MBA Preparation, Additional Services

6 tactics for success in Wharton “team-based discussion”

November 20 2012 By The MBA Exchange
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Having facilitated 6 groups of Wharton applicants practicing for this new admissions test, The MBA Exchange has observed first-hand how individuals can succeed and fail. Simulating the actual sessions held at Wharton, we introduced a discussion topic and then scored applicants’ performance on several dimensions. There was no single technique that prevailed, but rather a variety of approaches to be considered.

How do I do my best? Here are 6 suggestions for tactics and behaviors for the team discussion that we believe could make all the difference to your Wharton candidacy:

1. Prep for the prompts, but don’t overprepare

Wharton provides two “prompts” or discussion topics in advance. Study these and prepare a compelling 60-second opening statement. But don’t script additional comments because you’ll never use them. The focus and dynamics of the conversation change instantly and dramatically based on comments from teammates. So, stay nimble and conversational. And don’t rely solely on your opinions or theories. Have some hard evidence, personal examples and facts to share.

2. Be succinct, gracious and flexible

How you say it is just as important as what you say. So, don’t make pronouncements! Rather, pose questions to your teammates that tee-up the NEXT comment and facilitate group discussion. And don’t fight for “air time” – earn it. Interrupting others or totaling disregarding what the prior speaker said is just plain rude.

3. Break silences and bridge gaps

There will be moments when the discussion hits a dead end. The silence can be deafening! And, at other times, viewpoints expressed can be so different that the dialogue comes to a screeching halt. Leaders step up to energize the conversation when it bogs down. Be the one who finds the common ground and “re-boots” the discussion for the team.

4. Challenge others, professionally and productively

Confront teammates who are most vocal or who advocate the strongest position. Everyone sees them trying to dominate, so be the hero who looks them in the eye and asks them – politely but firmly — to validate their position. Also, you’ll score bonus points for being the one who draws out those who are quietest. Invite them to share their thoughts with the rest of the group.

5. Manage your body language to go beyond your words

You never know when the adcom is observing you. Attentiveness, self-confidence and enthusiasm are demonstrated in your posture and facial expression. Lean forward, establish eye contact, and don’t be afraid to smile! Show sincere interest in teammates when they speak. They’ll return the favor in kind.

6. Drive consensus and closure for all

Team discussions can be spirited, even competitive at times. As the clock winds down to 10 minutes, 5 minutes, then 1 minute, it’s essential for someone to synthesize what’s been said and to present a hypothesis for a shared conclusion. If you sense that the session is coming to an end without closure, help your teammates reach a positive ending together. What do I do next? If the above 6 tips resonate with you, consider the value of our Wharton team-based discussion sessions. Participation is anonymous (through the use of nicknames). Not only will you gain real-time experience interacting with other applicants, you’ll also receive individualized feedback from admissions experts and have the chance to review your own performance in a password-protected video recording of the session. The Wharton team-based discussion is an exciting opportunity for serious applicants to distinguish themselves and impress the adcom. For more information, email us at