Group Exercise

A group exercise is an assessed discussion exercise involving a small group of candidates.

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Free group exercise download

Group exercises, sometimes called group discussions, are a common exercise used by employers. Each group exercise will vary in its detail, but the style and format tend to follow a common format. We have designed a typical style of group exercise, which you can download below. Feel free to download the exercise, print it out and sit the exercise with friends or colleagues. Please respect our copyright though; if you want to use this for anything other than personal use you will need our permission.

Download a free group exercise (PDF)

Use the instructions document for taking part in the exercise. Use the candidate guidance document to get an insight into what assessors typically look for and for help with reflecting on your own performance.

Group exercises and how they work

What is a group exercise?

A group exercise is a task or activity that is designed to assess a candidate's teamwork, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and other relevant competencies. It typically involves a group of candidates working together to complete a task within a specified time frame, while being observed and evaluated by assessors. The exercise could be a case study analysis, a group discussion, or a simulation exercise that is relevant to the job role or industry.

Group exercises are a common selection technique used by graduate recruiters to assess candidates at the assessment centre stage of the recruitment process. Group exercises are often used in graduate schemes for positions requiring collaboration and team work such as management consulting, finance and IT. Candidates will be assessed in groups of 4-16, and provided with a work place relevant problem, or scenario requiring the entire team to work together and solve this issue. The task will be relevant to the industry being recruited for, and candidates may or may not be working with candidates applying for the same position. Throughout the duration of the test all candidates will be observed, and their behaviours and performance will be noted by the recruitment staff.

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Key takeaway

There are many variations when it comes to group exercises, some may take the form of a role play exercise such as a mock meeting. Similarly it may involve a problem solving scenario, requiring candidates to work as a team and solve the issue/identify the solution.

What does a group exercise assess?

Group exercises typically assess a candidates behaviour in a group, and the overall group dynamics involved in the exercise. Typical factors assessed in a group exercise include:

  • team working ability
  • social skills, confidence and communication skills
  • business acumen
  • leadership potential and influence
  • capacity to deal with deadlines under pressure
  • how compatible a candidate's skills and behaviour are for the role
  • interpersonal skills, i.e. listening skills, persuasion, diplomacy, mediation, composure, patience etc.
  • decisiveness and critical thinking ability

Because of the work place relevance of these exercises, recruiters can use group exercises to predict how a candidate will perform in the real work place, making this a useful selection tool. Not only can the group exercise be used to highlight and identify strengths and role relevant behaviours, but it can also be used to identify negative behaviours such as aggression, short-temperedness and single mindedness.

What you should know before taking a group exercise

It is important to remember that group exercises will be a contributing factor to the selection process, employers are unlikely to base these decisions solely on the group exercise, so don't panic if you have never done one before. Well in advance of your assessment day you will be informed if a group exercises will be part of the selection procedure, as with all other assessment tools. As a result if you are required to undertake one, you will be given time to prepare.

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Did You Know

Due to the highly relevant insight into candidates behaviour gained during group exercises, it is considered a powerful and reliable tool, which will play an important factor in the recruitment decision.

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Types of group exercise

Depending on the organisation and their selection procedures, the format of the group exercise may vary considerably. The three most common group exercise formats are:

  • 1. Practical tasks: The most common form of group exercise, the group will be given a task, usually a problem solving task and will be required to find the solution. These tasks may or may not be workplace relevant, for example candidates may be asked to build a tower out of straw. The function of these exercises will be to test the teams coordination and team working ability, more so than individual knowledge or individual contribution.
  • 2. Discussion: You may be asked to perform a leaderless group discussion, in which candidates will be presented with a work place relevant scenario or problem. The group then must address this issue and find a logical conclusion, for example identifying a problem with an organisation/department and agreeing on steps to resolve this issue.
  • 3. Role-play exercise: Candidates may be asked to undergo a group role-play exercise. In this exercise candidates will be provided with a particular role, background information on the situation and full briefing. An example of a group role-play exercise is a mock meeting, in which each candidate assumes a specific role, and must fulfil their respective objectives and the group objective.

General group exercise advice

These recommendations can help you succeed during your group exercise, and ensure that you impress recruiters and stand out from the crowd.

  • 1. Stay as calm as possible: Composure, ability to work under pressure and confidence are highly prized competencies which recruiters look for. Performance anxiety can be a mixed blessing as too much of it can hinder performance, but a moderate amount may sharpen focus and keep you on track. Just remember that the other candidates will be just as nervous as you are, and recruiters are fully aware of how nerve racking assessment centres can be. So remember that no one is expecting you to be totally laid back (recruiters would not think you are taking it seriously if you were) but do your best to keep your composure and focus during the exercise.
  • 2. Be yourself, but on a good day: You should always try to be yourself during these exercises, but at the same time try and highlight your strengths and your key competencies, while actively holding back some more negative instincts which may arise. For example if you are natural leader, then let your ability shine, however if your leadership style is aggressive or overly pressured, try to ignore these instincts and be more diplomatic and democratic.
  • 3. Research the role before the assessment centre: It may seem like common sense, but arming yourself with the knowledge of the role, the industry and the organisation can give you a clear vision of what they will be expecting in the group exercise. For example if you are applying to a management consultancy, having background knowledge of the consulting industry, and particularly the industry which that company operates in can give you background knowledge which may be applicable to your group exercise.
  • 4. Not too much, not too little: Recruiters want to notice you in the group exercise, they want to see you express your competencies and abilities as best you can, however, they do not want narcissists that love the sound of their own voice. An important part of teamwork is contributing, and helping others contribute, after all, it is a GROUP exercise!

How to behave in a group exercise

Knowing how to act can be difficult in group exercises, and being observed can make things even more challenging. Here are some behavioural and interpersonal tips on how to present yourself in a group exercise:

  • 1. Introduce yourself: Very important to introduce yourself to the rest of the team, this can help break the ice between you and show recruiters you are taking steps to build rapport with your team.
  • 2. Get the team to introduce themselves: Another important step in ensuring that everyone feels comfortable around each other, and this will show recruiters that you are taking the initiative and organising the group.
  • 3. Call everyone by their name: Once you know your fellow candidates' names, use them in conversation. This will help put everyone (including yourself) at ease, and show recruiters that you can build rapport, treat everyone as individuals and can make strong first impressions.
  • 4. Never give negative feedback to other candidates: If a candidate generates an idea which you do not agree, do not criticise them, even after the exercise has finished. Not only will this put the team on edge and make them feel less comfortable around you, but you will seem less diplomatic and less patient, putting off recruiters.
  • 5. Collaborators not competitors: Do not think of your peers as your competitors for the position you want. Similarly do not try and show off, or out-compete your peers, it's a group exercise and facilitating team work will impress recruiters. Aggressive individualism, over competitiveness and not supporting team members is a serious put off for recruiters and will be noted as poor performance.

How AssessmentDay can help

AssessmentDay offers a specialised assessment centre pack offering a selection of practice assessment centre exercises, along with guidance on exercise performance. Our pack contains multiple group exercises, and includes non-role assigned exercises and an assigned-role group exercise. These group exercises may be used to conduct a mock group exercise with your friends and/or provide individual insight into how group exercises are conducted and assessed. Similarly, we offer a free example group exercise, which can be downloaded free of charge.

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Key takeaways

Group exercises at assessment centres are a common part of the hiring process. The aim of these exercises is to evaluate a candidate's ability to work effectively as part of a team and assess their communication and problem-solving skills.

Key points for candidates to keep in mind during group exercises include:

  • Active listening and effective communication are crucial
  • Balancing being assertive and collaborative is important.
  • Be aware of time management and ensure the group stays on track.
  • Respectfully challenge ideas and provide constructive feedback.
  • Be aware of body language and maintain eye contact.
  • Follow the instructions carefully and pay attention to details.
  • Try to stay calm and focused, even in stressful situations.

By demonstrating these skills, candidates can increase their chances of success during group exercises and impress potential employers.