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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

September 24, 2009

Oxford Said Fall 2010

My more recent post on TOEFL and IELTS requirements for Oxford can be found here

For Fall 2010 admission, I have revised my post on the Oxford Said Business School MBA application essay questions from my previous post. The most significant changes relate to an expanded discussion of the second question.  I have taken the questions from the Online Application.

Oxford has two questions.

1)Explain why you chose your current job. How do you hope to see your career developing over the next five years? How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions? Maximum 1,000 words.
As the first and third parts of this question are similar to my analysis of Chicago, I would suggest you read that in addition to what I say here.

That said, Oxford Essay 1 is a completely practical question. Unlike schools like Stanford that ask about the applicant's "career aspirations" or
even a school like Chicago that asks for future goals, Oxford is looking for something more grounded and more specific: A FIVE YEAR PLAN. Note the ambiguity in the question itself, the plan maybe written from the perspective of the present or from the perspective of after one finishes the MBA. I advise clients to treat it as as post-MBA five year plan as I think that is implied by the presence of the third part of the question ("
How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions?"), but I would not insist on that. I think most applicants should treat it as a post-MBA five year plan, but if you prefer integrating the MBA directly into the plan, that is fine.

A plan is practical. It has details. It shows you have really thought about what you want to do. It shows you have done research about your intended future employer and/or future entrepreneurial venture. It shows you are realistic. That does not mean that it should be boring or lack ambition, but it does mean that it has to rise beyond a level of mere abstraction. Treat it as seriously as you would treat a memo to your boss on the future direction of your department, a proposal to a client on an expensive project, or a business plan. Make sure you show how Oxford fits the plan. If you can't establish a tight connection between your plan and Oxford, either apply somewhere else or change your plan. And remember as long as you can speak effectively about your plan in an interview, the second after you are admitted, you have no obligation to stick to that plan.

Which recent development, world event or book has most influenced your thinking and why? Maximum 2,000 words.
This is "The Oxford Question" and just as Essay 1 is highly practical, this one is the place to think great thoughts, to show your personality, and to establish you fit at a school known for centuries as one of the great centers of scholarship. Over the years, I have worked with great applicants who used this question successfully to win admission to Oxford. For Fall 2009, I had five clients admitted to Oxford.  You can find testimonials from three of them here.  Each told their own story. The things that were common to all, was a willingness to take on a big subject and to show their connection to it.

THE RELEVANCE TEST: A great answer here will be on something relevant to why Oxford should admit you:

- A concept or value that has influenced a major decision(s) you have made in your life
-An important aspect of the way you view an issue critical to your goals
-Your commitment to something greater than your own personal interest
-Your inner intellectual life
-Your ethical values
-Some other aspect of who you are that will compel admissions to want to interview you

A number of clients have successfully written on recent development.  Obviously the impact of a recent development is much more time-limited than a world event or book. Your ability to integrate such a development- technological, environmental, cultural, political, economic, academic or social most likely- into your own experience can be a great way to show Oxford how you think about the changing world around you.  I have noticed that this topic seems to really easily connect to goals and can make for some of the most effective essays that I have read.

While many recent developments are world events, not all world events are recent developments.  Did some world event in the past deeply impact your thinking?  If so, what was it?   This topic can work extremely well if you want to focus your essay on showing how something in the past impacted you.  This topic will likely make it possible for you to easily integrate your experiences into the essay.

In many ways I consider this to be the most difficult topic to write on because it involves a question of taste.  You really need to think seriously about what sort of book is appropriate.  Based on working with clients, I suggest you select something that fits well with Oxford.  If the previous sentence is not specific enough, you need to learn more about the academic culture of the place.  Serious literature,  serious non-fiction, academic texts,  and classics are likely to be more effective than popular fiction,  popular business, self-help, or other popular non-fiction.  If  I sound like I am being a snob, it is because, at least based on what I can determine from working with a variety of clients,  it is in your interest to follow my snob advice!  Know your audience and act accordingly.  This is not supposed to be a book report, so focus on directly connecting specific aspect(s) of a book to your thinking and most likely your actions.

The thing that has influenced you is less important then how it is has influenced you. A good answer will focus less on the recent development, world event, or book and more on its impact on you. Focus on those aspects of the development, world event, or book that specifically impacted you. Show how it has done so.

Make certain that your explanation of the recent development, world event, or book is very clear as Oxford is using this question to determine your ability to analyze something. Be precise in your explanation and do not assume the reader has extensive knowledge of the subject. Even if the subject is well known, say "9/11" in the US, it would still be critical that you explain the exact impact of particular aspects of that event had on you.

Finally, effective answers are always personal. Given the limited space in Essay 1 to discuss accomplishments, you may very well find that you can do so in Essay 2, but if you have a great topic for Essay 2 and it is not necessarily focused on your accomplishments, don't worry as long as it clearly helps Oxford understand why they should interview you.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

-Adam Markus
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