Group Discussion Exam Preparation

Final Exam Preparation

The final exam for this course is modeled on the final oral exam that you will take at the end of the FFA.

Preparing for a Group Discussion

The oral exam for both this class and your FFA final exam consists of a group discussion (the FFA final also includes a presentation of your internship report). You will be judged on your ability to contribute to the group discussion. Below are some tips that should help you prepare for the final exam for this class and the group discussion portion of the FFA final exam.

Overview of the Exam (for this course)

Here’s how the oral exam group discussions work:

  • Normally groups (the same as your mooting group) are given a short article from a newspaper or magazine concerning an issue related to the legal topic from their moot.
  • Students will be given the article about a week in advance and be expected to prepare for the group discussion.
    • It will be a shorter period when the course is offered as a block course.
  • As a group, students will be asked to engage in a 30 minutes discussion over the assigned article(s). Students may only bring with them the article and one page of notes they drafted in preparation.
  • The group discussion begins with the students summarizing the article they have just read.

I will observe the discussion and occasionally ask questions of the group. You will be graded on your language use and ability to communicate and support your points clearly.

Preparing for the Exam

Objective: Make a meaning contribution to the discussion

Getting Noticed

Our first goal should be to contribute to the conversation. People who don’t say very much are the ones who score poorly on this exam. So how to you get into the conversation? Here are some tips:

  • You must ensure that the group hears you. If the group hears you, so will the evaluator. That does not mean that you shout at the top of your voice and be noticed for the wrong reasons.
  • You have to be assertive. This is no time to be shy. You need to get into the conversation. Remember, you know your group members. There is nothing to fear here. Also remember, assertiveness does not mean being bull-headed or being arrogant.
  • And most importantly, you have to make your chances. Many group discussion participants often complain that they did not get a chance to speak. You must make sure you get a chance to speak.

Making a Meaningful Contribution

Merely contributing to the conversation is not enough. The goal is to make a meaningful contribution. What does that mean in practice?

A meaningful contribution suggests that:

  • You have a good knowledge base
  • You are able to put forth your arguments logically and are a good communicator.
  • The quality of what you said is more valuable than the quantity. There is a myth that the way to succeed in a group discussion is by speaking loudly and at great length. However, success is measured more by the strength of your arguments and your ability to communicate them clearly.

Therefore, think things through carefully.

Taking Notes

Taking notes during the discussion is allowed. Reading from your notes, on the other hand, is strongly discouraged!

Making Your Chances

Everybody else will state the obvious. So highlight some points that are not obvious. The different perspective that you bring to the group will be highly appreciated by the judge. Some pointers on being relevant while having a different perspective are:

  • Be careful that the “something different” you state is still relevant to the topic being debated.
  • Can you take the group ahead if it is stuck at one point?
  • Can you take it in a fresh and more relevant direction.

Remember, the ultimate goal here is to participate in a meaningful manner!

Additional Information

Making your own chances (i.e. getting into the conversation) isn’t always easy. Below are a few things to keep in mind when interrupting others in order to get into a conversation. The trick here, though, is to sound natural. Thus, I would not spend too much time trying to learn exact language that politely allows you to interrupt someone–unless you can make it sound natural.

  • Point out what is right about what is being said, “That a great point…”
  • Add a contraction, “but I would add…” “while that might work in theory…” “but let’s not forget…” “however it reminds me of something I read last week…”
  • Apologize if needed, “I hate to interrupt, but…”
  • Conversational Terrorism: How Not to Talk – this website probably provides you with more information then you need for the oral exam. However, if you are interested in knowing what one should not do in a group discussion or debate setting, the website is quite helpful.
Final Thoughts and Pitfalls to Avoid

Here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Be as natural as possible. Do not try and be someone you are not. Be yourself.
  • A group discussion is your chance to be more vocal. The evaluator wants to hear you speak.
  • Take time to organize your thoughts. Think of what you are going to say.
  • Seek clarification if you have any doubts regarding the subject.
  • Don’t start speaking until you have clearly understood and analyzed the subject.
  • Work out various strategies to help you make an entry: initiate the discussion or agree with someone else’s point and then move onto express your views.
  • Opening the discussion is not the only way of gaining attention and recognition. If you do not give valuable insights during the discussion, all your efforts of initiating the discussion will be in vain.
  • Your body language says a lot about you – your gestures and mannerisms are more likely to reflect your attitude than what you say.
  • Part of your language grade will reflect how well you get your points across clearly and fluently.
  • Be assertive not dominating; try to maintain a balanced tone in your discussion and analysis.
  • Don’t lose your cool if anyone says anything you object to. The key is to stay objective: Don’t take the discussion personally.
  • Always be polite: Try to avoid using extreme phrases like: “I strongly object” or “I disagree”. Instead try phrases like: “I would like to share my views on…” or “One difference between your point and mine…” or “I beg to differ with you.”