Different types of Group Exercises at Assessment Centre

Broadly speaking, Group Exercises fall into two categories:


- Discussion based: where the group is asked to debate and often reach consensus and conclusions on a topic or on topics.

- Practical tasks: where the group is asked to design and physically construct something.


Discussion based

Discussion-based Group Exercises are the most commonly used type in an Assessment Centre. Individuals tend to be seated around a table in a group size of between four to six. There will tend to be two to three assessors in the room, set back from the group. Depending on the seniority of the role, Group Exercises will tend to last between 30-90 minutes. However, not all of that time will be taken up with discussion. It may include time for individuals to review the materials before the discussion formally begins.


The actual topic(s) may be completely unrelated to the work setting. For example, you may be asked to assume that you are all in a hot air balloon that is slowly losing height over the ocean. The group has to agree which items they need to discard, and in what order, so that height can be maintained until landfall is reached. At the other end of the scale, the topics will be work related and tailored specifically to the role being assessed. Here you are likely to find more complex briefing materials.


You may find that you and each of the other candidates are given different briefing materials or asked to play a particular role in the discussion (e.g. someone is representing Finance, someone else Marketing etc.). The topics may have no simple – or indeed single – answer and the candidates have to reach a consensus on the course of action.


Practical tasks

Practical task Group Exercises, though less widely used, do still occur in Assessment Centres. These types of exercises have moved on considerably from their military origins. The military made use of planks of wood, oil drums and ropes and still do! The principle underpinning the use of the practical task, however, remains the same. Their purpose is to place all candidates on an even footing by reducing the advantages of prior job knowledge and experience. The types of practical tasks that you are more likely to face in today’s Assessment Centres are indoor exercises involving equipment such as:

- Table-top plastic construction kits (often using K’nex and Lego style materials)

- Larger versions of the above requiring a reasonable amount of floor space for design and construction activities


The task will often require you to design and construct a particular object (car, bridge, chair etc.) within certain time and material constraints.

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