Monday, July 27, 2009

what is Group Discussion

A GD is a methodology used by an organization to gauge whether the candidate has certain

personality traits and/or skills that it desires in its members. In this methodology, the group of

candidates is given a topic or a situation, given a few minutes to think about the same, and then

asked to discuss among themselves for 15-20 minutes.
Types of GD:
Normal - A topic is given to the group. The GD coordinator and the students are asked to discuss

it for duration of 15-20 minutes. A variation could be a GD where the students are asked to

decide the topic amongst them. In either case, the students will normally be given a time of 2-3

minutes for preparation before the GD actually starts. The students will be seated in a circular

or a semi-circular pattern.
Case Study- A printed case study is given to the group and the candidates are allowed a time

limit of 3-4 minutes to read and comprehend the passage. Then the group is asked to discuss the

questions based on the case study given. Here again the students are given a time of about 20

minutes to discuss the topic. Case studies normally pertain to standard business situations and

are full of facts and figures. Thus the GD coordinator attempts to examine the comprehension

power of a candidate along with the communication skills.
Role Play - A role-play type of GD is one where a situation is described and each person in the

group is asked to assume a specific role in a situation. In such cases, you must completely step

into the role and your reasoning will have to be consistent with role you have assumed. The

participation, in this specific case, needs to appreciate the gravity of the situation and generate

appropriate reasoning to facilitate decision making for the group.
Factual Topics:-
Factual topics are about practical things, which an ordinary person is aware of in his day-to-day

life. Typically these are about socio-economic topics. These can be current, i.e. they may have

been in the news lately, or could be unbound by time. A factual topic for discussion gives a

candidate a chance to prove that he is aware of and sensitive to his environment.
E.g. The education policy of India, Tourism in India, State of the aged in the nation.

Controversial Topics: -
Controversial topics are the ones that are argumentative in nature. They are meant to generate

controversy. In GDs where these topics are given for discussion, the noise level is usually high,

there may be tempers flying. The idea behind giving a topic like this is to see how much maturity

the candidate is displaying by keeping his temper in check, by rationally and logically arguing

his point of view without getting personal and emotional.
E.g. Reservations should be removed, Women make better managers.
Abstract Topics: -
Abstract topics are about intangible things. These topics are not given often for discussion, but

their possibility cannot be ruled out. These topics test your lateral thinking and creativity.
E.g. A is an alphabet, Twinkle twinkle little star, the number 10
Case-based GDs:-
Another variation is the use of a case instead of a topic.
The case study tries to simulate a real-life situation. Information about the situation will be

given to you and you would be asked as a group to resolve the situation. In the case study there

are no incorrect answers or perfect solutions. The objective in the case study is to get you to

think about the situation from various angles.

Why do we have GD?
To know you as a person and gauge how well you will fit in their institute. The Group discussion

tests how you function as a part of a team. Managers have to work in a team and get best results

out of teamwork. The GD is to check how you behave, participate and contribute in a group, how

much importance do you give to the group objective as well as your own, how well do you listen

to viewpoints of others and how open-minded are you in accepting views contrary to your own.

The aspects which make up a GD are verbal communication, non-verbal behavior, and

conformation to norms, decision-making ability and cooperation.
Reasons for having a GD
• It helps you to understand a subject more deeply.
• It improves your ability to think critically.
• It helps in solving a particular problem.
• It helps the group to make a particular decision.
• It gives you the chance to hear other students' ideas.
• It improves your listening skills.
• It increases your confidence in speaking.
• It can change your attitudes.
How to Face GD
A group discussion consists of:
Communication Skills
The first aspect is one's power of expression. In a group discussion, a candidate has to talk

effectively so that he is able to convince others. For convincing, one has to speak forcefully and

at the same time create an impact by his knowledge of the subject. A candidate who is successful

in holding the attention of the audience creates a positive impact.
It is necessary that you should be precise and clear. As a rule evaluators do not look for the

wordage produced. Your knowledge on a given subject, your precision and clarity of thought are

the things that are evaluated. Irrelevant talks lead you nowhere. You should speak as much as

necessary, neither more nor less. Group discussions are not debating stages.
Ability to listen is also what evaluator’s judge. They look for your ability to react on what other

participants say. Hence, it is necessary that you listen carefully to others and then react or

proceed to add some more points. Your behavior in the group is also put to test to judge whether

you are a loner or can work in a group.
You should be able to convey your thoughts satisfactorily and convincingly before a group of

people. Confidence and level headedness in doing so is necessary.
Knowledge and Ideas Regarding a Given Subject:

Knowledge of the subject under discussion and clarity of ideas are important. Knowledge comes

from consistent reading on various topics ranging from science and technology to politics.

In-depth knowledge makes one confident and enthusiastic and this in turn, makes one sound

convincing and confident.
Leadership and Coordinating Capabilities:

The basic aim of a group discussion is to judge a candidate's leadership qualities. The examiner

becomes a silent spectator once the discussion starts. A candidate should display tactfulness,

skill, understanding and knowledge on varied topics, enterprise, forcefulness and other

leadership qualities to motivate and influence other candidates who may be almost equally

Exchange of Thoughts:

A group discussion is an exchange of thoughts and ideas among members of a group. These

discussions are held for selecting personnel in organizations where there is a high level of

The purpose is to get an idea about candidates in a short time and make assessments about their

skills, which normally cannot be evaluated in an interview. These skills may be team

membership, leadership skills, listening and articulation skills.
A note is made of your contributions to the discussion, comprehension of the main idea, the

rapport you strike, patience, assertion, accommodation, amenability, etc. Body language and eye

contact too are important points which are to be considered. .
Addressing the Group as a Whole:

In a group discussion it is not necessary to address anyone by name. Even otherwise you may not

know everyone's names. It better to address the group as a whole.
Address the person farthest from you. If he can hear you everyone else too can. Needless to add,

as for the interview, attend the group discussion in formal dress. The language used should also

be formal, not the language used in normal conversations. Confidence and coolness while

presenting your viewpoint are of help. See that you do not keep repeating a point. Do not use

more words than necessary. Do not be superfluous. Try to be specific. Do not exaggerate.
GD Preparation
Thorough Preparation
the competition is very tough; Only 460 candidates make it to the final list from 2.75 lakhs

civil service aspirants each year.
These tips would help you prepare for GDs:
Reading: This is the first and the most crucial step in preparation. This is a never ending

process and the more you read, the better you are in your thoughts. While you may read anything

to everything, you must ensure that you are in good touch with current affairs, the debates and

hot topics of discussion and also with the latest in the IT and ITES industry. Chances are the

topics would be around these. Read both for the thoughts as well as for data. Also read multiple

view points on the same topic and then create your point of view with rationale. Also create

answers for counter arguments for your point of view.
Mocks: Create an informal GD group and meet regularly to discuss and exchange feedback. This

is the best way to prepare. This would give you a good idea about your thoughts and how well

can you convince. Remember, it is important that you are able to express your thoughts well. The

better you perform in these mocks the better would be you chances to perform on the final day.

Also try to interact and participate in other GD groups. This will develop in you a skill to

discuss with unknown people as well.
Points to Remember
• Knowledge is strength. A candidate with good reading habits has more chances of

success. In other words, sound knowledge on different topics like politics, finance, economy,

science and technology is helpful.
• Power to convince effectively is another quality that makes you stand out among

• Clarity in speech and expression is yet another essential quality.
• If you are not sure about the topic of discussion, it is better not to initiate. Lack of

knowledge or wrong approach creates a bad impression. Instead, you might adopt the wait and

watch attitude. Listen attentively to others, may be you would be able to come up with a point or

two later.
• A GD is a formal occasion where slang is to avoid.
• A GD is not a debating stage. Participants should confine themselves to expressing

their viewpoints.
• Language use should be simple, direct and straight forward.
• Don't interrupt a speaker when the session is on. Try to score by increasing your size,

not by cutting others short.
• Maintain rapport with fellow participants. Eye contact plays a major role. Non-verbal

gestures, such as listening intently or nodding while appreciating someone's viewpoint speak of

you positively.
• Communicate with each and every candidate present. While speaking don't keep

looking at a single member. Address the entire group in such a way that everyone feels you are

speaking to him or her.
Initiate a GD
There are different techniques to initiate a GD and make a good first impression:
I. Quotes.
ii. Definition.
iii. Question.
IV. Shock statement.
v. Facts, figures and statistics.
VI. Short story.
vii. General statement.
~ Quotes
Quotes are an effective way of initiating a GD.
If the topic of a GD is: Should the Censor Board be abolished?, you could start with a quote like,

'Hidden apples are always sweet'.
~ Definition
Start a GD by defining the topic or an important term in the topic.
For example, if the topic of the GD is Advertising is a Diplomatic Way of Telling a Lie, why not

start the GD by defining advertising as, 'Any paid form of non-personal presentation and

promotion of ideas, goods or services through mass media like newspapers, magazines, television

or radio by an identified sponsor'?
~ Question
Asking a question is an impact way of starting a GD.
It does not signify asking a question to any of the candidates in a GD so as to hamper the flow. It

implies asking a question, and answering it yourself.
Any question that might hamper the flow of a GD or insult a participant or play devil's advocate

must be discouraged.
For a topic like, Should India go to war with Pakistan, you could start by asking, 'What does war

bring to the people of a nation? We have had four clashes with Pakistan. The pertinent question

is: what have we achieved?'
~ Shock statement
Initiating a GD with a shocking statement is the best way to grab immediate attention and put

forth your point.
~ Facts, figures and statistics
If you decide to initiate your GD with facts, figure and statistics make sure to quote them

accurately. Approximation is allowed in macro level figures, but micro level figures need to be

correct and accurate. Stating wrong facts works to your disadvantage.
~ Short story
Use a short story in a GD topic like, Attitude is everything.
~ General statement
Use a general statement to put the GD in proper perspective. This will help us reach the

conclusion in a more objective and effective manner.'
Summarization Techniques
Most GDs do not really have conclusions. A conclusion is where the whole group decides in

favour or against the topic.
• Avoid raising new points.
• Avoid stating only your viewpoint.
• Avoid dwelling only on one aspect of the GD.
• Keep it brief and concise.
• It must incorporate all the important points that came out during the GD.
• If the examiner asks you to summarize a GD, it means the GD has come to an end. Do

not add anything once the GD has been summarized.
Some Positive Task Roles in a Group Discussion:
• Initiator
• Information seeker
• Information giver
• Procedure facilitator
• Opinion seeker
• Opinion giver
• Clarifier
• Social Supporter
• Harmonizer
• Tension Reliever
• Energizer
• Compromiser
• Gatekeeper
• Summarizer
Negative Roles to be Avoided
• Disgruntled non-participant
• Attacker
• Dominator
• Patronizer
• Clown
What is the normal duration of a GD?
A GD is generally of 15-20 minutes duration.
How many panel members are there to evaluate?
There are usually 3-4 panel members to evaluate.
Is there time given for preparation after the topic is given and before starting the GD?
Usually some time (2-5 minutes) is given to collect one's thoughts, but there could be instances

when this does not happen.
Should I address the panel or the group members?
Don't ever make the mistake of addressing the panel members. The GD is between you and the

other members, not the panel members. You must avoid even looking at the panel members while

the GD is in progress. Just ignore their existence.
What is the seating arrangement like?
It could be semi-circular, or circular, or seating along side a rectangular table, depending upon

the venue.
How should I address the other group members?
If you are initiating the discussion, you could do so by collectively addressing the group as

"Friends". Subsequently, you could use names (if the group has had a round of self-introduction

prior to starting the discussion and you remember the names) or simply use pronouns like "he"

or "she".
Suppose I have a lot to say on the topic, should I say all of it?
The person who talks the most is not necessarily the one who is judged the best. The quality and

not the quantity of your contribution is the success factor.
Should I encourage others to speak up?
Do not directly put someone who is consistently silent on the spot by asking him/her to speak up.

If someone has been trying to speak and has a good point but is cut off constantly, you may

encourage him/her to continue.
Are the group members supposed to keep track of the time or will the panel keep track?
It would be good if you are conscious of the time, but not to the point of getting so distracted

looking at your watch that you do not contribute to the discussion.
Are we allowed to carry a piece of paper during the GD for noting down important points?
Normally you are, but there may be instances when it is specifically forbidden to carry paper.
Is there any particular seating arrangement, which is favorable to the participants?
If participants are asked to sit in a circle or a semi circle, one position is as good as another. But

if you are asked to sit on either side of a rectangular table, then choose a position as close to the

centre as possible.
Should we begin the GD by appointing a leader amongst ourselves?
No. You should not. Leadership in a GD is established implicitly through one's performance in a

Should we distribute the total time available to all the participants to ensure that everybody

gets a chance to speak?
Since a GD is not a debate or elocution, the participants should not resort to the strategy of

distributing time amongst themselves.
Can we take a definite stand in the GD and then later on during the GD, switch over to another

Yes, provided you do it the right way. In a GD it is quite likely that some other participant's

counter-argument convinces you to your point. If this happens, then it is best if you accept his

argument and explain to the group how your previous argument was true within a narrow range,

and how the new argument is applicable to a broader range. Naturally, it is safer not to make

any rash statements for or against a topic before you learn the facts of the argument. Blindly

taking a stand will definitely lead you to trouble.
If we do not understand the meaning of the topic, should we ask the moderator to explain it to

No. You cannot. Instead of displaying your ignorance in this manner, it is better to wait for some

other participant to explain the meaning of the topic. So listen to the discussion carefully for the

first few minutes and when you have figured out what the topic is about, start participating in

the discussion.
Should we address the other participants by their names or their assigned numbers?
As far as possible, you should try and avoid names or numbers. It is better to use pronouns such

as "he", "she", "you" etc. while referring to the members of the group.
Are we expected to stick to the normally accepted line of thought or can we come up with

something radical?
By all means you can. It would demonstrate your creativity and originality. Just make sure it is

relevant to the topic.
If I feel strongly about an issue, should I voice my feelings?
It is important to be cool and emotionally objective in a GD. If you react emotionally you are

likely to lose control over yourself during the group discussion. You have to be calm and logical,

not emotional in a GD.
Can I use technical terms or jargon, which is clear to me, but not to the group?
If you have to use technical terms, please do not use abbreviations. After mentioning the term in

full take time out to explain to the group what it means. It is quite likely that other participants

of the group have a different academic background from you, and you should make sure you are

all on a level playing field.
Do I begin my participation by requesting the group's permission to do so?
It is not likely that you will get a chance to ask for such permission. It may also go against you.
What is the right time to enter a GD to ensure that I am heard properly?
In any GD, there are crests and troughs during the discussion. The crest is when the noise level

is at its peak. The trough is when there is almost total silence. Ideally, you should enter the GD

during the trough period. But in competitive GDs, the crests occur more often and troughs may

not occur at all. In such cases, you could identify the stages in the GD, where ideas dear to you

are being discussed and enter the GD irrespective of the noise level.
How do I participate when the noise level is too high?
You could try the following strategy - Identify the most powerful speaker in the group, and note

down the points that he/she is making. The moment the noise level reduces a little, enter

supporting the powerful speaker. You will have made a strong ally who will carry you through

the noise.
Do I have to be cautious about other participants' feelings (on sensitive issues like religion,

caste etc)?
You certainly do. Insensitivity to others displays a lack of maturity and viciousness. It will act

against your favour.
Is it beneficial to be the first speaker in a group discussion?
Being the first speaker is a high risk, high return strategy. If you can make a good opening

statement, which is relevant and sets the tone for the GD, it will go in your favour. If you do this

well, you may automatically become the group leader. However if you bungle, it will be

remembered and will go against your favour.
How critical is my fluency in English to my performance?
Command over English is certainly advantageous but will not compensate for lack of good

content. If your content is good, then even if your English might not be great, you must speak it

out, rather than be inhibited by lack of good English.
How necessary is it to use examples for illustrating an idea?
Use of examples is helpful in elaborating your point, and helping others understand your idea

better. But please remember to keep it short and simple because in a competitive GD nobody has

the patience to listen to long, drawn out examples.
How much or for how long should I participate?
In a 20 minute GD with 10-12 participants, you should try and participate at least 4 times with

each entry lasting at least 25-30 seconds. You could participate more depending on your comfort

level and the need for participation.
Is it good to be humorous in a GD?
Depends on the situation. In a GD that is fairly relaxed, it may be acceptable. But in a

competitive situation, where the participants are tensed up, your attempts at humour may fall

Should we make an interim summary?
An interim summary is a way of directing the group mid-way through the GD. It helps the group

to pick out and focus on the most important points and thus use the remaining time more

effectively. However it is not necessary to make an interim summary, if the discussion is already

well focused.
What do I do if someone else has already said what I wanted to say?
You have two choices:
1. Agree with the point made by that person and add on to it by displaying the

applicability of the argument to different situations. By doing this you will have broadened the

scope of the argument.
2. Drop the point and think of fresh points.
To avoid getting into a situation where someone else has already spoken your points, do speak

up in the first 4-5 minutes of the GD. If you wait longer, it is almost inevitable that someone

would have spoken your points.
Is the use of slang/colloquialism permitted?
It is best to avoid using slang.
Can I use a language other than English to drive home my point?
No. You will have to stick to English.
How is aggression taken and measured in a GD?
The moment you notice people reacting to you negatively or strongly, you may take it that you

are being too aggressive. The degree of the reaction is the measure of your aggression.
What level of aggression is seen acceptable?
There is a very thin line between aggression and assertiveness. You should always aim to sound

assertive and not stubborn.
Is it true that the person who speaks the most in a GD is the one who is most successful?
This is a myth. Generally the person who has a sound knowledge of the topic and is a clear

thinker speaks more.
Will I be quizzed about my (or others) participation in the GD?
You may be. Therefore it helps to be alert all through the GD.
Is it true that the GD is used more as an elimination technique rather than as a selection tool?
Depends on the institute. In most premier institutes it is used as a selection tool, not as an

elimination technique.
What is the level of accuracy desired in the facts and figures you quote during the GD?
An error margin of 5% is acceptable.
Is motivating other people in the group to speak looked upon favorably?
Depends on how it is done. If you openly request someone to speak, you may be putting the other

person in a difficult spot, and the evaluators will not look that upon favorably. It is therefore

better to use other means of motivation, such as agreeing with a halting speaker, adding on to

their points, implicitly supporting and giving them direction.
Does the moderator have any biases or preconceived notions about the topic?
Ideally the moderator is supposed to be unbiased and neutral. But being a human being, the

moderator cannot be totally free from bias.
Can we expect the moderator to stop or cut short the GD much before the stipulated time is

This may happen if the GD becomes too noisy and if the level of discussion deteriorates

Can I be aggressive with a lady participant?
A GD is not the place to demonstrate chivalry. Being rude to any participant (male or female) is

downright unacceptable. You need not extend any special privileges to a lady.
Is it all right to ask pointed questions to other participants during a GD?
It is alright to ask questions for the purpose of clarification but not for the purpose of playing

the devil's advocate and proving them wrong. By playing the devil's advocate you hamper the

flow of the GD. The pointed questions unsettle the other participant and the quality of the GD

deteriorates. This would reflect badly on you and will go against your favour.
Is it necessary that a group should arrive at a conclusion in the stipulated time?
Ideally a group is supposed to reach a conclusion. Normally the time constraints do not allow the

group to do so.
Is an end-summary absolutely essential?
No. If the group has not reached a conclusion, then it would be good if someone puts the whole

discussion into perspective by summarizing. But if there isn't sufficient time, a summary may be

Do we have to write a synopsis of the GD once it is over?
Some institutes insist on this, but it is not universal.
Is voting an acceptable method of reaching a consensus?
Certainly not. A GD is not a debate.
How should a group select a topic if asked to?
The group should brainstorm for about two minutes and narrow down the list of topics to 3-4.

After this the group should prioritize them based on the comfort level and ease of discussion of

the topics. This could be done by asking each participant to rank the 4 topics and the most

popular choice should be taken.
Are the topics decided on the basis of the academic background of the participant?
No. Topics are usually general in nature to give a level playing field to everyone.
What do I do if one member is very stubborn and aggressive?
You could use any of the following methods.
• Ignore him and address the other members of the group.
• Be assertive and tell him that his argument is faulty.
• Point out to him that his point is well taken and that the group must progress further

by discussing the ideas presented by others.
What are the acceptable ways of interrupting somebody else, so that I may make my point?
You can interrupt in any of the following ways:
• "Excuse me, but I feel that what you are saying isn't universally true ..."
• "Yes, I agree with your idea, and I would like to add on to it …"
• "Yes, I think you are right when you say that, but could you clarify what if …"

• How do I take my chance to speak: Trying to interrupt others while speaking would

only harm your chances. Instead, you may try to maintain an eye-contact with the speaker. This

would show your listening skills also and would help you gauge from his eye-movement and pitch

of voice that he is about to close his inputs. You can quickly take it from there. Also, try and link

your inputs with what he has spoken whether you are adding to or opposing his arguments. This

would reflect that you are actually being participative rather than just doing a collective

• How to I communicate in a GD: Be crisp and to the point. Be fact based and avoid

making individual opinions that do not have a factual base. Make eye contact with all the

members in the group and avoid looking at the panelists while speaking. The average duration of

the group discussion provides an average of about 2-3 minutes per participant to speak and you

should try to speak about 3-4 times. Hence, you need to be really crisp to reflect the most in

those 30-40 sec. slots.
• How do I convince others and make them agree to my view point: A lot of candidates

make it their mission to make the group reach to a conclusion on the topic. Do not forget that

some of the topics have been eternal debates and there is no way you can get an agreement in 15

mins. on them. The objective is not to make others toe your line but to provide fact based,

convincing arguments which create an impact. Stick to this approach.
• Do leadership skills include moderating the group discussion: This is a myth and many

people do try to impose their order on the GD, ordering people when to speak and when not to.

This only reflects poor leadership. Leadership in a GD would be reflected by your clarity of

thought, ability to expand the topic in its different dimensions, providing an opportunity to a

silent participant to speak, listening to others and probing them to provide more information.
• Listening: This is a key quality assessed during the GD about which many participants

forget. Active listening can fetch you credit points and would also provide you with data to

discuss. Also, if you have an average of 2-3 minutes to speak, the rest of the 20-25 minutes is

required to spend in active listening. For this, maintain eye contact with the speakers, attend to

them (like nodding, using acknowledging words like -I see ok, fine, great etc.). This would also

make you be the centre of attraction as you would appear non-threatening to the speakers.
• Behavior during the GD: Be patient; don't get upset if anyone says anything you object

to. Stay objective and don't take the discussion personally. Also, remember the six C's of

communication - Clarity, Completeness, Conciseness, Confidence, Correctness and Courtesy. Be

appreciative & receptive to ideas from other people and open-minded but do not let others to

change your own viewpoint. Be active and interested throughout. It is better to participate less

if you have no clue of the topic. You may listen to others and take clues from there and speak.

You would be assessed on a range of different skills and you may think that leadership is key,

you need to be careful that you don't dominate the discussion.
• Quality Vs Quantity: Often, participants think that success in group discussions

depends on how much and how loudly they speak. Interestingly, it's the opposite. Also, making

your point on the topic, your views are important and the group needs to know. This will tell you

are knowledgeable and that you participate in groups

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