Wharton MBA Interview Guide: The Team-Based Discussion (TBD)

All you need to succeed on Wharton's Team-Based Discussion Interview component, including strategies and prompts from past years.

Posted May 10, 2024

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What Is the Team-Based Discussion Interview?

The TBD is a 35-minute exercise with five or six applicants that are randomly assigned to a team. Each applicant has already been provided with a prompt, and all applicants in the group work together to create an actionable solution. After the TBD exercise has concluded, each applicant will have a ten-minute individual interview with a member of the AdCom on why they want to attend Wharton. Currently, all TBD interviews and the subsequent one-on-ones are being held virtually.

For the virtual TBD interviews, applicants are typically allowed to join the Zoom call about ten minutes early. Do this. It gives you time to get to know the other people on your team and feel more comfortable. And remember: you as a team are competing against other teams; you are not competing against the other individuals in your group. Going in with that mindset will help you work more cooperatively and effectively.

Top Tips for the TBD

Your TBD and one-on-one interviews will be scheduled well ahead of time, giving you ample time to prepare. On its website, the Wharton School suggests several things to keep in mind:

  • Show your skills and strengths – Think about what you have done to improve your past teams’ work and performance. What can you bring to this experience?
  • Adaptability is key – Remember to stay adaptable and be a team player.
  • Be yourself – You are not expected to fit into one specific role; be yourself and show off the strengths that you personally bring to the table.
  • Relax – Getting to the interview is itself an accomplishment. Remember how far you have come and go into the interview with confidence and excitement!

In addition to these tips from Wharton, we’ve compiled a list of the best advice from MBA coach experts. If you’re currently applying for or preparing to interview for Wharton, see our University of Pennsylvania coaches here.

1. Contribute, Don’t Dominate

During the TBD interview, there will be several admissions committee members observing to see how the activity goes and to analyze each applicant for their fit with what Wharton is looking for. One thing they want to see is active participation without completely controlling the conversation. In other words, they want to see a team player. Don’t cut others off, make sure everyone is heard, and contribute meaningfully in areas where you can add value.

One strategy that some teams implement is defining roles ahead of time. For example, one participant would take the role of “timekeeper” and another “the facilitator” or “the presenter.” Delineating this ahead of time ensures that everyone has a job to do and often makes the team cooperate more effectively.

2. Show Innovation with Creative Solutions

One of the core Wharton values is innovation and this is part of what is tested in the TBD. The prompts are generally fairly open-ended and provide plenty of opportunities for unique solutions. Work with your team to approach the problem in a different way than others might to show this skill. You can also leverage unique problem-solving experiences from your past during your post-TBD, one-on-one interview. Give examples of the problems you’ve faced, how you approached them, what you did to find innovative solutions, and the impact they made.

3. Prepare Ahead of Time

If your pitch ends up being chosen, you want to have more information on it readily available. For this reason, we recommend preparing some background knowledge in support of your idea. To the AdCom, this shows that you are prepared and it also provides you with more time to prove your expertise and interest. However, you also want to be able to build something with your team, so you do NOT need a fully fleshed-out idea. Instead, spend the time researching and understanding the question/topic well so that you have the background to analyze the other ideas’ potential for success and viability.

4. Be A Leader and Be Yourself

The name of the game with these interviews is collaboration. As you begin to interact with your fellow team members, think about what strategies might help them contribute. It is much better to be guiding the conversation and helping others contribute than to be the person who only wants their idea to be chosen. Remember, a leader doesn’t necessarily need to have the loudest voice in the room; rather, it should be someone who is able to heighten the quality of the experience for everyone by highlighting each individual’s strengths.

It is equally as important, if not more so, to make sure that you stay true to yourself through the TBD. Wharton is a smaller business program and it certainly does not want all of its MBA candidates to be carbon copies of each other. Act in a way that makes your personal strengths shine through. If you’re the idea-generator, show that! Whatever your skills, show the AdCom members that you bring something entirely unique to your candidacy.

5. Be Flexible

For this interview, it’s important to remember that there is no one right answer. As such, both your and your team members’ pitches will not be a perfect solution. Be flexible as you work together to find improvements. Do not get too attached to your idea or that of someone else, as that will make you seem stubborn and difficult to work with. Adjust the idea as you get more information and as the team discussion involves.

Bonus: Prepare to Succeed Virtually

In some ways, virtual interviews can be much more difficult than their in-person counterparts. You don’t get the ability to interact with your team in person and it’s harder to convey and interpret body language. To counteract this, make sure that you are making eye contact with the other team members. Look at the camera on your computer screen rather than at yourself. Also, sit somewhere with good (preferably natural) lighting and a clean background. Behave in the same manner as you would in person, namely, sit up straight, smile, and nod to show you’re listening.

The other difficulty of virtual interviews is the devices themselves. Make sure that you have silenced your phone and computer notifications. In addition, check your wifi signal and audio before the call so that the others can hear you crisp and clear throughout the activity. Charge your computer beforehand or have a charger nearby and readily accessible. Lastly, as mentioned above, join the call ten minutes early to meet the other participants and double-check your wifi and video connection.

For more advice on virtual interviews, read How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview.

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Wharton’s Previous TBD Prompts

Here are some of the prompts from previous years to help you as you prepare and practice for the interview.

2021-2022

For this last application cycle, candidates were asked to create the new Alternate Reality Course (ARC) for the MBA curriculum. It would be part of the newly launched Wharton Interactive venture, which attempts to gamify classes through interactive simulations.

After being provided context, the prompt asked the team to decide on the following:

  1. The course’s name and Wharton department
  2. An overview of the business problem and/or scenario of the game
  3. Two learning objectives (what you will learn from the ARC)
  4. Two practice objectives (what you will experience in the ARC that you would also see in the real world)

2020-2021

Two years ago, candidates were asked to create a new young alumni engagement program. The Wharton School’s alumni include over 99,000 individuals around the world. Alumni engagement is pivotal to the Wharton journey and the alumni relations team is constantly working to create opportunities for and enrich the lives of its alumni, especially younger ones. These young alumni have unique needs and desires, such as staying connected virtually, philanthropy opportunities, and understanding their alumni benefits.

After being given this information, they were then asked to do the following:

  1. Identify the resources and human capital you will need in order to establish the program
  2. Create a campaign strategy to advertise and promote the program (especially to the global, young alumni base)
  3. Choose at least two key performance indicators to measure the success of the program

2019-2020

Three years ago, the TBD interview focused on the recent $25 million gift that would be put towards the construction of a transformative new building. Dubbed “Tangen Hall,” it was the first-ever space dedicated completely to entrepreneurship on-campus. The University of Pennsylvania wanted Tangen Hall to be a space that could foster innovative ideas that would transform the future of business. The building was set to be completed in the fall of 2020 and would span 70,000 square feet.

For the team-based discussion, the applicants were asked to create a one-day program for the unveiling of Tangen Hall. It should promote the hall and Wharton’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation. As part of the TBD, the students were asked to do the following:

  1. Determine and define the target audience and the number of invitations
  2. Choose a keynote speaker and the programming for the day, including at least one interactive workshop and KPIs to measure success
  3. Provide unique experiential opportunities to highlight all the resources within Tangen Hall

Nail Your TBD With the Help of an Expert

In addition to Wharton coaches, we also have coaches that are experts in the interview process. You can view them here. In addition to our world-class coaches, we have many resources to help you with every part of the application process in our Leland Library.

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