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What to expect at the GD
The GD is an indicator of the confidence of a person as
well as his ability to work in a group. Students are seated
in a semicircle. A topic is given and after about a minute
or so, the group is asked to proceed. Most discussions
last for 10-12 minutes and the group size maybe anything
up to 15 people. Some institutes are known to have about
students in a group, which makes the task of contributing
meaningfully all the more difficult. Almost all students
will be anxious to make a mark and sometimes there may
be pandemonium.Often, aggressive and loud-mouthed individuals
may corner the discussion. One should have a strategy
for dealing with such situations too.
There are no fixed rules for a GD. There is usually a
scramble to be the first one to speak. The first speaker
should mention the topic and make a preface by stating
the issues. He should not commit himself but only speak
the introduction. Later, one may make some interjections
and make one's stand clear. The group should move towards
a consensus but so great is the tension to make one's
point that this may not happen at all. The idea is to
exhibit some leadership qualities in steering the group
while making one's contribution.
If the group is too noisy, the facilitator may allot one
minute to each candidate to sum up the discussion. This
is an opportunity to put on one's best effort. Without
criticizing the group, one can sum up and give one's own
How is one rated in a GD? Firstly, a candidate
is evaluated on how he speaks. Fluency plays a role here.
But this is not enough: what matters is also whether any
meaningful contribution was made by the person. Thirdly,
a candidate will score if he shows leadership qualities,
that is, of guiding the group towards a consensus. It
is clear that one should have read a lot if he is to exhibit
any depth of knowledge. If you have kept up with the newspapers
and magazines, it will certainly be of help. Look at the
last 12 issues of the Competition Master and you will
find all the likely current topics discussed. Read carefully
the debates and argumentative questions and chances are
that you will get one of these topics for discussion.
Read also items of economic importance and learn the figures
of growth rates, GDP, deficits and so on.
How to contribute in a GD
There are always two ways to look at any topic: for or
against. Take the example of economic liberalisation.
It can be argued that it was a very good thing since a
number of foreign companies came into the country, bringing
technology and efficiency. Employment and growth rate
improved. The people could buy all the world class products
which earlier had to be smuggled.
On the other hand, it can also be argued that all kinds
of non-essential goods came into the country, like hamburgers,
fried chicken and sodawater. The infrastructure remained
poor. There was no fresh growth as the MNCs simply bought
the Indian companies.
The technology they imported was outdated and most of
the goods were so expensive that most people could not
buy them. Liberalisation was trumpeted to be a good thing
since polticians were using it to rake in personal wealth.
Whatever personal views one may have, it is important
to know both sides of the argument. If the discussion
is heading towards a particular direction, a candidate
can take a totally opposite view and consequently will
become the centre of the discussion. Of course one must
be able to defend one's viewpoints and therefore
the need to have read widely. In the case of liberalisation,
many people will defend it, since that is the viewpoint
most often published in newspapers. If a student can bring
in an opposing viewpoint and mention some convincing reasons,
there is no reason
why he will not be selected.
The trouble is that most students have not faced anything
like the GD before. How is one to speak in a group of
15 strangers in a language we do not usually speak? One
way is to read about a topic and then debate with parents,
uncles or elder cousins. Tell them to ask you questions
and try to trap you. The more you do this, the more clear
will your own
thoughts become. Of course practice in a larger group
can be obtained only by joining a professional institute.
Another way to practice is to tape your speech. Try to
speak about a topic for one full minute into the tape
recorder. When you listen to the tape, you will be able
to spot your mistakes, the points on which you falter
and the words which you cannot easily speak.
You will also be able to know whether you make any sense
or not. Ask your friends to listen to the tape critically.
Often, people can discover their weaknesses and speech
impairments by this method.
You can also use mirror therapy. Stand before a mirror
and speak extempore on any topic. Practice sounding assertive
and firm. If you think your voice is soft or shrill, especially
for girls, speak loudly in front of the mirror as if you
are speaking to a stranger. Have a conversation with yourself.
The mirror will tell you whether you have a habit of looking
away while speaking. It will tell you about your body
language also. These will be invaluable insights for participating
in groups. You must look at all the members when addressing
them. Looking away will cause you to lose your chance
and the other person will carry on without letting you
The mirror will also stop you from fidgeting, as many
people are prone to do when they are speaking or are nervous.
The therapy will be greatly enhanced if you can get your
family members or friedns to practice with you.
Take care also that you do not stray from the topic. One
way to avoid this is to write it down and keep it in front
of you. By periodically looking at it, you can arrange
your thoughts mentally. Remember that the interjections
should always be in the form of a
paragraph, not a question. Do not get into cross talk
with any person in the group. Do not start quarrelling
if someone is against your stand. Instead, address the
In any GD, a common situation is that everybody wants
to speak all at once and some individuals will dominate
on account of their loudness. After all, everybody wants
to make a mark in the limited time and it is survival
of the fittest. Making an interjection
at this stage is rather difficult.
Start off with meta-language: "I agree with you,
but..." or "We have heard many viewpoints and
I would like to say...." Do not lose your cool if
nobody listens. It might pay to raise your voice for the
opening sentence and then go ahead to make your point.
Never criticise. If you do not agree with a particular
viewpoint, start with: "You may be right, but I feel...."
or even "I agree with you on certain points but there
is a contrary opinion that...." Be polite but firm.
A common situation is that whatever points you have thought
of have already been said by someone else. Do not become
nervous should this happen. Instead, quickly assess the
situation and the direction of the discussion. Take a
few deep breaths and think whether
anything has been missed out or whether you can turn the
discussion around. Usually, there is always some uncovered
ground and a person can steer the discussion in a new
direction. "We have been discussing the positive
side of the matter", you can say. But there is a
more serious dimension that we have ignored...."
Chances are that you will become the centre of discussion
after this. Even if you have not spoken during the first
half of the session, you will have turned it around to
Assume a leadership role if you do not have much to say.
Give a chance to others who have not spoken. Guide the
discussion by restoring order. Keep an eye on the time
and after 10 minutes or so, begin summing up. This will
show your leadership qualities. However, if you do not
contribute in any other way, this strategy will not be
sufficient to see you through.
Interjections should be made without being rude. Do not
cut into mid-sentence. On the other hand, if someone cuts
into your speech, politely ask to be heard: "I would
like to complete what I was saying...." rather than
rudely asking a person to shut up. Sometimes all these
rules do not work, especially if the group is a rowdy
one. Since it is survival of the fittest, do not be cowed
down and make a bold effort to make yourself heard.