Early Verdict On New Wharton Test

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

Invited round one applicants to Wharton are facing a new and novel admissions test: a team-based discussion

The early results of Wharton’s new team-based discussion format are now trickling back from mostly jittery round-one applicants who have sat through ordeal.

The early verdict on the Survivor-like test, which Wharton rolled out during the first week of the month? Based on interviews with admission consultants whose clients have already endured the unusual hurdle as well as a few invited applicants, the reaction is mostly positive.

But many report that their fellow applicants have been unnaturally, even painfully, polite during the 45-minute discussion and they’re leaving campus uncertain about their performance or their prospects for admission.


“People aren’t coming out feeling horribly negative,” says one consultant who preferred not to be quoted by name. “But they are saying that people are on high alert for politeness. Everyone is trying to be polite and respectful so it may not approximate reality.”

In the past, most applicants had a fairly good idea if they aced or bombed the interview. That’s less true with the new format, according to several participants. “People are a little bit bewildered,” says Angela Guido, a senior consultant with mbaMission. “Applicants had gone into the interview and had come out with a fairly strong sense of how well they did. This interaction is so different that people are not really sure.”

Wharton decided to add the novel test this year after a small pilot of the experience for about 30 round three candidates in the Class of 2014. The school expects to invite 40% to 45% of its applicants to the discussion followed by an admissions interview, though actual numbers will depend on the strength of the applicant pool in each round (See Wharton email invite to round one applicants).

Although one stated reason for the change was for Wharton to get applicants in “an unscripted environment,” MBA admissions consultants have quickly announced products to help applicants prep for the new test. The MBA Exchange, for example, has a half dozen simulated, video practice sessions for clients, while mbaMission created an online simulation for clients with two evaluators to critique communication, collaboration and demonstrated leadership skills.


In advance of the campus visits for both the discussion and a shorter one-on-one interview, invited applicants were given two “prompts” and asked to spend about an hour prepping a response to both issues. They are:

1) The Wharton School is committed to supporting our stakeholders as they acquire and refine the knowledge and skills they need to be successful professionally. As potential Wharton students, what is one key business skill that you think post-business school professionals must have in order to be successful, long-term, in their career?

2) The Wharton School’s mission is to enhance economic and social good around the world by turning knowledge into action and impact. What is the most important societal challenge that could be addressed more effectively by the business community today?

Typically, four to six applicants are put together in a room and given one of the two prompts. “The evaluators basically sit back and do nothing in the session,” says one applicant. “So we’re not getting any feedback during or after the session.”

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  • TFAtoMBA2016

    I did mine as well. although we had all type A people in my class. (from professional standpoint) Everyone was overly polite and acceptive of each others ideas (even if they were stupid). For example members of my group came up with an idea and in a friendly way, were insistent on that idea. I did my research before hand and knew wharton already had done something similar to that idea… but there is no upside in calling people out/making them look like the rest of the group didn’t do their homework, so I let it slide and said the typical wow great idea, this is how we can enhance it, etc.

    I do not know how it can screen out the jerk or A-hole since the GS/JPM/MA or MBB jerk or A-hole is smart enough to know how to play the game… we did have 3 foreigners but their english was fine.

    i too left thinking hm…how were we evaluated as we all should get 5s.

    a major wall street bank did team interviewers for college seniors for one year and then scrapped it…

    i’ve done other interviews over past weeks – K, Chi,Stan, Darden, Duke, Tuck, Columbia and really felt they knew more about me/my candidacy after.

    I’m on board with this counts in your file (but maybe 4%)…no smart adcom will dismiss you for using he more than she.

  • hbsguru

    “no smart adcom will dismiss you for using he more than she.”
    Well, I was just using a shorthand and no fairs prefacing that opinion with ‘no smart adcom’ –and even with smart ones, the flawed process makes for a trained ‘incapacity’ where they are looking for reasons to ding you [considering that they ding 60 pct of the group]. Also many adcoms and MORE SO, the kind of students who volunteer for this gig, run more PC than the average Wharton citizen. I don’t think too many Wolves Of Wall Street [a large Wharton cohort, or cert. wannabes] are volunteering for this. More the HR and do-gooder consultant types. Also, Adcoms run PC and cis-feminine to begin with, and if you thoughtlessly used ‘he’ instead of ‘she’, and there were other stray un-PC pixels in your picture, e.g. the way you looked, talked, the fact you were cis-Male, etc, it all could crystalize out in some subtle and unfair way. There are also lots of variants of that scenario. .

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