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Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview, Part III

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“Wharton really values decisions backed up by data, so when you make a point, support it with facts,” he says. “As you make your way through the given scenario, be sure to take logical steps from one point to the next and communicate your thought process when it’s relevant.”

In a group exercise, it can be easy to get sidetracked by details. “Always keep the big picture in mind,” Brown urges. “You can also consider these team-based discussions are a good test of emotional intelligence. Testing your ability to read the group dynamic, allowing you to determine your most effective role within the group. Should you lead, should you listen and contribute only when appropriate, should you facilitate and draw others into the conversation?”

What’s Wharton really after with the TBD? “You want to show the Admissions Committee that you work well in a team environment, can adapt and show a keen sense of understanding not only of the problem at hand, but of the dynamics of the group as the discussion unfolds. Oftentimes the most important skill you will need is the ability to listen, before contribution,” Brown says.

“The other interesting aspect to this type of interview is that it is really hard to prepare for,” he notes. Prepping the specific scenario is obviously important, but this does not help you much in terms of how to contribute as part of a group situation made up of similarly motivated peers who all want the same outcome, he says. “Having a good sense of self awareness and being able to correct your own tendencies will be extremely important,” Brown advises.

Even with the implementation of the TBD—which, incidentally, is required for admission—Wharton still gives applicants an opportunity for a short one-on-one conversation with an admissions team member immediately following the team exercise. Often, the first questions applicants are asked as part of this one-on-one interview pertain to how they think they did during the TBD. But these brief individual interviews also provide an opportunity for applicants to make their case for admission. “This is a great chance to share your story, goals, career plan and passion for the school,” Brown says. “Treat this portion of the interview as you would treat any of your blind interviews.” he offers.

Ross Rolls Out Its Own Group Interview

Other schools, of course, were paying attention to Wharton’s debut of the TBD, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has since followed suit, launching its own version of a team-based exercise in 2013.

“The group interview is designed to give us insight into your teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills,” Ross Director of Admissions Soojin Kwon said in a video blog. “We will be observing the group’s discussion and the communications within the group.” That said, group interview is a bit of a misnomer, she adds, since Ross will be evaluating participants as individuals, not as a group, and since no questions will be asked.

The exercise lasts for 30 minutes, with the first 10 devoted to introductions and an icebreaker. Each participant will be given two random words to weave into a 60-second story to share with the group, Kwon says. Applicant reports from past years have indicated that one of the words has been a place and the other a thing (e.g. fire station and cheese or grocery store and tree). During the remaining 20 minutes, the members of the group will work together to connect their word pairs into a business challenge and solution they then present to the group’s observers, second-year Ross MBAs who have been trained for the job.

Lena Maratea
Lena Maratea is the Digital Marketing Manager at Clear Admit. She's a South Philadelphia native who graduated from Temple University’s Fox School of Business with a BBA in Marketing. She creates and curates essential digital content for the Clear Admit community.