What is Group Discussion and why is it included in the Assessment process at SSB?
“The art of conversation consists as much in listening politely a in talking agreeably. ”Atwell
A group discussion is an informal exercise to exchange ideas, feelings or experiences on a common matter of interest. Due to its informal nature, usually, in a group discussion there is no one leader or a moderator, as in a debate, who channelizes the nature of the discussion. Due to this friendly, informal nature of a Group discussion, it becomes one of the more appropriate tool for testing a large number of candidates simultaneously for recruitment drives. What happens in a group discussion is one of the candidates proposes a thought related to the topic allotted, others also present their personal opinion, some support their opinion with facts and figures, while some others use illustrations from their past lives and support their ideas.
Although, at times some opinions might be opposite to each other, but the candidates agree to disagree politely as it is a friendly and informal discussion going on. Some may simply choose to remain silent and gather information from others, while some others may try to encourage everyone to participate. In the end, a healthy pool of information turns into knowledge for everyone as every one of them learns something new from the interaction without much ado.
Company of others makes a lot of impact on a person’s behaviour: some people feel the need to compete with others at all times, some others make friends while some others just go back in their shells when encountered by fierce opponents. Unlike a written Psychological test and the Personal Interview wherein the candidate’s given an opportunity to express his/her personality traits without any interference from anyone else; in a Group Discussion the candidate is given an opportunity to perform within a group of same age people who are completely unfamiliar to each other.
In such a situation, the real self of a candidate in a social context can be seen without much facade. Spontaneity of thoughts and actions, the power of reasoning, its systematic articulation, and inter personal skills can all be judged and affirmed during a group Discussion. Written tests and personal interview may be the best tools for judging a candidate’s planning and organising skills, dynamism too to some extent but when it comes to actual demonstration of social adjustment and social effectiveness, nothing can be better than a Group Discussion Test.
Group Discussion as an assessment tool was used by the Allied Nations during recruiting young soldiers for their military forces during the World Wars. The trend continued when post independence; Ministry of Defense, Government of India too thought it to be suitable for the candidates appearing at the Services Selection Board at various centers in India. It still continues to be part of the selection process at SSB since as a selection tool, it is
- easy to conduct, and
Who assesses a candidate during Group Discussion at SSB?
The assessment process of SSB is conducted by a TRIDENT of the Psychologist who delves into the sub-conscious mind of the candidate through some projective tests, the Interviewing Officer assesses the spoken word of the candidate and the Group Task Officer judges the candidate’s performance during all the group situational tasks, including Group Discussion at SSB. Usually a Group Task Officer, the smart, handsome gentleman standing tall whose sharp eyes are hunting for the right candidate through his Ray Bans at the ground, is from the Indian defense forces, in general and in particular from the arm for which the candidate has applied for.(For example: at an SSB selection centre for Indian army, the GTO would preferably be from the Indian Army, and same goes true for the Indian Navy and Air Force selection centers.)
Like the other assessors, s/he makes candidates comfortable and stress-free through a small talk in the beginning and then let’s them perform throughout the tasks. without much interference. The GTO has gone through a rigorous training to equip him/her with the necessary observation and assessment skills to assess batches of aspiring candidates at SSB. He excels at rating a candidate individually and ranking the candidate within the group, while they perform the group situational tasks at SSB.
What is assessed at Group Discussion at SSB?
It is rightly said that group discussion reveals more than is otherwise possible for the GTO at SSB. Hence, it is the first task out of the total 08 group situational tasks conducted by the GTO at SSB. Also, the point to note about Group Discussion at SSB is that the candidates get an opportunity to perform twice in the format of a Group Discussion at SSB (Read my previous blog an : Group Discussion at SSB to know more about how GD is conducted at SSB). In my last blog I have already discussed about what the GTO is looking for during a Group Discussion at SSB. Let us try and understand how s/he does this.
When a candidate is sitting with others and expressing ones views on a topic, many mental and social faculties become active and many of the innate qualities too will come to the fore. Hence it becomes easy to judge
- how a candidate thinks in a clear, concise and logical manner.
- how a candidate can articulate his/her thoughts in the same clear, concise and effective manner
- how a candidate participates in an unknown group
- how a candidate effectively/ otherwise contributes to a group situational task
- how a candidate overcomes his/her nervousness and influences the group with his/her opinions
Group Discussion decoded
Somebody has rightly said that learning is the result of doing. So here, I give you a short glimpse of a group discussion between 08 candidates that took place in a real life. I have also included the assessment of the performances of the candidates too with the performance of the candidates. Hope you learn the right way of discussion in a group at SSB through this illustration:
For the first Group Discussion, GTO gives the candidates a choice between two subjects written on a chit of paper. The group chooses one of the topic quickly and decides to start the discussion. The GTO explains the norms for the conduct of the discussion and settles down to observe the group. Once s/he says : Start, the task starts with one of the candidates initiating the discussion.
The topic chosen by this group is: Only Military Power Counts in the International Relations in contemporary world.
Chest number 06: Gentlemen, we have all gathered here to discuss on the topic : Only Military Power counts in the International relations in today’s world. I propose that we should first decide how….
chest number 05: (interrupts him in between) Yes, we all know, you need to remind us. Let’s start the discussion
Chest number 04: (buts in) I think Chest number 06 still has something more to say, let us listen to him first.
Chest number 06: Thank you chest number 04, let us not waste anymore time on digressing, let us decide how we will start the discussion and make it more fruitful.
Chest number 07: Don’t beat around the bush, come to the point straightaway, what do you suggest?
Chest number 06: I feel we should first listen to each one of us for a minute or so, and then throw the house open for a discussion, I think we should start chronologically, chest number 01, then 02 and so on. What do you say, Chest number 01?
Chest number 01: Yes I agree, I will start, I feel the topic means might is right. Military power is being given undue importance by all nations these days. Look at the way Russia just walked over Ukraine? who would think of it without the might of a strong military? And then look at how Taiwan is still afraid of China and its military strength. But nobody is thinking about millions of people dying of mal nutrition, floods, climate changes and what not. Even the soldiers need proper nutrition. If they are also mal nourished how will they fight? I feel Food, clothing , health, clothing, shelter, jobs and education, everything is more important than mere arms race. In my opinion, food is more important than Fighter aero planes. The recent floods and food scarcity in Pakistan also says the same. Thank you
Comments: (Chest number 01 very smartly has taken the opportunity to be the first one to channelise the discussion. He also displays a sound reasoning ability and power of expression, but what he lacks is organisation of thoughts to make them more logical. He jumps and repeats the same argument again and again.)
Chest number 02: Thank you, chest number 01, I will now submit my points. I have not studied international relations, neither am I a military expert, I am just a student of Mathematics. But I understand one thing that both money and bread is important for life. If you have bread but it gets wasted n the hands of corrupt politicians and equally corrupt Military, then what is the point of growing the bread. Similarly, if you have guns but do not have trained manpower who can use these guns effectively, what is the use. I think both guns and bread are equally important.
Comments: (Instead of amplifying his strengths and expressing positively, chest number 02 tries to play on his limitations, but fails to put across any new idea effectively. Also, he lacks conviction to make up his mind and present any one side of the argument, thus he shows feeble decision making skill. His only plus point being, self confidence and cooperation with the group)
Chest number 03: Gentlemen, I don’t follow war politics, neither do I know much about the military powers of the world today, so,….since I do not follow the subject, I cannot express my views at the moment. I will try to make an opinion and tell you in some time. You all continue, let us not waste more time on me. Thank you.
Comments: Chest number 03 lacks courage, determination, effective intelligence and social adaptability. He is showing his lack of interest and lack of analytical skills too. If s/he fails to get involved in the discussion anymore, GTO will soon lose interest in him/her.
Chest number 04: Gentlemen, I am of the opinion that we need something more than a gun to acquire power. Gandhiji and Martin Luther King never picked up guns to show their power against the colonists. While, freedom Fighters like Netaji supported the use of military might to get rid of the enemy. But, in both the cases, one thing is clear that if the leader has no moral courage, no guns can get you success. Also, moral courage gives more strength than mere guns do. We also need to acknowledge that even the Pen has power to motivate the minds to pick up guns, look at what great thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Swami Vivekananda could do to the great Indian masses with their literary skills. So, in my opinion, it is the moral courage which these leaders possess which makes their military strength enormous.. This means, they know, only when they are driven to the corner do they use or advocate the use of Military strength. Similarly, even our approach in today’s discussion should be a balanced one, and not shifted towards one of the two: moral vs military strength.
Comments: Chest number 04 has tried to make some sound logical arguments, in favour of his opinion on the topic. He has illustrated his points with valid and relevant examples from real life. That makes him an interesting speaker to observe further.
Chest number 05: Gentlemen, I believe in the saying, “Might is always right.” and that “Power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Force and military strength counts when it comes to geopolitical relations these days, be it the personal matters, national or international matters. Take the example of the alleged Indian spy called Kulbhushan Jadhav caught on international borders, or for that matter the case of Kasab’s trial and execution, if India would not have persisted on its conviction to take these matters to national/ international courts of justice, the world would have still felt us to be the oppressors of our poor neighbour: Pakistan. Law and order can be enforced only with military power and dictatorship, at times. Look at how Afghanistan is back in the hands of same oppressors whom the Big Brother USA had tried to wipe out from the nation. We too need police and military with all their mighty guns and tanks to maintain peace and control the activities of the criminals. I totally support the use of the military power in full swing in today’s world.
Comments: Chest number 05 has shown his over confidence as he mis interprets the topic and goes on and on about one angle of the topic. As a result, he would not be a favourable ally for many of the other members of the group. We will see this slowly as the discussion proceeds further.
Chest number 07: Well, my dear friends, I am confused. I understand that world needs peace, but I also know that this can not be achieved without the might of the gun, so I will go with the military might at first, but then I also feel we should try to use both simultaneously, although I don’t know how that can be done by any country .
Comments: As he rightly points out, Chest number 07 does look like he is totally confused and lost and devoid of making any decisions himself.
Chest number 08: Well, well, we have heard a lot of opinions on the topic, in my opinion Military might is not the Might that influences the world in contemporary age. In fact, in my opinion it is the economic might that defines everything else. History has numerous examples to support this: colonialism ended as the colonial powers started suffering loses in their slave trade due to the revolting natives. Although the armies were created to secure the empire, they realised fighting a revolt was more painful for the Crown than anything else. Similarly, the erstwhile USSR, once a superpower crumbled into so many smaller countries due to its failing economy, Why go so much in the past, look at our neighbour, Sri Lanka , what happened to them recently is a lively example of how a country can perish if it’s economy is at the mercy of another country. China, without using any military might, although it has a powerful Military, has tried to own the Indian Ocean region through its smart economic policies. On the other hand, look at Japan, which has come out of the debacles of nothing less than a Nuclear attack with only their sound economy. Military might may make a short-lived impression on a country’s competitors, but economic might will make them stay away from any real harm for a very long time. What do you say Gentlemen, Chest number 07 and chest number 02, does this make sense to you? Does it help you to make up your mind now?
Comments: Chest number 08 presents his idea which is unique and logical and brings out a new aspect of the topic in discussion. He also shows high ability to influence the other members of the group.
Chest number 02: Well, yes, I do agree with you I am a student of Economics and statistics and your facts are correct, so even I agree that finally a sound economy can dictate the military might of a nation too.
Chest number 01: But, I don’t agree with both of you still. I feel it is the gun which will first help us to get the money, so we need to strengthen the military forces of the country, then we can go loot others anytime.
Chest number 06: Oh, no, no, no, Chest number 01, we don’t go starting wars with others for money. Remember India’s military policy will never advocate the first act of aggression. So we all do not agree with you there. Also, it is time we end our discussion. Let’s try to summarise what all we discussed today, starting from the importance of welfare to economy to military power, we have tried to analyse what is the driving force for dictating international relations in contemporary world. Some of us have tried to say that a strong military power helps the country to rule the world, some others have tried to support the moral courage behind the military power which governs the military might while a totally new facet of the topic was that both military and moral courage comes from a strong economy. In my opinion too, it is the timely handling of diplomatic affairs and maintenance of strong economic ties in the neighbouring region, that helps the country’s international affairs in contemporary age. Let us end the discussion here.
Final Comments: In this group the candidates who have performed well in moderate capability are:
- Chest number 01
- Chest number 04
- Chest number 06
- Chest number 08
Their strengths are: their situational awareness, power of expression, self-confidence and liveliness, ability to listen and mould their thoughts according to the abilities of other members of the group
The candidates who need to improve a lot if they have to get selected in their next attempt are:
- Chest number 02
- Chest number 03
- Chest number 05
- Chest number 07
Their limitations: Lack of imagination and sound reasoning ability, unimpressive power of expression, less observant of what is happening in the group and lastly, not being able to assert any influence over the group members
This was an illustration of how a group Discussion takes place at SSB, how different candidates try to express their points and in turn end up making allies or competitors for the upcoming tasks. Also as discussed earlier, the GTO tries to rate and rank the candidates in the order of their probability of getting recommended in the final conference.
Keep reading for some more examples and tips to perform well in Group Discussions at SSB