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Wharton May Add New Admissions Test

Ankur Kumar, director of admissions at Wharton

Wharton is actively considering a significant change to the way it evaluates applicants to its MBA program, Poets&Quants has learned.

After a pilot test of the new process for select third round MBA candidates, the school is evaluating feedback from participants and admissions staff to decide whether to make it a required part of the application process next year.

The test involved inviting groups of six third round candidates to campus for a recreation of an interactive discussion in an MBA classroom. The test informed some of Wharton’s third round decisions, which were released on Tuesday (May 8). Admits have until early June to inform the school of their decisions. Wharton will have a one-day open house for those admits on June 1st.

Wharton initially tried out the experiment with current MBA students before launching it a few weeks ago for approximately 30 third round applicants. In an email invitation obtained by Poets&Quants, the school said, “The new team-based discussion will allow candidates to have the opportunity to interact with fellow applicants in a lively and thoughtful discussion based on a real-world business scenario.

WHARTON TESTS A TEAM-BASED DISCUSSION TO SEE HOW APPLICANTS ‘APPROACH AND THINK ABOUT CERTAIN SITUATIONS’

“Our hope is that through a team-based discussion, applicants will not only be able to present how they approach and think about certain situations, but will also have a chance to experience, firsthand, the team work experience and group learning dynamic that is central to our program.”

Ankur Kumar, Wharton’s director of admissions, said the school decided to do the test to gain insight on a candidate’s ability to work well with others. “At Wharton,” she said, “teamwork is an integral part of the experience. In fact, we were doing some research and found our students were a part of 15 different teams inside and outside the classroom during their two years here.”

She would not disclose the topic of the team-based discussion. “There was a prompt to initiate the discussion,” she said. “It’s not just discussion for discussion’s sake. They have to draw a conclusion to it. A member of the admissions team was in the room with them and keyed up the dialogue but it is really around having the candidates interact together and lead the discussion themselves.”

‘THIS IS AN EXCITING AND INNOVATIVE TACTIC BY WHARTON’

Some admission consultants had a favorable reaction to the test. “This is an exciting and innovative tactic by Wharton to help them make more informed choices among applicants,” said Dan Bauer, managing director and founder of The MBA Exchange. “Given that the participating group will be fellow applicants equally unfamiliar with the MBA classroom, this is as much of a study in leadership as teamwork. Along with the application, recommendations, essays and interview, this is one more platform for a confident applicant to demonstrate the value that he or she would add to the class if admitted. We hope that Wharton expands this practice for future applicants and that other schools follow their lead.”

The invitations to take part in the experiment had been sent to applicants by Wharton’s admissions office as well as the office of the vice dean for innovation. Wharton Dean Thomas Robertson created the new innovation post in 2010, naming professor Karl Ulrich to the job.

Kumar said the pilot was successful, but the school has yet to decide whether to make the evaluation a new part of its application for admission next year. “We’re always looking to evolve our application process,” she told Poets&Quants. “We’re in this stage now of accumulating and digesting all the feedback. It was fantastic to see the concept brought to life and see how the applicants responded and engaged with each other.”