Ace the primers before MBA

If you’re an aspiring MBA student, there are strict do’s and don’ts to clear the group discussion and personal interview rounds. Get tips from Ankur Jain.

Now that you have cleared the first stage of the selection process to top B-schools in India, it is time to gear up for the second round. This round consists of various personality assessment tests, which are designed to check your future managerial potential.

Many B-schools rely on group discussion to assess soft skills. Eight to twelve candidates will be given a topic and will be expected to discuss the same with the objective of reaching an unanimous conclusion. The main purpose behind this process is to check your ability to work as a team and your ability to lead the same. These are essential skills for the management education that you are planning to undertake and the managerial career that you wish to pursue.

Common mistakes committed by students in this process include shouting to make a point, fighting to prove others wrong, believing in something too rigidly and indulging in a debate. So remember these facts:

*A GD is more about listening than speaking.

*A GD is not a debate where you try to prove your point, come what may.

*Listen to others’ viewpoints and present your viewpoints. Try reaching a conclusion, but this can be difficult as it has to be unanimous. Do not force a conclusion by skipping the discussion. Having the discussion is more important. Present logically your points with suitable examples to validate your statement. Prevent chaos and fighting in the group by staying calm yourself.

GD topics can be about current affairs (Is caste politics dead in India?), general topics (women make better managers, Hollywood movies should be banned, since they are against Indian culture) or abstract (red is better than green). Do not take firm stands against or for the topic very quickly. Try to discuss it and then take a stand. While speaking, look at all the group members and when listening look at the speaker.

But some B-schools feel that GDs turn mostly chaotic and do away with it. This selection round is then replaced with a ‘Written Ability Test’ (WAT). While this  cannot check a group’s working and leadership skills, it checks for logical maturity of opinions and range of thinking, which are the real skills behind the skills required. WAT topics are the same as GD topics and you will get time ranging from 10-45 minutes to write the essay.

Take some time to think and plan your essay. Then write it with a good introduction, a body with points and examples divided into paragraphs and a mature conclusion. Keep some time aside to edit the essay for spelling, grammar and logical consistency. Do not write till the last moment. A longer essay is not necessarily better. A logically-complete essay that covers all major facets of the topic is far better.

Another important part of the process is the personal interview. As the name indicates, this is an interview to check your personality.

Be prepared to answer questions on your academic subjects at graduation, since a good understanding of these, indicates strength as a student. Pick up at least 2-3 subjects from the core areas of your study to prepare in-depth. Questions can be from the basics of your subject or from the application of the same. Questions can also check the correlation of your subjects to the current awareness of the world.

Candidates with work experience can also expect questions on their work profile. Technical questions on the nature of your work, general awareness about your organisation and the working environment you are exposed to, are common areas that are probed. More importantly, the learning from these will be probed.

Doing an MBA has fast become a preferred career option these days. However, if you are doing it for the wrong reasons or are not clear why you want to do an MBA, then I suggest you do not pursue one. A B-school can easily sense your cluelessness by probing your career clarity and the need for an MBA degree in the overall scheme of your career.

Questions like “Where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?” or “Why do you wish to take up a management career?” should be answered on a logical basis and good examples to support yourself. The panel may also want to check your understanding of your own personality as it plays a huge role in your handling of others in an organisation. Questions on strengths and weaknesses should be answered honestly with suitable examples to make your point. Do talk about how you have made an effort to overcome weaknesses.

Sometimes, the interview panel will want to discuss hobbies or interests. This helps them check whether you possess an all-round personality or not. Checking your interests helps them also to understand how passionate you are about what interests you. Questions can also be expected from current affairs. A future manager should be well-informed about the issues of the day and should have a logical and mature opinion about the same.  Read good magazines and newspapers to keep yourself abreast of major issues facing your city, state, country and the world.

The panel is not interested in the range of your ignorance. They are interested in the range and depth of what you do know. If you do not know something, you can always say, “I don’t know.” If you know only something about a particular topic, feel free to discuss whatever you can.

 (The writer is Chief Knowledge Expert, T.I.M.E)

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