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Group Discussion For CAT: A Complete Guide

Group Discussion also commonly abbreviated as just GD, are one of three stages of CAT as well as many other management entrance examinations. It involves a group of shortlisted students sitting around a table, discussing a topic assigned to them by a moderator, for a fixed duration.

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Does the thought of speaking before top rankers when all eyes are upon you make you afraid? How can you be prepared? Read on to find out.


The thought of speaking among other top-ranking candidates where all eyes would be upon them makes many students afraid. But GD is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, your performance in the group discussion would be better if you go stress-free. And you’d only be stress-free if you are completely prepared. How can you be prepared? Read on to find out.

In this article we will discuss:

  1. What is a group discussion?
  2. Why is group discussion important?
  3. group discussion types
  4. Evaluation criteria
  5. Group discussion topics
  6. Group discussion strategies
  7. Group discussion rules

Let’s dive in.

What is a group discussion?

A group discussion is as the name suggests, a discussion over a subject inside a group. The group may consist of 10-15 students. The number of students may vary. All the students sit around a table. A moderator is present who does not participate and only observes every student and makes notes for evaluation. 

As the students sit and settle the moderator assigns them a topic. He/she also provides 5 minutes as preparation time for the individuals. The duration of preparation time may vary by 2-3 minutes depending upon the topic. There is no need to panic as everybody is getting equal time for preparation.

During the preparation time, no discussion happens and everyone thinks and gathers their thoughts about what they are going to say. Use this time to make an effective group discussion strategy.

With an indication from the moderator that the preparation time is over, the group discussion starts. The group is provided roughly 15 minutes for the discussion. However, the duration is not fixed.

The discussion may go on even after 15 minutes. That is why you are advised not to expect the session to end exactly at 15 minutes. It may even go on for 30 minutes. Don’t worry about the time while you are sitting there. The GD can be ended at any time whenever the moderator feels he has enough information. Until then, focus on the discussion.

Some other management entrance exams have a GD session that may last even 45 minutes to an hour.

The GD panel may have 3 or 4 panelists who are going to judge the performance of every candidate. They may look at factors like the content, presentation, leadership, etiquette, etc.

The GD can be ended either abruptly with a signal from the moderator or any student may be asked to present a summary. In case you are asked to make the summary, mention the good points made in the discussion and do not add any points from your side that were not discussed. 

It usually happens that the students who have remained quiet or not spoken a lot are asked to present the summary. This is because the panelists still do not have enough information about them. In that case, the student should not use this as an opportunity to present his ideas because it shows that they had ideas but did not speak at the right time allotted to them.

The summary must be objective. It should discuss all points of view surrounding a topic that was discussed in the session. Personal opinions must be avoided at this point.


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Why is group discussion important?

Group discussion helps the panel judge the students on many points. The most important quality that comes to the fore is a student’s confidence. The manner of speaking and presentation of information is a good parameter. A confident student speaks with calm and poise. When he speaks other people listen attentively.

Another quality is articulation. Many people know many things but cannot present the information in a properly organized manner that makes sense and has an impact on other people. Articulation is also the ability to present seemingly complex things in a simple way. It is an important quality when you work in a team on any project.

Coming to which, teamwork is another quality that is easily assessed in a GD. A person’s attitude, while dealing and debating with other people, shows how they will behave in a team. Will they be supportive and calm or will they be condescending and argue too much. 

Another skill which is many people ignore is listening skill. GD flows when the next topic is built upon something from the previous topics. You can demonstrate your listening skills by mentioning something some students said while you speak and making a comment on it. 

Also, if you are asked to present the summary you must remember every important point made in the discussion.


Group discussion types

Group discussions are generally of 3 types:

  • Topical GD: This type of discussion has topics related to current or recent events. A good example of this would be climate change or economic slowdown. It could also have a topic that has long-term relevance, for example, freedom of speech or safety for women. The primary purpose of topical GD is to identify whether the candidate is updated on current national and international issues of relevance. The views of the candidate are a strong precursor to their personality and their inclinations on socio-political matters. It is advised to be rational and refrain from any strong radical views.
  • Case studies: This is another common GD type. Topics are related to business case studies. A situation is given to the candidates. Candidates are required to discuss their opinions and come to a solution or conclusion. In this way, a candidate’s analytical skills and attitude can be tested. If the candidate is assigned a management position in a company in the future, how would he/she deal with problems?
  • Abstract GD: Topics in abstract GD are just abstract. For example, you may be shown a wheel, or maybe you are given a plain sheet of paper and asked to discuss it. This is a test of the inference abilities of the candidate, and their ability to think outside the box. Candidates are required to make their own meanings and put forth their views.

Every GD has a different format but they have more similarities than differences. All of them are used to judge the confidence, articulation, and teamwork qualities of a candidate.


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Evaluation criteria

Evaluation of performance based on GD is done on many different factors. There are no marks allocated to each quality and the GD score of a candidate is made up of overall performance considering all the parameters. The factors can be divided into individual skills and group skills.

Under individual skills, you have:

  • Confidence: As discussed, the manner in which you speak and your tonality displays your confidence. Your voice must be loud and clear. You should not take pauses and don’t fill your sentences with filler words like “umm”, “like”,” you know”. If you have a habit of doing that, practice speaking without it. The ability to convey with clarity is an important skill you’ll need as a manager.
  • Content: It is possible that you have said everything with confidence but if you digress from the topic, it’s not good. What you are saying and how you are saying are both important qualities. You have to stick to the relevant areas avoid straying far away. It’s also important that you talk about one fact for an appropriate duration. Try not to say the same thing in different ways to stretch out your time. Panelists will notice that.
  • Analytical skills: This is especially important in case-study GD where you are provided with a situation and you need to find a solution. As a future CEO, a candidate will be required to solve many business issues. It is important that they show a hint of this quality in the GD.
  • Reasoning skills: It is important to be able to justify your point. If you think someone is incorrect with an opinion, you should be able to explain why are they incorrect. Asking questions is a good way to demonstrate this quality.
  • Articulation: This is an important skill. It may also be called presentation skills. This refers to how you present your facts or put them in words. Your thoughts need to be conveyed in words and your choice of words and sentences shows how effectively you’ll be able to communicate yourself to others. You should be able to organize your facts and opinions properly. You should be using simple sentences that are easily understood by others.
  • Out-of-the-box thinking: Are you presenting a side of a fact that others couldn’t see? Are you able to dissect a problem and look at it from every direction? Can you bring innovative solutions to issues? This is called out-of-the-box thinking. You will be rewarded with extra points if you have the confidence to deliver a seemingly strange but totally practical approach to a problem.

Apart from individual skills, there are group skills that show the panelists how you will act in a team.

  • Listening skills: Unless you listen you cannot react. Without listening, everybody would be just expressing their views in a sequence with no connection to what others are saying. It won’t be a discussion then. Many times participants forget to listen after they have made their point. This can be easily seen from the candidate’s body language. If he/she is looking down for a long time it is a good sign that they are not listening actively. Do not forget that it’s a discussion. 
  • Body language: More than 60% of the total communication is done through your body. It gives away if you are insecure or daydreaming. The panelists are experts in this. But they don’t need to be because it is pretty simple to see when a person is insecure. Fidgeting, closed stature, folding hands across your chest, and shaking your legs are all ways you express your lack of confidence. A strong indication of confidence is eye contact. A candidate must try to maintain strong eye contact with the audience most of the time when he/she speaks. Try to use your hands in motion when you speak as this shows open body language. Even when you are listening, make strong eye contact with the speaker. Besides getting a good score, it will also help you stay focused.
  • Leadership skills: In times of chaos, a leader automatically comes out. When the discussion goes out of hand or too far away from the focus topic, a candidate who brings the discussion back to relevance is showing leadership skills. Leadership is not just limited to speaking first or being the loudest. You have to be calm and show a presence like a leader.
  • Teamwork: This is an important quality anywhere you work. Usually, all work in any office is done in teams. It is important to be cooperative and encouraging. If you have to shoot down ideas, do that in a manner that the person understands. Aggressiveness is not a desirable quality when working in teams.

These were the qualities that are judged in a GD session. It is important to keep in mind that unless you have done enough practice, it is not possible to score positive marks in every parameter in a GD.

Group discussion topics

GD topics could be anything from current affairs, political issues, social issues, economic issues for topical GD. Below are some examples:

  • Current topics: 
    • climate change, 
    • The space program of India
    • The rise of populism
    • Hong Kong protests
  • Economic issues: 
    • GST, 
    • The economic slowdown, 
    • any recent policy or budget, 
    • 5 trillion-dollar economy, 
    • Ease of doing business
    • Walmart-Flipkart deal
    • Indian start-up space
  • Social issue: 
    • Poverty, 
    • women safety, the #metoo campaign
    • air pollution, 
    • farmer suicides, 
    • Unemployment
    • corruption
  • Political issue: 
    • article 370 abrogation
  • Abstract: 
    • Blue
    • Zero
    • Horse
    • paper
  • General: 
    • social media, 
    • globalization, 
    • Artificial intelligence, 
    • Cryptocurrency
    • Electric cars

This list’s purpose is to give you an idea of what could come as a GD topic. Case study GD has case studies assigned to students and does not come under this list.



Here a few tips and suggestions to improve your performance in the GD:

  • Be aware of your body language. Don’t fidget and keep an open posture. Don’t shake your legs and sit comfortably.
  • Maintain strong eye contact for an appropriate duration. Both when speaking and listening. When speaking looks in all directions, not just a particular side of the table.
  • Be loud and clear. It is easy to speak in a lower voice in a silent room. Be sure that you are audible to every person.
  • Don’t be aggressive. Be cooperative and generous. Respect others’ opinions. Be a team player.
  • Don’t interrupt others. You will lose points if you do that. Also, it is not respectful behavior. This interrupts the natural flow of the discussion and nobody would like it. Note down your opinion and speak at the right time.
  • In place of saying words like “ you’re wrong”, ask questions that prove your point without making the person defensive.
  • Try to start the discussion but don’t argue over it. It is difficult to give a direction to the discussion so you’ll get extra points for that.
  • Use facts and statistics to support your statement. This gives credibility to your facts. It is important to cite strong sources that are commonly known. Some examples of names you can include are AC Nielsen, Forbes magazine, TOI survey, etc.
  • GDS are hard to crack if you have never practiced. Organize mock GDs with your friends and analyze your performance after every session. This is a truly indispensable part of GD preparation. There’s nothing like having to defend your viewpoints in real-time. It’s a really fun activity.
  • Read the newspapers. Preferably financial newspapers. Keep updated on social issues. Do not think that you should focus on the exam and stop doing other things until it is over. You should be aware of what’s happening in the country and the world. Read thoroughly so you can make an opinion about it.
  • Do not get carried away in emotions. Maintain your cool. There will be times when someone would say something you are not going to like. It’s impossible that everybody will agree with you over something. Respect everyone’s opinion. It breeds healthy discussions. That’s what GD is all about.
  • Smile. This puts other people at ease and is in general, makes you likable.


GD rules may vary depending upon the exam. However, there are a few generally accepted norms that everybody should follow:

  • Use formal language
  • Don’t interrupt others
  • Don’t bring new points after the summary has started
  • Stay relevant to the topic

We hope you found this definitive guide helpful. Check out our other articles.

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Gaurav is a Content Writer at IIM Skills. He has a B.Tech. degree but then he switched to the creative side by doing his master's in advertising and public relations. Gaurav is also a part-time blogger and graphic designer currently living in Mumbai

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