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Yale SOM Bringing “Soft Skills” Test Into Admissions Process

A constant question for business schools is how to evaluate “soft skills” that are hard to quantify but essential for future success.

Recently, Yale School of Management has been experimenting with a test of soft skills developed by Educational Testing Service, makers of the GRE. Since Round 2 of last admissions season, applicants to Yale SOM have taken the test without their results factoring into their admissions decisions.

Now, according to a recent article from Poets & Quants, Yale SOM plans to start using results on the test, known as the “Behavioral Assessment,” in its MBA admissions process.

Yale SOM’s managing director of admissions, Laurel Grodman, explained to P&Q that the school would be “incorporating it into the evaluation process, albeit with a light touch.” She added that “next year, ideally, all applicants will take it.”

In its admissions FAQ, Yale SOM describes the test as an “admissions tool” that “measures a set of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies associated with business school success.”

The FAQ characterizes it as “a forced-choice module that takes about 20-25 minutes to complete, and should be completed in a single sitting.”

In an ETS press release from when Yale began piloting the test, Grodman explained that the forced-choice design in which there are “no right or wrong answers” makes it harder to simply tell admissions officers what they want to hear.

An example question given in the press release asks the test taker to choose between “I work well with other people” and “I work hard.” Other test questions similarly prompt applicants to choose the most appealing of two options.

In its FAQ, Yale SOM reiterates its interest in finding “broadminded, intellectually curious students that represent a diversity of backgrounds and interests” and casts the Behavioral Assessment as “one piece of this puzzle.”

In the ETS press release, Grodman explains the school’s initial motivation for piloting the test: “We wanted more confidence to assess applicants who don’t perform as well on traditional measures while also looking at those who perform very well on the tests and wind up underperforming in school.”

In other words, results on the Behavioral Assessment can cut both ways: they might help boost a candidate whose strengths don’t lie in traditional academic measures, or they could presumably raise questions about a candidate who otherwise looks good on paper.

Yale’s MBA admissions FAQ does emphasize that “the assessment alone will not be the deciding factor for admission.”

For applicants to Yale’s MBA program, the best strategy remains to put together a compelling personal brand that emphasizes your strengths and to know your reasons for wanting to enroll at Yale SOM in particular.

We can help you do that and give you feedback on how your MBA application stacks up on the various measures that schools like Yale SOM consider. Get in touch with us to ask us for a free application assessment!