Q. Should I take down notes of the GD? Is it important to remember what points are being raised or to think of new issues?
It is important to remember the issues raised and the important points made - you will need this both to summarize as well as identify how you could contribute more points to the discussion. One way to remember the issues is to take notes of the discussion. However, rather than writing down verbatim or long sentences, just jot down the key words (carry a small pad to the GD). Actually, you should develop the capability to take mental notes and if you do need to jot down, limit the notes to key words. This is because, one might tend to lose track of the discussion while writing down notes. However, it may be noted here that for people who are not speaking or haven't spoken, it might be a good practice to jot down notes, since it would demonstrate that the participant is active and involved in the discussion. It would also help one to summarize the discussion, in the eventuality of being called upon to do so by the invigilator. This is likely to happen to those who haven't been able to speak much / at all, in the entire discussion.
Q. What if the topic of discussion is something I know very less about and I have no worthwhile points to make?
In this case, it is suggested to enter late. This would make you reasonably aware of the issues involved, enable you to take a thread and develop your view point. If you want to say something, then ensure that it is relevant and sensible. You can also identify new thoughts by looking at issues from your point of view (for e.g. if you are an arts student and the topic relates to software engineering, you could peak of the relevance of software in fields related to arts). There are other ways of participating in the GD, such as:
- Active Listening- through making notes and understanding the views expressed. Quite often the invigilators see how active and involved the participants are and active listening is considered as a good way of participation.
- Seek clarifications- Another way is to seek clarifications from the speaker. You may not have understood some part of what was said in which case you can interject with "excuse me, I didn't quite get it… can you clarify the first/last part" or "are you saying that …….".
- Play the role of mediator- as defined earlier in "What role should I play in the GD? Should I be aggressive, one who speaks less, a mediator or idea generator?"
- Summarizing the discussion- highlighting the key points that were covered in the discussion and any conclusion that might have been reached.
- Structuring thought process- by breaking down the topic into smaller parts and thinking through each part, one can easily identify a lot of angles which have not been thought of or discussed. So, if you do not have any idea about the topic, try and break it down into its parts (depending on the given topic).
Q. What if no new points are being made in the GD and people are just stating the similar points in a round-about fashion?
This is a difficult situation but also an opportunity for you to display your creative skills. You can generate new thoughts by getting new ideas and dimensions in place. For instance, in the topic "Should there be reservation for women in Parliament?” you can expand the scope by including new dimensions such as:
- Why only women and not economically deprived sections of society?
- Not "women" in general but sub-reservations within this such as reservation for SC/ST Women, OBC Women etc.
- Assuming that reservation is needed, when should it be introduced; if introduced, should it be permanent? If not, for how long?
Identification of even one such dimension can vastly expand and enrich the discussion and often it is very easy to find such a dimension.
If nothing more can be said may be you could summarize the discussion so far and encourage people to think about the implications (negatives and positives) of the issues and back-ups in case of contingencies. For example, if the discussion had come to stagnate at the point where everyone had agreed to reservation, you could ask what would happen if the quota were to be 30% instead of 33%? Also, how would the constituencies reserved for women be chosen? Does this mean that each party has to nominate at least 33% women candidates? What does this conclusion mean in practice? Another good way to expand the discussion is to discuss about parallels in other countries. For example, one might provide or ask about the practices in other democracies like US, UK etc. Parallels might bring out a dimension which has not been discussed so far. However, a word of caution is necessary - don't go too far away from the topic or identify a dimension which is too detailed - for instance, while it is interesting (and perhaps important too) to know whether the legal provision of providing 33% reservation to women would have been met if the Lady MP were to have been elected from a reserved (for SC/ST or for any other reason) constituency, this is a matter of detail and can shoot off on a different tangent.
Q. What is more important - manner of presentation or the content?
Both. However, it is far more important to say something sensible than to say something at all. Hence, between the two, content is more important than presentation. Once content is in place, it helps to present your point in as nice a manner as possible. Presentation has more to do with conciseness and clarity, than with using vocabulary intensive language. It is okay if your method of presentation is "poor" as long as you can get your point of view across effectively without being rude or impolite. Examples of rude, impolite or unacceptable presentation/behaviour are:
- Even as another person is speaking, jumping into the discussion and starting to speak. In such cases, wait for a pause or if the speaker is not pausing, first establish eye contact and when firmly established, start with "if I may, what I think is…." Or "I agree with you. We could look at other facets such as ….."
- If you disagree with a point that has been made, then launching an attack on the point or worse still, on the person who made the point. The correct method is to start with "some of you have said …… which I disagree with. What I think is…."
- Using colloquial language like "the fundae is", "cool" or mixing vernacular with English (unless the vernacular is a relevant quote and can be understood by all - if not, follow the quote with its meaning in English)
- Forming a sub-group and carrying out a parallel discussion amongst yourselves or looking away from the group and focusing on something else - this will be considered as a sign of disinterest.