All you need to know about the Wharton Interview: Team Based Discussion
Ranked #3 in both the QS and US News Rankings for 2023, Wharton is one of the consistently high-ranking members of the M7 group of business schools. All applicants invited to interview with Wharton participate in the Team-Based Discussion (TBD).
If you have been invited for an interview, well done to have gotten this far–only ~40% of applicants make it to the interview stage! Before you begin, it’s important to learn about how Wharton structures its team-based discussion, important deadlines, and what Wharton is looking for in its candidates.
In this Wharton TBD Guide, we will introduce you to each part of the Wharton Team Based Discussion, and our advice for how to tackle these to secure an admit.
The Wharton TBD Process
According to Wharton, the TBD is a chance for students to participate in the highly collaborative environment that one would experience at Wharton; it is an opportunity to demonstrate how you function as a member of a team and how you approach problems and present your ideas.
All Wharton TBDs are conducted online. They consist of 5-6 participants (that is, you and 4-5 others), all randomly selected. Each year there is a different prompt for the discussion, where you will use your negotiation and communication skills to work towards what Wharton describes as a “tangible outcome.”
There are 4 stages of your 35-minute TBD timeline:
Pitch: Kicking off the discussion, each participant presents a pitch based on the prompt (1 minute)
Discussion: The group discusses the prompt and takes input from each participant (25 minutes)
Presentation: A formal group presentation summarizing your group’s idea (5 minutes)
Interview: A short 1-to-1 interview with a Wharton representative (10 minutes)
For each stage, your team will be responsible for watching the clock and sticking to the allocated time. You won’t be given reminders.
The AdCom wants to assess your adaptability and collaborative approach in a team setting. They want to see that you can bring a respectful, inclusive attitude to a diverse group where each participant brings their unique ideas to the table. This includes encouraging quieter team members to speak up, respectfully expressing any disagreements, demonstrating your ideas without denigrating others’, and building consensus.
The discussion prompt itself is not meant to catch you out: every year, it’s a specific and topical question about Wharton’s offering as a school, and there’s usually a chance for participants to lean their pitch towards a particular industry.
The Wharton TBD Topic (2023-2024)
In 2019, Wharton introduced the Wharton Global Youth Program (WGYP) which offers online and on-campus programs, credit-bearing courses, and business competitions to young people. WGYP introduces business education to high school students around the world with the goal to educate and inspire pre-collegiate students to analyze the world’s complex challenges and take first steps in becoming leaders who will transform the global economy.
One of WGYP’s most unique offerings is the Pre-Baccalaureate (Pre-bacc) Program, an academically intensive opportunity for exceptional high school juniors and seniors to enroll in credit-bearing courses that span the breadth of Wharton’s business curriculum. Through a mix of live and independent coursework, engaging real-world activities, and robust university resources, students will experience a world-class education recognized globally for intellectual leadership and innovation. Pre-bacc courses are created and led by Wharton faculty and instructional staff to explore topics driven by Wharton research and teaching. Pre-bacc students may also have the opportunity to interact with Wharton students who serve as Teaching Assistants.
For today’s discussion, you and a team of MBA students have been invited to partner with a Wharton faculty member to design a new course on a cutting-edge business topic for WGYP’s pre-baccalaureate program.
–Name of the course
–An overview of the course topics and themes
–The faculty member your team will partner with for the course
–Two learning outcomes (skills or knowledge that will be developed during the course)
–An assessment method (how you will demonstrate that students have achieved the learning outcomes)
Ace Each Stage of the Wharton TBD Interview
1) Introduction pitch (1 minute)
Wharton advises participants to arrive 10 minutes early to the TBD. This gives you the opportunity to speak to other TBD participants before the actual event. Don’t start discussing the prompt already, just small talk! Then, you’ll be asked to give your 1-minute pitch.
Focus on clarity over detail: In your 1 minute intro pitch, don’t try to address every piece of detail. You’ll be forced to speak too fast, and your teammates won’t fully understand you.
Research around the topic: In the case of the 2023-24 prompt, you’ll want to learn about the WGYP, Wharton’s current offerings in other programs, and how these might be adapted to the WGYP.
Introductions: You may want to start by sharing your name, but don’t introduce yourself in depth.
Use your narrative: Align your choice of topic with your application narrative. Eg. If your application narrative was infrastructure related, that would be a good choice of pitch topic.
Practice: Test your pitch on others before the TBD, and ask them afterwards to repeat back what they understood from your pitch.
Get help: If you need help with creating your 1 minute pitch, talk to one of our admissions experts.
2) Group discussion (25 minutes)
After each team member has given their pitch, the group discussion starts.
Typically, the discussion starts with choosing which person’s idea to go with, or a blend of people’s ideas. We know from experience that if two (or more) people pitched similar ideas, that topic tends to be the topic chosen by the group.
If the topic you pitched is selected by the group, the onus is on you to share your detailed research. In the case of the 2023-24 prompt, you’d share the relevant faculty names etc. Remember, this does not make you the group’s “leader” and doesn’t mean you should be talking more than others overall.
More advice for the group discussion:
Be constructive: You are not expected to agree with everything the others say, but focus on constructive ways to give feedback and criticism. It’s also crucial to accept constructive comments from your team about your ideas without taking these personally.
Speak at the appropriate times. Everyone is given a chance to speak, and there is rarely any reason to interrupt or talk over others. This is a chance to show that you “play nice”, not a chance to show off.
Facilitate the discussion: Besides contributing ideas, you can facilitate the discussion by keeping track of time and bringing others into the conversation if they’re being quiet.
Talking time: You want to be the person who talks not most, nor least. In the middle is best. If you find yourself talking more than others, bring someone else into the conversation.
Smile, you’re on camera! Discussions over Zoom, just like video interviews, can bring up other challenges. Read our guide on video interviews for some applicable tips. Watch for issues such as time lag that may lead to people speaking over one another by accident.
Use a clear, neutral background in your room and dress in smart casual. Gentlemen, that means a shirt, no tie.
3) The presentation (5 minutes)
Since there are 5 parts to the prompt in 2023-24, most groups decide to allocate one point for each member of the group. For example:
Applicant 1: Introduction + Name of the course
Applicant 2: An overview of the course topics and themes
Applicant 3: The faculty member your team will partner with for the course
Applicant 4: Two learning outcomes (skills or knowledge that will be developed during the course)
Applicant 5: An assessment method (how you will demonstrate that students have achieved the learning outcomes)
Some suggestions for how to impress during your part of the presentation.
Keep it simple: Give your part of the presentation based only on your notes from the group discussion.
Be mindful of the clock: The biggest mistake you can make here is taking too long and stealing time from other speakers.
Handovers: Hand over to the next speaker using their name. E.g. “Now, I’m going to pass over to Michelle to talk about the assessment method”.
4) The 1-to-1 Interview (10 minutes)
After the presentation, TBD participants will be taken into Zoom breakout rooms for 10-minute 1-to-1 interviews with a Wharton representative (alum or admissions officer). You will not be given any information about these interviewers or their backgrounds before the interview.
Most 10-minute interviews consist of two questions, with a chance to ask 1 question of your own. These are the questions we’ve seen in the past:
1. What was your most significant contribution to the TBD today?
Your contribution might have been your idea, bringing someone quiet into the discussion, or taking on a major part of the presentation.
2. What do you think was the biggest challenge for the team in the TBD today?
Be honest, but not too honest. If you think a colleague was uncollaborative, be diplomatic. Instead, focus on the initiative you’ve taken in the discussion.
3. Why an MBA?
Discuss the skills you need and how an MBA can give you those skills. Remember to be completely consistent with your application essays.
4. Why Wharton?
Discuss the classes, clubs, treks, trips, professors etc that will make Wharton a good fit for you. Again, be consistent with your application essays.
Finally, you’ll be given a chance to ask a question of your own. It is good to have a few questions prepared. For inspiration, we created a list of questions to ask your interviewer in 28 Questions to ask your MBA interviewer.
Wharton TBD / Interview Schedule (2023-24)
September 06, 2023
October 24, 2023
December 14, 2023
January 04, 2024
February 16, 2024
March 26, 2024
April 02, 2024
April 19, 2024
May 13, 2024
You will receive more specific instructions, including the TBD prompt, when you receive the Wharton Interview invitation.
The Wharton TBD is a unique interview format, built to test the leadership and team-building skills that you have been developing throughout your career. Be relaxed, diplomatic and adaptable, and you’ll do well.
Every year, we host mock team based discussions, and we strongly recommend joining to hone your pitch and discussion style. To learn more about the Wharton TBD, speak with one of our expert admissions consultants.