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Cracking the tricky part with Us

You’ve slogged hard and belled-the- CAT; cracked the XAT / CMAT and what-have- we … and now it’s time to jump into the ‘Grey’. Unlike the written tests, GDs and PIs are not cut-and- dry ‘black-and- white’; they deal with the intangibles ... where your assessors are no longer looking for 'the right answer’, but your 'confidence', 'poise', and 'ability to deal with a tough situation'. The panel is trying to assess: ‘what are you’, ‘what kind of a new-pro- on-the- block will you be once you get out of college’, ‘how much can you handle’. You can’t fake it all the time, but it certainly helps to be prepared when you are put through the grind of the GD / PI panel.

We put the tricky parts to Professor Rakesh Shrivastava (Chairperson, Admissions) at one of the choicest picks of the season – Goa Institute of Management. Ranked among ‘Top 15’ Private B-Schools in India, GIM boasts of a state-of- the-art 50-acre campus in the picturesque Sahyadri hills. Here’s how to deal with the tricky parts … straight from the chair.

Situation 1: You walk into a GD and realise you know nothing about the given topic. While most participants in your group seem to be smacking their lips in anticipation, you are sweating buckets about even making sense of the topic. Help!

Professor Shrivastava: Hang in there! You can very well create the right impact on the panel. Start by listening. When you don’t have the content, you can make your logic count. Add to this your ability to bring in examples from a different sphere, of which you have commanding knowledge. Listen, pick up information from the discussion, and build on it by supporting or demolishing the arguments put forth. Try to bring in your opinion from a similar situation. For instance, let us assume Neha is participating in a GD on How Visa Renewals are Getting Tough in the US. Neha may talk about Opportunity as an Entrepreneur in India.

Situation 2: You admire oratorical skills, but you’ve always been the silent type. But here is the GD, where you are expected to lock horns with those who’ve made the cut … and are blessed with a natural flamboyance and gift-of- the-gab. Do you even stand a chance?

Professor Shrivastava: Contrary to belief, flamboyant and dominating candidates seldom get the best marks. However, they do take time and reduce time window for others. To enter the discussion, a ‘silent’ type may need to raise voice. You can alternately begin by supporting the idea of the ‘bully’ and thereafter use the window to put forth a logical and cogent argument. What is important is what you say and not how long you take to say it. Sometimes even a mild rebuke to the bully, pointing out that the person is taking more than fair share of time, may do the trick!

Situation 3: You are great with GDs; the candidates are your peers and the knowledge-base is the same. You know when to talk, what to talk, and how much to talk. But the very thought of interacting one-on- one with a panel of gray-haired professionals and academicians gives you the heebie-jeebies. How do you handle this?

Professor Shrivastava: There are numerous examples of candidates who do exceedingly well in GD but fail miserably in PI and vice versa. Some people are happy and comfortable in groups with many people in the same boat. Some are loners and are more comfortable alone. The first step is to know this in advance; believe me, many fail simply because they refuse to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. You need to put in that extra bit for the part you are weak at. Personal Interviews will often begin with an open ended question like ‘Tell Me About Yourself’. The panel is not looking for repetition of facts in the CV. You should bring out what you wish to talk about, the areas of strengths. If you are not able to respond to a question, provide a clue about your comfort zone.

Situation 4: You’ve studied a lot about body language. It’s supposed to be an important indicator of personality during a PI. But how do you control body language? Most of your actions are driven by the subconscious, right?

Professor Shrivastava: True, and therefore you need to set your body language right while you are still conscious, and whenever you can gather your wits during the GD / PI. Practice in front of a mirror; it helps some people. Body language is important especially for those who are introvert or the ‘silent’ types. A pleasant gesture such as a nod or smile helps in breaking the ice. A candidate may sit erect but not stiff, make eye contact, and keep a pleasant demeanour. A disagreement is not a taboo; so keep your cool while you disagree. Avoid changing postures or movements of hand or feet giving out signals of nervousness. Just be yourself.

Situation 5: You are in the middle of your PI and, all of a sudden, it’s your software downtime! You just go blank while discussing a subject that you knew like the back-of- your-hand. How do you save the day?

Professor Shrivastava: It does sometime happen and, usually, is totally unexpected for a candidate. The best thing to do is to seek thinking time and try to recollect the thoughts. Many people benefit in regaining composure by repeating the question: ‘I’d like to know if I’ve understood the question correctly. Are you seeking my views on the rural-urban divide in India?’ If nothing works, suggest a topic: ‘While I am trying to recall the difference between a program and app, would you like to know about my recent Industrial project?’

Situation 6: Finally, the scores are out! You’ve done rather well in GD / PI. However, your CAT scores weren’t all that rocking. On the other hand, your friend ranks among those who have secured very high CAT scores, but has been off-colour in GD / PI. Who, among the two, will a top- notch B-School prefer to have in the classroom?

Professor Shrivastava: A major B-School has weightage for each component. In case of GIM – as with many elite B-Schools in India – these are pre-decided and published. The final selection is carried out based on overall marks. On the face of it, exams do carry a higher weight (40%) than GD / PI (30%) for our selection. However, it has to be borne in mind that cut-offs for CAT and XAT scores in all major B-Schools like GIM are pretty high and variations are minuscule. The variation due to GD / PI could be much larger. In a nutshell, if you have applied to the IIMs, XLRI, and GIM among others and if you’ve been called for GD / PI, you have good XAT / CAT scores. Therefore, GD / PI can be the real determining factor for selection.