Group Exercises

Group exercises are the most common activities at assessment centres. These can be difficult to prepare for as you generally don’t know in advance what the group activity will involve. 

Group exercises often fall into one of five main categories:

  • Discuss a general topic, such as “Students should not have to pay university fees”.
  • Debate a work-related problem and come to a joint decision.
  • Decide on a list of priorities such as who to rescue from a cave or desert island.
  • Complete a task such as constructing a bridge or tower out of newspaper. 
  • Business games working on completing a project or gaining the most profit by gathering information.

What are the assessors looking for?

Group exercises can test a number of skills and competencies, but they are particularly looking at how you work in a real team setting. Most people can say on their application forms or in interviews that they can perform well in teams, but this is a way for employers to witness this in person. You are usually being assessed against the key competencies for the role and the organisation's values NOT against other members of the group.

Be Self-Aware - in order for the assessors to see how you work as part of a team and how you would fit into the organisation's culture, it is important to be yourself as the assessors want to see how you operate in real life situations. This means that you need to be aware of your own team-working strengths and weaknesses; if you are naturally quiet you may need to assert yourself to make your opinions heard. If you are naturally a dominant character, make sure you give others an opportunity to speak.

Group Roles

Effective team working requires team members to co-operate, listen to each other, communicate clearly, share knowledge and information, show commitment to the team and task and be supportive. Most teams function best when they have a good mix of team members. Belbin devised nine different roles he believed teams needed in order to be effective: 

  • Your Team Role: It is worth having a look at these and seeing which you identify with; this will help your understanding of your preferences and areas you may need to work on in relation to team working.
  • Other Team Roles: It is also useful to understand other people's working preferences as differences in team roles can often lead to friction, misunderstandings or problems in a group or team setting.

It is worth noting that most of us will not necessarily prefer one role to the exclusion of others, and will often adopt traits of different team roles as required. 

Dealing with dominant team members

It is likely that you will come across a dominant team member at some point during an assessment centre. It can make it difficult for you or your fellow team members to be able to assert other opinions and can often be destructive in a group task. Don't be afraid to challenge dominant group members – be calm, diplomatic and logical, picking up on their points and asking them why they feel that way, whilst also inviting other group members to comment. This should allow for a break in the dominant member’s speech and will encourage other members to put forward opinions.

Top Tips for Group Exercises

  • Speak up - It is important to put forward ideas and contribute to the team. The assessors can’t give you any marks if they haven’t heard you speak
  • Keep your contributions short
  • Avoid interrupting other team members and avoid being interrupted
  • Encourage other team members - If a team member hasnt said anything, try to get them involved in the discussion
  • Keep an eye on the time
  • Be prepared to change your argument - You need to be able to show that you can accept a new direction if better ideas or information are presented to you 
  • Hold your ground - Sometimes it is also important to ensure your ideas are fully considered without holding up the group. It is also your responsibility to point          out any issues or doubts 
  • Be professional - Don’t loose your temper - keep your volume and tone under control
Last modified: 
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 15:56