GROUP discussions are used by the B-schools as a
selection tool because they provide a lot of useful
information about the candidate’s personality in a very
short time. GDs are used to assess certain group skills
that cannot be evaluated in an interview situation.
These skills include leadership skills, social skills,
listening and articulation skills, situation handing
ability and interpersonal ability. A typical GD involves
8 to 12 participants sitting in a circle or semicircle
discussing a topic for a stipulated time, usually for 15
to 20 minutes. Most GDs follow one of the three formats:
Structured, Unstructured, or Specialized.
1. Regular Structured GDs: Here the time limits
and topic is defined. No consensus expected at the end.
No leader is to be selected for facilitating the
process. These are easier to handle. Topics chosen are
usually general and do not require technical knowledge.
2. Unstructured GDs: Choosing a leader is
mandatory and the group has to reach a consensus at the
end of the GD. The leader has to direct the group, set
the tone for discussion and control the dynamics of the
group. Things are sometimes made more complicated by
asking the group to propose a topic, discuss it and
reach a consensus.
3. specialised GDs: These include role-plays or
scripted GDs where the candidates are given a certain
brief about a role that they need to play. For example,
a business situation where to companies are negotiating
a deal may be used. Candidates would be given the
profile of the two CEOs, marketing managers, HR
managers, advisors, and a neutral entity like a
consultant. Alternatively, candidates could be given the
role of the five Pandavas and the main Kauravas
negotiating the distribution of their kingdom in 20th
Content Vs Process
It is crucial to understand the difference. Content
refers to things like your level of preparation, the
ability to organize your thoughts in a logical way,
understand the topic in its totality and the ability to
innovate. Process includes manner of expression,
communication skills, body language and the attitude of
Most candidates are preoccupied with
process. Consequently, all too vital questions like
‘what should I say? ’,’ do I have enough reasoning to
sustain my line of argument? ’,’can I think of examples
to substantiate my logic? ’, take a back seat. A
preoccupation with process alone is fraught with
disastrous results. Both content and process are equally
important for an effective contribution to a GD.
So show does one ensure excellence in both quantity
and quality of the content?
Take A One Minute Pause: This is the only way to
ensure that you perform above a threshold level of
quality. Take your mind off the context for one minute.
Utilise this one minute to focus on WHAT you are going
to say and to organize your thoughts. All this must be
done much before you are swept away in the maelstrom
which will follow.
Critical Success Factors In A GD
Innovativeness: Ability to have an entirely different
Quality Of Content: It shows the level of
Logical Ability: Ability to reason, think and debate
the pros and cons.
Behavioural Skills: Aggressiveness is negative while
assertiveness is positive. Assertiveness is standing
on your own feet, while aggression is trampling on
Communication: This includes articulation, listening
and body language. Clarity of thought leads to
articulate language and frequent and consistent
participation. Fundamental knowledge of language is
all one needs.
Leadership: Leadership involves all the above skills.
More importantly, the fundamental strength that you
need to portray to be effective is MOBILITY. It is
mobility that lets you demonstrate leadership skill as
the context demands.
Roles People Play
Broadly speaking, participants play the following
familiar roles in a GD.
Downside: It is difficult to stop him, as he is
preoccupied with topic discussion as opposed to group
discussion. He is happily obvious to simple things like
who is sitting next to him. At the end of the GD if you
happen to ask him whether the person sitting next to him
was a boy or a girl, the answer would likely be ‘I do
Downside: He does not usually come up with
original thoughts himself. Needs Mr. Brains to feed him
with readymade ideas that he can sell.
role is to maintain order in the group, usually
content is low.
Pre-occupied with directing the group process such as
controlling entry and exit of participants.
is crucial for meeting time commitments made to the
panel. Especially, in ensuring consensus.
Does great service to the group by enhancing the
quality of content by not letting participants get
away with just about anything.
most welcome in a group which has one or two
aggressive elements in it.
The Spectator or The Passenger
So What Role Should You Specialise In?
Each role has several benefits. However, strong
attachment to any single role throughout the GD could
limit your chances of success.
What is more important is that you
demonstrate leadership at every moment. You must be able
to move across these roles as the situation demands.
Anyone seen to be Performing more than three of these
roles will definitely make a strong impact on the on the
panel. Mobility is the keyword in becoming effective in GDs.
The key to success in GDs is to be able to
effortlessly move from one role to the other depending
on what the situation demands.
Holding Centre-stage In A GD
There are certain tricks that help you retain
centre-stage for longer durations on time and which
provide you with many chances to speak. However, these
should be used with caution, and at appropriate moments,
like the legendary Brahmastra in the Ramayana and
Give data, examples, anecdotes, survey figures,
compelling short stories. This gives people the
impression that you know a lot, also, participants do
not brand you a bore or Mr. Brains. In this way you
avoid facing interjections or arguments. However, be
sure of the validity/relevance of your data or story.
Always remember the age-old formula for success:
KISS-Keep It Short, Stupid.
PEST Analysis: Pest basically stands for aspects
of the topic which pertain to
For example, you can start with a basic blasting
of the politicians in the context of the topic and you
will have the whole group swearing by you.
Use hand motions. When you start speaking,
use your hands to count the points on your fingers.
Everyone will get impression that you have several
well-structured points in your head and they will not
mess around with you.
Cardinal Sins In A GD/Interview
Do not use slang like Yaar, Univ, Princi, etc.
Do not pepper your language with an accent.
Do not use verbal tics such as Hmm, like, But, etc.
Do not use verbal stresses unless a method actor like
Al Pacino or Naseeruddin Shah trains you for it.
Never bluff as the panel will easily figure out that
you are an accomplished liar.
Never interrupt or finish a sentence for an
Never show up late.
Never get defensive or try to rationalise.
No negative words about anyone.
Never give an answer that does not answer the question
Never allow yourself to lose focus after a string of