Ace the Wharton MBA Interview | Ultimate Guide for Wharton TBDs

Wharton MBA Interview

The Wharton MBA interview is unlike any other MBA interview. It consists of two components, a ‘Team Based Discussion’ that lasts for 45 minutes and a regular Personal Interview that lasts for 10 – 15 minutes.

This format is based on the Team Based Discussion pedagogy that Wharton follows in its classes.

This unique format is designed to model the highly collaborative and yet competitive experience at Wharton. Such an interview gives the admission committee a true glimpse of the fit between an applicant and the school.

As an applicant, your aim is to express who you are and how you can contribute towards a goal as part of a team.

Wharton MBA Interview Format:

Shortly after an applicant receives an interview invite from Wharton, the admission committee notifies the applicant of a short ‘prompt’ for the ‘Team Based Discussion’.

As an applicant, you must prepare a short 1 minute pitch to describe your take on the topic.
When the applicants reach the location of the interview, they are grouped into teams of 5-6 members.

Each team gets a total time of 45 minutes to discuss and present a final presentation on the topic.

Wharton students that are trained admissions fellows monitor the applicants during the discussion, presentation and conduct the interview.

In these 45 minutes:
– First, each of the members are expected to give their 1 minute introduction turn by turn.
– This is followed by a discussion for the next 30 minutes.
– The team must agree upon a single pitch to present to the panel during this discussion.
– The last 10 minutes are reserved for the presentation.

Post these 45 minutes, each applicant is individually interviewed for another 10 minutes.

Clearly this format has been designed such that it helps the admission fellows to understand how someone will contribute during their time at the school. Each of the five applicants bring their own idea to the discussion. The real challenge is for the applicants to perform collaboratively as a team and have a constructive discussion that ultimately settle on one single idea for the presentation.

Wharton MBA Interview Invitations:

For the Wharton 2019 intake, round 2 – the interview invites will roll out on 7th February as per the admissions website. Following the invites, the applicants will be able to book a session for their interview dates.

Last year, during the same rounds, the interview sessions were conducted between Feb 14 and Mar 2.

This year, on checking the Wharton website, a notable observation is that no campus visits are scheduled between February 11 and March 11. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that the interview sessions will be conducted in this timeline.

Wharton MBA Interview Location:

Wharton offers a set of interview locations to applicants and they can choose to interview at the campus or at any of the cities that Wharton conducts the TBDs on.

The teams for the TBDs are made randomly based on the location, date and time that an applicant chooses.

Wharton MBA Interview Acceptance Rate:

Based on an estimate, the acceptance rate at Wharton is more or less 20%.
The school interviews roughly 40% of its applicants.

Hence, 2 to 3 applicants per group should receive an admit.

However, the TBDs are more like a sport. It can be expected that victory or defeat is for the entire team. This is why, it is crucial to have a mindset of collaboration and not competition. As an applicant, you aren’t competing against each other in your team. Instead, you’re competing against other teams.

Wharton Team Based Discussions

Excelling at a TBD is the foundation for successful admission to Wharton and also to a successful MBA experience at Wharton.

Team Based Discussion Topics:

As an example, for the previous round, Wharton’s TBD prompt was:

“For many students, the global perspective fostered by Wharton’s international community is brought into focus through immersive learning opportunities like Global Modular Courses (GMCs). GMCs are full-credit courses in an intensive workshop format that take place in a location relevant to the topic.

For the purpose of this discussion, consider yourself part of a group of students invited to design a new GMC. As a team, agree upon a topic to explore then plan a four-day course in a location or locations relevant to that topic. Provide opportunities for academic and cultural immersion experiences while keeping in mind logistical constraints and clearly articulating your course’s desired outcomes.”

Again, the admissions committee has chosen a topic that could very well be expected during the Wharton MBA experience after an applicant receives an admit.

Team Based Discussion Preparation:

The TBD mainly comprises of three parts:

  • First, the 1 minute pitch on the discussion prompt by the applicant
  • Next, the 35 minutes discussion
  • Finally, the 10 minutes oral presentation

Tips to preparing the pitch on the prompt

The first part of the TBD is completely under your control as an applicant. If you can come up with a pitch that is strong enough to be accepted by the group, then you have automatically gained some brownie points. Here are some tips to prepare for your pitch:

  • It is extremely important to research the topic and collect all the relevant information that will be needed to do an analysis and achieve the objective of the prompt. One applicant reported being asked to identify a lifelong – learning opportunity for Wharton alumni and suggest a mode of implementation.
  • For topics like these, you can refer to the Wharton website and find the already existing initiatives to ensure that your idea hasn’t already been executed.
  • Once you have collected all the information, develop a clear concise pitch. This is your first iteration of preparation.
  • The first iteration sets a base for the applicant to receive feedback an further develop the idea. The best way to receive this feedback is to brainstorm with other people.
    As an applicant, you could reach out to other applicants on forums like GMAT Club and do mock TBDs with them
    You could also connect with actual Wharton students and alumni and conduct TBDs with them to get their feedback on the idea

Tips for the Team Based Discussion

The second part of the TBD is the discussion with team members. This is the true test of the applicant’s ability to work as a team member and deliver a result towards a common goal. Here are some tips to ace the discussion:

  • If your pitch is picked, kudos! Your task now is to work with the team to flesh more ideas into the skeletal concept. This presents an opportunity for you to be a leader that can include every member of the team in the discussion and also bring out their best.
  • If your pitch isn’t selected, jump ship and pivot to the pitch that you believed to be best. This will present you with the opportunity to gain support from the other team members towards the topic you’ve chosen. This might actually be as important as being the leader of the group.
  • All the team members are going to be Alpha – type personalities with a highly competitive mindset. This might suddenly turn the discussion into a rat race for hogging the focus of the discussion by speaking for the higher amount of time.
    This is a major red flag. As explained an admissions fellow, an applicant should only speak when they have a really important point that constructively adds value to the discussion. It is not important to agree with everything that the other team members are proposing.
  • Instead it is important to be a good listener and have the ability to give and receive feedback constructively. Applicants must show the flexibility to accommodate other people’s ideas into the discussion. An applicant very aptly described this in a single line as, “My tips would be to just be friendly, listen to other people, only speak if you have a point to make, and be succinct when you do speak.”
  • Use the whiteboard and have one member constantly document all the ideas on the board so that it is useful for all the members in the final presentation.

This discussion is followed by a final 10 minute presentation. You can mutually decide if this presentation will be given by a single team member or by 2-4 members part by part. It is not recommended to have all the members take part in this exercise as the objective is to deliver a compelling pitch and not an inclusive one.

Wharton MBA Personal Interview

The one on one interview that follows after the TBD is akin to any standard MBA interview.

Since a major chunk of time is spent in the TBD itself, the PI is limited to 10-15 minutes max. Accordingly, previous applicants have reported that they were only asked standard behavioral question and typical MBA interview questions as can be expected in any interview.

Some of these questions are:

  • Questions focusing on the MBA journey of the applicant
    • Why do you want to do an MBA?
    • What is your post – MBA goals and how will an MBA help you in achieving it?
    • Why did you choose Wharton?
    • What do you hope to gain at Wharton?
  • Questions focusing on the work experience of the applicant
    • Tell us about a project X?
    • What did you learn from it?
    • What could you have done differently?
  • Questions focusing on applicant’s self-evaluation
    • Tell us about a time you managed a team? (Leadership)
    • Give us an example of a conflict that you handled
    • What kind of a leader are you?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • How will you contribute to the class? (Diversity)

You can get an entire compilation of interview questions in another post on our blog by filling this form:

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