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Inside the MBA Application: the Behavioral Assessment

Laurel Grodman, managing director of admissions, discusses what candidates need to know about the newest component of the Yale SOM MBA application.

Laurel GrodmanCandidates who have started an application for the Yale SOM full-time MBA Class of 2022 may have noticed a unique feature of our admissions process: the Behavioral Assessment. This newest component of the Yale SOM application, which has been years in the making, has been rolled out to all applicants for this admissions cycle. We caught up with Laurel Grodman, managing director of admissions, to hear the story behind the assessment and how the Admissions Committee plans to use it when evaluating candidates.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the Behavioral Assessment?

The Behavioral Assessment is an online tool that measures a set of inter- and intrapersonal competencies that are associated with success in business school. It is administered by ETS, the testing service behind the GRE. The test itself should take about 20 to 25 minutes to complete and uses a forced-choice format, meaning candidates will be given 120 pairs of statements and must select the ones that best matches their own behaviors. The test is adaptive, so no two test-takers will receive the exact same set of statements.

Why introduce this as a part of the Yale SOM application?

Our interest in the Behavioral Assessment is rooted in our goal of enrolling a diverse group of students with wide-ranging interests and backgrounds who are going to thrive during their time at Yale SOM and beyond. In support of this, we’re always seeking new and innovative ways to look at our applicants outside of traditional metrics like test scores and academics. Obviously, these are both useful and predictive measures of a student’s success, but we also recognize that an applicant’s candidacy can’t be boiled down to these numbers alone. We’re interested in looking at non-cognitive abilities that can help us identify high-potential candidates, whose testing and prior academics may not otherwise suggest that they will perform well in the program. In this regard, the Behavioral Assessment is particularly appealing as an admissions tool; unlike an essay or interview question that is open to individual interpretation, it looks at these traits in a way that is fair, consistent, and measurable.

So, this has been years in the making?

Yes! The process of implementing the Behavioral Assessment actually started years ago when the assessment was part of the leadership training curriculum. The professor leading the training was part of the assessment’s initial development by the U.S. military. This connection has allowed us to gather data and study how the assessment, in conjunction with other elements of the admissions process, factors into actual school performance outcomes. We piloted the assessment in the 2017-2018 application cycle, but did not use it evaluatively. Last year, we asked only students invited to interview to complete the assessment. This year, we’re excited to include the Behavioral Assessment as a component of our application for every candidate.

How do you think the Behavioral Assessment will factor into your decisions in the Admissions Committee?

We want to make sure that the students we bring into the program are set up to succeed in a rigorous classroom experience, and the Behavioral Assessment gives us another data point beyond testing and academic history to predict who will perform well in the classroom. So, we’ll be looking at it alongside, and sometimes as a counterpoint to, these more traditional metrics. We’re really very excited to have this additional factor to consider, as it allows us to take more chances on applicants who may not have the strongest testing or academic record, but who are truly outstanding on other measures.

Much like any other piece of the application, the Behavioral Assessment will never be the deciding factor for an application, but will instead be used in combination with the rest of a candidate’s profile. As we continue to learn from the assessment, there is potential for it to take on a larger role in the admissions process in helping us predict other non-academic outcomes. And we’d love to get to the point where the Behavioral Assessment doesn’t end with the application, but actually is part of your academic experience, and learning your results and the meaning behind them in a structured classroom setting will contribute to your professional and personal growth. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it!

Do you have any tips for applicants in completing the assessment, or is there any way they can prepare for it?

What is really unique about the assessment, in comparison to a test like the GMAT or GRE, is that it does not require any specialized knowledge or practice. So, there is nothing a student needs to do ahead of time to prepare for the assessment. I hope this comes as a breath of fresh air to MBA applicants—finally something that requires no preparation! Just try not to overthink it. There are no correct answers, and because it is a forced-choice format, there may be times when neither statement feels quite right. That’s OK—choose the one that feels like the better fit. I promise that no one response will determine your results. And because you don’t need to worry about coming up with the “right” answer, we hope you may even have a little fun with it!