Group Discussion (GD): an Important part of MBA Admissions

Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh updated on : 01 Feb 2016

Find out: WHAT a group discussion is; WHY it is conducted by most B-schools & what PERSONALITY TRAITS are tested in a group discussion

As an MBA aspirant, you must have slogged & burnt the proverbial midnight oil; practiced all the sample tests you could get your hands on & taken all the written entrance exams: CAT, SNAP, XAT, IIFT, IRMA etc. You would be expecting a very good score, probably 95 percentile or above. But does that ensure you a place in the top B-schools in India?

No! At least, not yet! For you still haven’t cleared the next hurdle; a step that is a part of the selection procedure at almost all the reputed B-schools of the country - the Group Discussion, popularly referred to as “GD” by B-school aspirants.

If you had been not paying much attention to preparing for the Group Discussion assuming that it would be a cake walk, think again. There have always been instances where students with extremely good scores (98+ percentile) couldn’t get through good MBA colleges just because they could not ace the GD round.

So let’s try & understand what exactly is a GD, why GD is an important step to get into your dream B-school & what personality traits are tested in a typical GD:


What is a Group Discussion (GD)?

A group discussion is a selection (sometimes elimination) round where a group of 8-10 students are given group discussion topics to discuss for a given time period. After the topic is announced, you would be given 10-15 minutes to gather & compose your thoughts. Then the discussion begins.

A panel of judges would be sitting & observing the proceedings & would be marking you according to your performance in the GD.

The number of candidates who are short-listed from this group may vary. Sometimes 2-3 or 4-5 candidates can selected from a group of 10. There have also been cases where the entire group was rejected.

A successful group discussion should ideally proceed like a well-coordinated football team, where every player passes on the ball to achieve a common goal. A GD should not proceed to look like a fish market where every one is trying to drown out the other’s opinion.


Why is GD an Important part of the Selection Procedures in B-Schools?

A question often asked by many students: Why GD, why not just a personal interview (PI) or why not just the written test? After all, engineering colleges don’t have GDs, neither do medical, law schools.

The answer is pretty obvious: business schools are selecting students who are going to be future managers & CEOs. And a good manager ought to be firm yet flexible, innovative, possess good communication skills, take quick decisions, have sound reasoning abilities & be a good leader. These skill-sets can be best gauged by the panel of judges or best displayed by a potential candidate only in a group activity like the group discussion.

By making GD a part of their selection procedures, the top B-schools are ensuring that they only select candidates who not only have good analytical, quantitative skills (assessed by their written exam score) but also possess excellent soft skills. So a Group Discussion round is a very important part of selecting a student in a B-school.


Personality Traits that are Tested in a Group Discussion:

1. General Awareness: “What” you speak in a GD matters more than “how” you say it. The panel of judges would check how much you know about what’s happening around you. So if the group discussion topic is “Commercialisation of Health Care: Good or Bad?”, you should ideally be aware of the latest developments in the healthcare industry, you should know who is the Minister of Health and Family Welfare (it’s Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad) etc. There is no particluar field from which the group discussion topic is selected. The GD topics can be based on a current hot topic "Is the Lokpal Bill the best way to tackle Corruption in India" or they can be random topics like "Advertising is a form of brainwashin". It is therefore very important to be aware of what is happening around you & also to have a good GK quotient.

2. Team Spirit: As mentioned earlier, there have often been cases when an entire group has been rejected by the panel. This is usually because everyone or most participants in the GD were not team players. Extreme cases of one-upmanship (trying to outdo your competitor) are not appreciated & usually do not go down well with the judges. After all, you as a future manager are supposed to work in/with a team.

3. Leadership: If a group discussion loses steam or ends up in chaos or digresses from the topic, a participant with good leadership skills will usually try to coordinate & sort out the confusion or steer the GD back to the right track. Having leadership skills will always work in your favour. Some of you may have natural leadership skills, others will have to work & inculcate this personality trait into your skill-set.

4. Confidence: The way you put forth your points, your body language etc. should exude confidence. But be careful that your assertiveness does not translate into aggressiveness.

5. Adaptability: Being stubborn & unyielding on your opinion/point of view in a GD never helps. On the other hand if you are willing to see others’ point of view & are open to re-evaluating your own ideas, you will come across as a flexible person who is open to changes/suggestions (if they are viable). This is a positive trait & contributes towards a successful GD.

6. Communication Skills: Good articulation skills are a must for any future manager. Without good communication skills how will you put across new ideas, manage a team; ensure everyone’s on the same page as you are? This trait is also required to bring forth the traits discussed earlier. Without good communication skills, it would be difficult to display your leadership skills, convey the information you have, steer the discussion successfully.

7. Listening Skills: It is important to be articluate & to make your point as often as you can in a GD, but it is equally important to listen when others speak. If you keep interrupting others & don't care to listen when others speak you lose points. Remember, the panel is alsways closely observing you!

Now that you know WHAT a group discussion is & WHY it is conducted by most B-schools & what PERSONALITY TRAITS are tested in a group discussion, go ahead & find out what are the 10 steps for a successful GD!


Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh

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