Most of the entrance tests leading you to a B-School are over by now and the results to some of them have already been declared. The next part of the screening process, the GDs and the PIs, will begin soon. It’s almost like – the tests are over, the tests have begun! For, the GDs and PIs play a decisive role in helping you convert your call. There are stories of people who got calls from all the IIMs but were not able to convert a single call; while there have been cases of a single IIM call that got converted by the candidate. While it is easy to state that all this is a matter of luck, it is critical to create those conditions where you will be favoured by luck.
A Group Discussion is a formal discussion that allows for an important assessment of the participants’ personalities. Are you a team player? Are you a good listener? Are you confident? Are you flexible? Do you think logically and holistically? Are you impatient? Are you aggressive? These, and a host of other personal attributes, get accentuated during the course of a Group Discussion.
Preparing for the GD
To help you understand how students prepared for the GD and what actually happened at the time of the group discussion, we spoke to a few students who are now in various B-Schools.
Hanoz Kalwachwala, IIM Ahmedabad, says, ” One can prepare for a GD only by reading newspapers all round the year and having a holistic view on a subject. One needs to remember that at a GD, along with voicing your opinion, you need to be a good listener as well.”
Madhurjya Banerjee, a student of IIM-B says, “It is always a good idea to keep abreast of all the recent events both in the business world and in general. This helps you to have a broader perspective during the GD and the interviews. A good idea would be to follow at least one general interest magazine and a business magazine for the next couple of months if you are not doing it already. Also most IIMs are shifting towards the case study methodology. So it’d be a good idea if you know how to approach a case.”
Sonu Navin Shah of MICA says, “I went through the GD book that IMS came out with. In addition, I read a lot to keep abreast of what was happening. Since I had access to special media literature as well, I made sure I read a lot of it too.”
Mayuri Kane of JBIMS says, “I had joined professional coaching classes that gave us standard topics. I prepared for these topics, gathered data about them, had discussions with my friends and family. There is a lot of information on the net too regarding GDs and PIs. Reading up the debate column of the The Times of India also helped me a lot.”
Prodipto Bhattacharya of SIBM says, “I brushed up my General Knowledge from all sources possible, especially the Competition Success Review Year Book. General Knowledge was indispensable. Reading up magazines and newspapers so as to keep abreast of the latest was also a part of the preparation.”
Number of Participants and Moderators
Hanoz’s group consisted of 5 members and 2 got selected. He says that the moderators were not present for the entire discussion but went around the room where the GD was on.
In Sonu’s group there were 10 members and it was the same for all the groups in that school. She was the only one who got selected from her group. She says, “We did not have any ‘moderators’ guiding/intervening our GE. We had a panel of 3 representatives from MICA who were observing us.”
Mayuri had 12 members in her group but she says that the number is not fixed. They had 3 moderators.
Madhurjya says, “The number of members in the group varied. Typically, it was a number between 7 and 9. A panel of two to three professors acted as moderators.” He says that as far as the selection goes, “There is no fixed number that can be sure to be selected from a group. From my group at IIM B, many people made it. However, I have heard about groups from which no one made the cut.”
In SIBM, all applicants who had received calls were divided into groups of 8 and this number is usually fixed. Prodipto says, “5 people from my group were selected out of 8. In my first GD there were 2 moderators and 3 in the second.”
Hanoz’s topic for the GD was ‘VRS issues with mill workers’. Mayuri’s group was given two topics: ‘The impact of advertising’ and ‘Hockey is a national game but still not very popular’. She says, “I chose the first one because I do not know anything about hockey.”
MICA, on the other hand, has a slightly different structure. According to Sonu, “MICA did not conduct a traditional GD. It was more like a Group Exercise than a GD. We were given a list of options under a constraint and had to rank them in order of priority. We were allotted some time to do it individually first and then had to do it as a group.” She says that they were not allowed to choose a topic.
Madhurjya’s group got topics like “The relevance of the civil services” and “The economic reforms” amongst others. They too didn’t get a chance to choose a topic.
At SIBM, Prodipto says, “We were not given a choice in selecting our GD topics. We all had two GDs and an Personal Interview. . My first GD topic was, ‘Which one has a brighter future -Print media or Electronic media?’The second round of GD was a case study discussion and it included a general case describing a scenario where a patient was injured during Christmas and had succumbed to his injuries due to lack of doctors on duty in the hospital. That case described the failure of a system and we had to analyse the various aspects of the case. In addition to this, we had to write an essay within a timeframe of 10 minutes.”
Problems Faced During the GD
In Sonu’s group there was the problem of excessive leadership. She says, “There were individuals who took it on themselves to lead the group and were not appreciated by any of the group members. We lost some time because of that. Additionally, as a group, we also lost time trying to decide the perfect way to approach the problem. This was again a consequence of dominance of certain group members.”
According to Mayuri, their main problem was, “Everyone wanted to speak together. It started resembling a fish market. Ultimately, the moderators had to step in to smoothen the interactions.”
Prodipto echoes Mayuri when he says, ” We faced the same problems that are encountered in a GD- too many people trying to speak together and that of not getting enough time to voice your opinion.”
Madhurjya adds, “The important factor to keep in mind is that there’ll be people who’ll try to shout you down. The trick is to understand how to place your views across without creating a fish market. In the Case Studies, it often happens that the group runs out of steam midway through the discussion and that creates a negative effect.”
Advice to Aspirants
Sonu’s advice to the MICA aspirants is, ” Be absolutely focussed and even more determined. MICA is a nice place to be in.
Mayuri says, “My advice will be to be aware of what’s happening around you, keep abreast of the current scenario and be totally alert. In the GD itself, give the others also a chance to talk. But grab the opportunity given to you. At the same time, do not cut short others.”
Madhurjya’s word of advice is, “Remember in the GDs, it is not the solution that is important but your approach towards the problem. Group dynamics will definitely be looked at. Also, it is important to be consistent in your contributions throughout the GDs. Finally, do remember that quality of contributions is most important, not the quantity or the decibel level.”
Prodipto says, “I would advice aspirants not to try and hog the limelight all the time. It would be more prudent to make a few relevant points and then let others speak. Be confident, relaxed and make sure that you do not under perform.”
Is the GD essential?
A few B-Schools do not have the GD. Alvin Raskina of XLRI says that students taking the XAT need not prepare for a GD as XLRI has a PI but not a GD. He says, “They lay a lot of emphasis on the personal interview, and also on achievements and academics. However, you may have done very well academically, but if you do not do well in the PI then you may not be selected. The benefit of not having a GD is that most of the time the GD becomes a fish market and only the very aggressive ones get heard.”
However, during the mid-term summer placements and the final placements, most companies use the GD as a screening tool. This means that even if the B-School does not conduct a GD, you need to prepare yourself for it nevertheless.
From what the successful candidates say, it emerges that in order to be successful in the GD, you need to be widely read, be able to formulate your ideas clearly, speak confidently, let others speak and focus on your content.