What to do when you know nothing about the topic in a group discussion

No one in this planet is born as an encyclopedia. No matter how much you read, there are certain times when you stumble upon a conversation, where you know nothing about the topic and if that conversation happens to be a group discussion then the chances of your stress level going rocket high increases manifold.

Now since I have had the opportunity of sitting in nearly a hundred GD’s, I thought of sharing some points which I found to be effective when you have no idea of the topic. Again, this is just my personal judgment and not based on any statistics.

Listen attentively – It is a very common misconception that if you do not speak during the first half of your discussion then your chances of cracking a group discussion diminishes. You can contribute at any time during a discussion and if your point is relevant and if you deliver it appropriately then your chance of cracking a GD is as good as anyone else’s. Listen very attentively to what others are saying and try to understand what the topic is all about. Take 2-3 minutes to understand.

Project Confidence – It is very important for you to seem confident while you are sitting in a group discussion. Sometimes facial expression and body gestures bring out the truth, which people want to hide. Don’t panic if you don’t know anything. Be calm and confident during the entire discussion

Try to find a similar topic from discussion – The best part of a discussion is that sometimes you can divert the topic of discussion to a related topic. Try to find a topic from the discussion, using which you can steer away the discussion to something you know. For example if the topic is hockey, u can steer it to cricket. The key is to find the right opportunity. It may not be as effective but it is always better to speak something.

If not discussion, give a good summary – Summary is the most important stage of any group discussion. Sometimes invigilators judge a candidate only on the basis of the summary given by him. When you don’t know anything in a discussion, note down each and every point that has been discussed and give a good thorough summary. Many times invigilators ask every student to give a two minute summary, but if this is not the case, don’t lose the opportunity of summarizing the discussion. Keep track of the time as most of the students forget to do it as soon as they get into discussion and jump into the discussion when last two minutes are left. Try to speak for the entire time interval so that nobody can counter attack your summary with theirs.

Repeat someone else’s point  – This is not a very effective method, but try to find someone whose point was neglected in discussion and use it as your entry in discussion. The reason why a point gets neglected in a discussion is when the person who said it is not confidant enough and let another person cut him in the middle, or a point has absolutely no relevance. You have to find the former reason. Repeat the same point, but this time with assertiveness, as if it is the most important point.

Make friends, not enemies – This means try to agree with people and not disagree. If you will disagree you will have to come up with a whole new example which you will not know as you don’t know about the topic but if you are agreeing you will just have to add a small point to their example.

Manage the discussion – In a group discussion there are many parameters on the basis of which a candidate is judged. Leadership quality is one of them. When nothing is working, try to show your leadership skills. Regulate the discussion in an appropriate way, so that invigilators can check your dominance and assertiveness. There was a group discussion, which I remember, where the topic was “there is no good way of doing a bad thing”. I remember everyone speaking without relevance when one guy swooped in and started managing. All he did was to say things like “guys let us not make this a fish market”, “I think we should let everyone speak starting in a clockwise manner”, “I think we are diverting from topic, let us get back to the point where we were discussing about…” When the results came he got through and I didn’t. Jibber Jabber does not work in a group discussion. Whatever you say, say it with assertiveness.

So these were few tips on how to manage a group discussion when you know nothing about the topic. However, it’s always better to be well-versed in current affairs and news to avoid being in such a situation. Hope this article will prove to be advantageous to you.

Contributed by Prachi Tewari ( Class of 2013IBS HYDERABAD )

21 thoughts on “What to do when you know nothing about the topic in a group discussion

  1. It is really helpful especially in these days wen we r at the peak point to get indulge in GD…
    Thanku so much for such a nice sharing

  2. thank you sir,
    Its very useful for every MBA aspirant.
    sir my question is do we need resume? in PI round as i ‘m going to attend for the interview within few days but this B-School did not mention about resume in the particulars to bring.

    • Hi Usha,

      Thanks for the appreciation and you can call me Prachi only.

      Yes you need resume and no B-School is going to ask you to bring one as it is expected from a soon to be management student to not to appear for a personal interview without a resume. You should bring atleast 2-3 copies of your resume so that if more than one interviewer is present you can hand one copy to each. It definitely gives a very good impression.

  3. Dear Prachi
    My daughter is preparing for IBS GD/PI; She goes through ur tip and likes as much as I.I think you are tendering excellent helps to the aspirants. Thank u. As a parent I wd like to know from u regading ur investment of 2yrs of time and definitely a good amt of money.
    Thanks once again & keep it up; with all good wishes for a good career ahed of you.
    PK KAR

    • Dear Sir,

      Thank you for your kind words. Coming to investment part i would say

      1. Time – it was indeed a good investment. I learnt alott and what i am today is completely different from what i was 4yrs back. Those two years in IBS were one of the most amazing years. I became an extrovert, knowlegable, responsible and most importantly a confident girl. I am not saying its because of IBS but ya IBS was a big reason. Their teaching methodology which is case discussion or active participation in extra and co curricular activities helps in bringing out the leadership inside you. I definitely do not regret my two years at IBS

      2. Money – No doubt money is a little bit on the higher side but compared to facillities like infrastructure, brand name, ranking, placements and teaching methodology i felt it was appropriate. The choices i had in my hand, IBS Hyd was best in them.

  4. Hi prachi,
    As I know this question is very similar in pi..The question is , tell me something about yourself. ..what’s your family background. .n all personal information. ..
    Give me some suggestion to face this type of questions. .

    • Hi Shubham,

      This is one of the most imp question of the PI. With your answer you can either take the game in your hand or opponents hand. Try to tell things on which you want to divert the direction of the interview. Start with you acedemic info, your place ,your family, then come to your strengths, your hobbies, extracurricular hobies you participated in. Something unique you have done in your life like i was associated with a NGO. When i told the interviewer about it he asked me many questions related to that. I answered all the questions very confidently.

    • Hi Chirag,

      You have to give some entrance exam. No decent college is going to take you without a test score. You can try for state level exam

  5. hie prachi,
    could you please help me …actually i am donig b.com final year , i have so much intersted to join b schools and i am from andhra pradesh soo i dont speak english very well but i can speak english not very well so i am suitable are ,not to join b schools

  6. Sir thanku for giving such a fruitful suggestion before GD/PI it is very helpful for all the MBA aspirants and sir I want to ask that I have scored 432 in ATMA exam can I apply for the IBS Hyderabad or banglore

  7. Hi Prachi,

    Could you please share a sample resume for the same and if one mention something in our resume for eg. Worked with an ngo
    Then do we need to bring the certificates for the same ?

  8. Thank you maam for sharing your beautiful experience in ibs.
    I was really confused on preparing resume for pi.wil you please mail me a sample resume and can you please inform me about the placement opportunities.

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