games, the issues in Indian hockey, the re-organisation of states in the light of the Telengana agitation, the Womens' Bill, etc are relevant.

Try and make notes on these topics. Add to your notes the moment you come across a relevant point.

Analysis
Candidates should try and demonstrate sound ability in analysing issues. The top management schools certainly look for this feature in your discussion. You should try and go beyond mere opinions and use robust logic, data and examples to justify your point of view.

For example, if you state that China is doing better than India in terms of the strength of its economy, how would you justify this? You could quote figures pertaining to the relative GDP of the two countries, their GDP growth, per capita incomes etc. You could speak about the relative availability and quality of infrastructure present in the two countries. Then you could speak about trade and the presence of a trade deficit or surplus in the two countries, etc.

Such points help you justify the opinion you may have expressed -- that China is doing economically better than India.

How can you develop your ability on this parameter? Whenever you read something, ask yourself certain questions: why did a certain development take place? Whom does it impact and how? What are the likely future repercussions of that particular development?

Once again, make notes of important statistics, data etc which you feel could be useful for GDs.

Communication skills and teamwork
These skills are important and refer to the ability to effectively put across what you know. It is important to create an impact-besides content, the way you express your point is also evaluated.

I advise that you put your point across firmly and confidently, but not aggressively. Do not speak just for the sake of saying something and registering your participation -- it can be negative if overdone. At the same time, it is absolutely vital to speak during a GD, and the earlier you do so, the better.

Remember also that speaking just once will not be enough. Try and make at least three interventions during the GD -- be a regular participant.

In addition, teamwork is also evaluated -- listen to your fellow participants. You can build on the points put forward by others. If challenging someone or opposing his point, try and do so in a polite, non-confrontational manner.

Need for practice
Finally, practicing in at least a few mock GDs may be very useful -- you can practice keeping the above points in mind. Also, practice will increase your confidence levels of interacting in groups and you can develop your abilities in communicating effectively in a group. Remember, people will try to interrupt you -- you need to learn how to handle it, and handle it well!

The author, an MBA from IIM Calcutta, is an MBA training expert. He has also written the best-selling 'An Introduction to CAT-Tips from an IIM Alumnus' published by Pearson Education. He can be contacted at bsiddharth_2001@yahoo.co.in

Illustration: Rediff Archives

Sidharth Balakrishna