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How To Ace The NEW Wharton MBA Team Based Discussion (TBD)

November 20, 2015 :: Admissionado Team

Ace Wharton's Team Discussion | Admissionado

– – Please find the latest (2017) version of this post here. – –  

Since shaking up the MBA interview process in 2012 with their innovative group discussion, Wharton recently released a new format for their group interview.

This year instead of asking more abstract questions, applicants are now put in groups of four to six and asked this question:

“Picture yourself as a core member of a student-run club’s Conference Committee. Feel free to consider yourself part of an existing club or one that has not yet been created. In this role, you and your team must create and deliver a one-day, high-impact conference on the topic of your choice keeping in mind that the event’s aim is to provide a forum for students, faculty, alumni, thought leaders, and executives to explore and challenge ideas related to the topic at hand.”

The group discussion lasts roughly 35 minutes and is followed by a one-on-one interview with a Wharton admissions officer for about 10 minutes. Applicants are also given about a minute to express their thoughts before launching into the team discussion.

Steady your beating heart. We’ve got the scoop on how to ACE this new question and tips for how to prepare. First let’s breakdown what the Adcoms are looking for by changing up the question.

What’s the same? The Adcoms are still looking to learn about YOU, not your business vocabulary. In short, this approach offers them a more real-life simulation of how you work in a group setting. Interacting in a team is a KEY component of the Wharton MBA curriculum.

What’s different? What’s different and unique about this more pointed approach is you are given the space to “jump off the page” and prove why you are the applicant they want on their team.

Now let’s discuss how to tackle each part of this question.

1. How to address the 1 minute thought before the team discussion:

This is your elevator pitch. Adcoms want to see how well you can pitch a well-thought out idea to a team. You want your pitch and ideas on this topic to have a “wow” factor to them.

In particular, the question asks candidates to draw upon the diversity of the programs and organizations represented at Wharton. Think of this as the “Why Wharton?” part of your essay.

Each of you has already identified the groups and organizations you would want to join, and how you would contribute to the community. This is your chance to be creative… but not toooo out of box. For example, a high impact conference about Aliens maybe too out there. But one on technology’s ability to create a more connected world is just plain boring.

You want to clearly state X club you would choose and Y impact that you would choose to present. The applicant who nails this section will come across as confident but not practiced. It shouldn’t sound like you are reading a script; keep it natural.

2. The Team Discussion

After the elevator pitch you are given 35 minutes to discuss a high impact conference. How to approach this question is actually VERY similar to the second abstract question Wharton previously asked about a societal challenge and how the business community could address it.

The name of the game here is the same: positivity. You want to convey yourself as someone who’s thoughtful, yet open, about what the organization should address. Overall, the school is going to be looking for someone with their own innovative thoughts, who is a leader, and who knows how to persuade/convince others, but also knows when to go with the consensus as to not hold up a decision.

The goal is to look as if you are really interacting with the other applicants and working on a team. You know, that thing you do all the time at work. One way to do this is to let another person lead off with their idea – even if it is not what you pitched or prepared. Building off of someone else’s idea cleverly makes you look as if you are thinking on your feet and adding value. And if you disagree with something, say so! This is supposed to be an honest, real-life simulation. If you wouldn’t just blindly agree with an idea on a real-life group project, don’t do so here, either. So long as you back up your argument with smart reasoning (and avoid, you know, not stomping your feet and storming out of the room when you don’t get your way), you’ll be fine! Having an opinion is going to look a lot better than just being a “yes-man”.

I don’t think Wharton is looking for a class full of those.

At the end of the day, the key to rocking the Wharton Team Based Discussion is to treat it the same way you’d treat any Team Based Discussion you have a work, or in board meetings for that non-profit board you sit on, or when you’re planning a group trip with your college friends:

  • When you are presenting your viewpoint or trying to convince others, you should present some sort of a framework for the group to make their decisions
  • Remind your teammates about the criteria/factors they need to meet. It’s hard for them to argue that way 🙂
  • And don’t get thrown by what other applicants say! Remain calm, cool and cooperative. You want to make sure your voice is heard, but not step on anyone’s toes while doing so.

And finally, just remember that you do this eeevery day. You’ve got this.

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