Group Discussions test a candidate for skills based on five different areas :

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Interpersonal Skills
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Content / Knowledge about the topic
  5. Content / Knowledge about the process

Communication Skills needed to excel in a GD – To excel in a GD, three things are essential :

  1. Command over English language
  2. Command over dynamics of a GD
  3. Command over knowledge of the topic of discussion

Command over English language – Indian students, who have a mother tongue different from English, first of all need to develop a greater command over English language. Even if you studied in a great convent or public school which gave you excellent English communication skills, you would have done a graduation in a college where it was not mandatory for you to converse in English language. It is mandatory for students in good convent or public schools to speak entirely in English. Some schools may even have fines and punishments for students caught speaking in any tongue apart from English, and appointed prefects to catch students not speaking English in school. This system ensures that you learn conversational or spoken English better, even if out of compulsion.

Then you step into college where other students and even your teachers may be worse than you at speaking English. A college also gives you a lot of freedom to bunk classes and speak in whatever language you want.   So initially you speak a lot of English to attract the right set of friends and once your friendships have become strong you speak to your best of friends and rest of the gang in your mother tongue in which you are more comfortable. So almost all of your communication in college, hostel or home happens in your mother tongue. English is spoken when your teacher asks you a question in class or when you plan to attract a member of the opposite sex (In India, English is the language for social acceptance to higher echelons, so when you want to impress someone or attract the right kind of friends – you talk in English). Because of all these reasons your practice and exposure of English becomes less and you start having problems in communicating entirely in English. This causes hesitation during a GD because of fear of making mistakes.

To become better at English language conversation, you have to increase your exposure of English. You will have to read more, hear more and speak more of English. Try to have a small clique of friends with whom you talk only in English. Come what may try not to digress into your mother tongue. Have all your serious or fun discussions in English to remove any rusty edges.

Command over dynamics of a GD – You must have an understanding of difference between the Content and the Process of GD at a fundamental level to be a very effective contributor in a GD and hence obtain extremely favorable evaluation from the panel.

Content indicates understanding the topic in its totality, ability to organize and present your thoughts in a logical way, Level of preparation and your ability to innovate during the discussion.

Process indicates your Communication Skills, Body language, Way of expression and your attitude.

Both Content and Process are equally important for an effective contribution in a GD.

Content in a GD – Once the GD starts, then most of an untrained student’s concerns indicate the overwhelming preoccupation with the Content. We worry about what point can I give, what can I speak now,  I should speak more now, etc. All of this shows that you are worried about the quality of your content. Well, if this is what’s going to happen, then start preparing a little right now. As all topics of GDs are general in nature, so awareness of current affairs and a little bit of general awareness of almost everything is needed.

Improving Content – Keeping your eyes and ears open by reading newspapers regularly and watching prime time news on TV. Newspapers does not mean tabloids, but something more beneficial like a “The Hindu”. When you start reading the Hindu regularly, you will get two kicks in your back reminding you that you don’t know English and that you don’t know about what’s happening in your country and around. Actually ‘The Hindu’ uses impeccable Queen’s English, which you should also know. Moreover, The Hindu presents very incisive critique about issues of importance so you not only improve your language, and get knowledge on current affairs but also your power of argumentation gets improved. After newspaper and TV inputs are in place, now take the next step of having discussions with your friends on serious topics like FDI in retail, Women Empowerment, Iran-America Nuclear Deal, etc.

Process in a GD – During a GD, when you worry about – what did I speak, do I have enough reasoning to sustain my line of argument, can I think of examples to substantiate my logic, am I being too aggressive, etc are examples of you worrying about Process in a GD. Process of a GD encompasses Communication Skills, Body language, Way of expression and your attitude.

Improving Process – After starting the preparation for content, when you take a Simulated GD with a good facilitator, he can possibly give you feedback on your Process and how to improve it. An expert is needed to give you the right feedback as what may be construed as aggression in one GD may be called submission in another GD with a different profile of group members. While aggression is usually considered a negative trait, some marketing head may actually value aggression in his new team members – a potential you.

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