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Eight Tips to Ace the Wharton TBD—From Applicants Who’ve Been There

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Many of you are in the throes of preparing for Wharton’s team-based discussion (TBD), so we combed Clear Admit’s Interview Archive and compiled the following pieces of advice from applicants who have gone through it. Please, as you experience the Wharton TBD yourself, feel free to add you own insights by submitting an interview report. Best of luck!

Eight Tips to Ace the Wharton TBD

  1. Don’t Spend Hours Researching Your Topic in Advance
    As tempting as it is to be as absolutely prepared as possible, there are diminishing returns when it comes to researching your topic ahead of time. “There really is no time to get that deep,” wrote one applicant. “Have an idea of partners to meet with, timelines, course content and overall value that the course would provide. There is no way to really prepare 100 percent for the TBD because so much of it is just interactive.”
  2. Arrive Early
    In addition to keeping stress levels low heading into the exercise, arriving with time to spare on the day of the Wharton TBD can also provide valuable opportunities to get to know your team. “I arrived about ten minutes early,” wrote one applicant. “This gave me time to socialize with my team ahead of time, and I can’t recommend this strongly enough. Knowing each person’s name as well as a bit about them made our overall discussion much simpler.”
    “I interviewed in the morning and got to the room about 30 minutes early, along with several other applicants,” wrote another. “I believe most people had gotten a chance to introduce themselves to nearly everyone else beforehand, which made it easier when we got in the room.”
  3. Be Succinct
    Participants are asked to provide their opening idea in one minute or less, but many fail to adhere to this limit. “You would be surprised how many people do not stick to that,” wrote another applicant. “I think out of the five of us, only one to two people really stuck within the 60-second rule. One person even rambled on for four minutes or so…which ate into the time that we had left to discuss the task.”
  4. Don’t Speak Just to Hear Yourself Talk
    Another applicant shared about a group that was not very cohesive, resulting in the exercise feeling extremely scattered and rushed. “Two members of my group spoke as often as possible, often without adding a lot to the discussion,” the applicant wrote. “My advice is to really focus on interjecting when you have something very meaningful to say, and to avoid rambling on.”
  5. Keep a Close Eye on the Time
    Designate a time keeper—or volunteer for that role yourself. “The team-based discussion went quickly,” stressed one applicant. “My recommendation is to keep a close eye on the time.” This applicant went on to suggest putting a hard stop on refining your idea at seven or so minutes out from the limit, to leave time to plan out who will present what.
  6. Constructive Disagreement Is Not Bad
    Sure, you want to be agreeable and open to other people’s ideas to demonstrate your abilities to work as part of a team. But don’t take that so far that you don’t truly debate ideas. “Disagreeing is not bad if you do it constructively,” wrote one applicant. “You don’t all need to think everything everyone else says is the best idea ever conceived.”
  7. Use the Whiteboard—But Don’t Over Use It
    Strategic use of the whiteboard serves to keep track of ideas while also keeping your team on track. “It will make the presentation go much more smoothly if you have everyone looking at the same notes,” recommends one applicant. That said, don’t default to having the person at the white board take on the entire presentation. “Although we agreed that we would each present a different section of the idea, the person at the whiteboard ended up presenting most of the idea,” the applicant cautioned.
  8. Be Authentic
    This tip echoes the earlier point that not all disagreement is bad. “Everyone was very bright and articulate, but there was not an ounce of truth in the encounter,” wrote an applicant describing a less-than-ideal experience. “I am a very positive person and leader, but I cringed as everyone offered artificial affirmations at every opportunity,” the applicant continued. “Everyone would say, ‘Great idea!’ when someone suggested that we take the caps off our pens before attempting to write.” At the same time, the applicant continued, it also felt like everyone was looking for a way to show off everything they knew without showing off everything they knew.

So, there you have it, straight from your fellow applicants. For more advice on approaching the Wharton TBD, don’t miss this recent post: Confidentiality Warning Keeps MBA Applicants Mum on Wharton TBD Prompt

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