Cambridge Essays


Cambridge / Judge Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Following up on the release of the Cambridge Judge MBA essay prompts for 2017-2018, we wanted to provide some guidance for applicants targeting Cambridge this admissions season.

Judge has maintained its request for candidates’ career goals, spectacular failure and teamwork scenario. Because each Cambridge essay is a relatively short one, applicants must make judicious use of the available space to highlight their industry-specific knowledge, preparation for business studies and general strengths.

Cambridge / Judge Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a look at each of this year’s prompts:

Essay 1

What did you learn from your most spectacular failure? (up to 200 words) 
While the topic of failure is a common one when it comes to MBA applications, the very tight word limit of this response makes this a relatively unusual task. With only 200 words to work with, applicants will need to summarize the failure itself in a very high-level manner, devoting the majority of the response to a treatment of the lessons they learned from the experience and perhaps a mention of the sorts of situations to which this learning has subsequently proven applicable.

The “spectacular” scope of the question adds a further layer of complexity, as applicants should aim to discuss lessons that will be relevant to future experiences on the Judge campus and in their future careers. Failures from the personal realm are technically fair game here, but candidates will likely want to give first consideration to professional or academic examples, or to those from structured extracurricular activities.

Essay 2

Describe a situation where you had to work jointly with others to achieve a common goal. What did you learn from the experience? (up to 200 words) 
It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid highlighting a failure unless specifically asked to do so; hence, especially with the need to discuss a failure in Essay 1, candidates should be sure to choose a situation with successful results here. With such a tight word limit, context will have to be established concisely by defining one’s goal followed by the context of one’s team. Working with others can take on many forms—coordinating with teams overseas, collaborating directly with a colleague for a challenging consulting project. What’s important is the objective you faced and the challenges you overcame—together—to achieve it. Given the focus on teamwork, it would make sense for lessons to stem from communication, motivational or leadership skills. However, given Judge’s focus on career readiness in the next essay, it could work to highlight an industry lesson that aligns with one’s career goals.

Personal Statement

What are your short and long term career objectives and what skills/characteristics do you already have that will help you achieve them? What actions will you take before and during the MBA to contribute to your career outcome? If you are unsure of your post-MBA career path, how will the MBA equip you for the future? (up to 500 words)
Cambridge once again includes a fairly standard career goals essay of the sort featured in many MBA programs’ applications.  Applicants are asked to outline their immediate post-MBA professional objectives, as well as their longer-term plans. Meanwhile, the explicit request that applicants inventory the existing skills and characteristics that will help them along their chosen paths is a somewhat unusual one, so candidates will need to reflect on their qualifications and take care in addressing this element of the prompt. This can stem naturally from a brief career summary, as one would be able to point to one’s past actions as proof of their current skills/characteristics.

In regards to the second part of the prompt, discussing concrete efforts, such as additional projects at work, engaging Judge’s MBA Careers team or participating in an MBA career trek, would best support Judge’s request for actions. While the adcom does allow for some ambiguity in one’s career plans, keep in mind that leaders are expected to be decisive and have vision, so we strongly recommend having a clear career plan from the outset. Especially given Judge’s one-year program, it will also be best to hit the ground running in terms of pursuing a career. That said, the essay is not binding for one’s career upon admission and the school does anticipate that candidates are looking for a change, as 94% of the recent class changed country, function or industry sector. Should candidates still be at a loss for a specific career path, responses to the final question should be kept brief, with broad reflections on how the skills acquired during the MBA could apply to an industry in general.

As is the case with most schools, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Judge’s program is crucial to an effective response to this question.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities—whether through a visit to campus, conversations with alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Judge—will pay dividends here.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Cambridge / Judge MBA essay topics! As you work on your Judge MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:

Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Cambridge / Judge

Related

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

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Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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