GD, PI after CAT

Putting aside the controversies that shrouded the CAT 2009, it is time for students to look at optimizing their preparations for The Group discussions (GP) and Personal Interview (PI) Rounds.

Having made it past the CAT, you are a step closer to making it to the B-school of your choice. Thoughts about the competitive aspect of the GD / PI can prove to be nerve wrecking for some students. The fact that tried and tested formulae don’t work for Group Discussions (GD), Personal Interview (PI) adds to this tension. Every student, who makes it to the GD / PI has successfully cleared the CAT, thus the competition level rises at this stage. This causes anxiety for many students. However, self doubt at this stage helps no one. Instead, students focus on giving themselves positive reinforcement. To begin with, toss away all pre-conceived notions you may have had and start afresh for this stage of the management admission.

Following textbook answers at the GD / PI, claim experts is a recipe for disaster. The aim of simulated exercises like the GD is to discover the real you thus communicating that you believe is the key to success. During GD and PI, a candidate should give perspectives that they believe in. They should be innovative and original rather than clinched as this helps to get them noticed.

A good way to revise for this stage of the B-school admission is by attending mock trials. Mock group discussions with friends and classmates and simulated personal interviews are extremely useful as they help in understanding one’s flaws and working on them.

The actual GD may have anywhere between eight to 15 students and usually lasts between 10 to 15 minutes. Thus, students should aim to have a similar set-up in the mock phase.

There are essentially four types of topics that appear at a GD – socio-controversial topics that generate the maximum opinion for example reservation in education institutes and factual topics that require a sound knowledge of the facts are the more common types. The others are abstract topics like love is a four letter word. At the first instance, such topics seem complicated and may draw a blank from some students. But once the GD begins, they develop and provide students an opportunity to display their creativity. The last type of topic – case studies – is commonly used by the IIMs. They comprise a hypothetical case, where students are asked to put forth their opinions.

Topics that may appear at this year’s GD range from Copenhagen summit to the nuclear deal and security post 26 / 11. Hence, the best way to prepare for a GD is by discussing and reading up on a wide range of issues. The more you read, the more knowledge you get and it becomes easier to frame your arguments.

It is common for students to hear rumors surrounding the GD/PI. When a Mr.X reached the venue of PI, some people were saying that the college dos not accept students who don’t have any work experience. However, this turned out to be false. As such experts recommend students to sieve out such unnecessary details. Also, irrespective of that you may have heard fact is that interviewers at a PI are not keen on making things difficult for you.

Contrary to popular belief being completely showing no sign of nervousness isn’t always a good thing. A little nervousness is expected. Besides, it conveys a sense of seriousness and intent. However, being nervous to a point where your facilities begin to fail is another extreme, which one must avoid.

Sharing his experience at the GD, X reminisces, he had a terrible GD, where some people were unnecessarily argumentative and aggressive. X just put in his opinion when it was due instead of adding to the noise.

X’s example is not an isolated case. In fact, experts believe that students should start off by expecting such a situation. However, just because the others are shouting, should not become an excuse to either take a back seat or to join the fish market.

Getting emotional at a GD is never a good idea. Sometimes overriding passion for a particular topic or getting out shouted by another participant can stroke a student’s emotions. At such times, it’s important to not let one’s emotions take over. Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t imply that they have a problem with you. Try to think like a manager and remain logical.

The panelists in any PI want to know whether a student has a sound understanding of what he / she has done at the undergraduate level. X had done a double major in economics and statistics at the undergraduate level and his interviewer, who was an economist, quizzed X about it. As such it’s important to know your subject of study and own up if you don’t know something. Faking will not help anyone.

Apart from having such fundamentals in place, students should have a clear idea of their strengths and weaknesses.

Why MBA?

This question always makes it to the list of frequently asked questions at a PI. But strangely many students don’t have a ready answer for it. The MBA is an education first, and means of increasing your salary afterwards. Many students pursue an MBA only with the monetary rewards insight, and this is never a good decision.

Having cleared the CAT successfully is an achievement for any student, but the GD / PI is a chance to bring out one’s personality and shine. Clarity about individual goals topped off with a winning personality is a sure shot recipe for success.