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Cambridge Judge MBA Short Answer Questions

The Cambridge Judge MBA application includes 3 new short answer essays.

Describe a difficult decision that you had to make. What did you learn from this and how have you changed as a result? (up to 200 words)

The important portion of the prompt, and where 70-80% of your word count should lie, is with the part that asks about what you have learned and how you have changed. MBA programs are meant to be personally transformational, to push you to change and grow. With this question, the admissions committee wants to make sure that you are open to developing yourself and that you have the self-awareness to recognize how you can improve.

The majority of an MBA application deals with your professional experience. This question is a perfect opportunity to speak about something outside of your professional realm. A personal decision or a decision that took place within the context of an extracurricular activity are good options for this essay.

A personal decision could be one that tells the admissions committee about some of your other interests that might otherwise not have made it into the application. For instance, entrepreneurial ideas or projects that didn’t quite come to fruition could be a reply for this question. Another idea is that you could write about a challenge that you previously faced personally or academically. Another thought is that you could describe how you had to stand up for yourself and your beliefs when someone doubted you. With any of these examples, you should make sure to describe how the experience provided you with new insights.

You could also use this essay to describe an extracurricular activity that you are proud of, especially if it involves a leadership position. This type of story could help paint a picture of how you have been able to solve problems and make an impact outside of work. With this type of example, you could highlight a strength that you feel adds value to your application.

Describe a time where you worked with a team on a project. What did you learn from the experience and how might you approach it differently today? (up to 200 words)

This essay continues with the theme of self-reflection that Cambridge is exploring with their short answer questions. This is also an important essay because much of your MBA experience will be spent completing team-based projects, often with other students who you might not have had an opportunity to work closely with during the course of the program. With this response, you want to be able to demonstrate how you have contributed to a team in the past and how you will similarly be able to assist a team of your classmates with studying at Judge.

When working on teams, there are always leaders and followers. In a well-functioning team, people will move seamlessly between the leader and follower roles, depending on their skill set and strengths. I recommend approaching this question by thinking about your own leadership competencies and identifying one that you would like to highlight. You have the opportunity, with this essay, to demonstrate how you will be well-equipped to be a leader when working with your classmates and to solve any conflicts or challenges that might arise within a team.

The below are some common leadership qualities.

  • Empathy and having emotional self-awareness about others on your team

  • Adaptability to a situation and obstacles that you encounter

  • Having the ability to develop others

  • Effectively influencing and persuading others

  • Having a visionary leadership style that inspires others to work toward a common goal

  • The ability to deescalate conflicts and resolve disagreements between people

  • Having the ability to build and maintain positive relationships

There are many different leadership styles and competencies, depending on the leadership model and you can always read leadership articles to get more information about the different styles. Including a leadership trait within your response is a great way to highlight a strength and to demonstrate what type of leader you will be while at Cambridge.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be? (up to 200 words)

I think that this is a great, although potentially tough, question. This is a question that calls for reflection on your past experiences and what you wish you could have done differently. However, this is still an MBA application so you need to be strategic with your response and strike the right note with what you share.

Your response to this question could be personal or profession or a mix of both. You should also take care to provide a new perspective about yourself that varies from the second short answer question where you are asked to describe a difficult decision and what you have learned from it.

Another important part of this question that is implied but not actually stated is the ‘why’. It is relatively easy to give your younger self advice but you should also consider what you want this piece of advice to say about your values, motivation, or character. This piece of advice could be about a change that you had made between when you were 18 years old and now or it could be about a change that you still hope to make in the future.

The below are a few ideas that could serve as a topic for this essay.

  • A missed opportunity in the past and how taking the opportunity might have altered your trajectory.

  • A weakness that you had at 18 years old and how pushing yourself to overcome this weakness would have opened up doors.

  • A strength that you had not yet fully developed and how drawing upon the strength could have been beneficial in the past.

  • Something that you wish you had known that would have improved your experience in college or as a young professional and what you would have done differently.

  • Advice that gives an insight into your family background or upbringing and how it has impacted your perspective thus far.

  • Advice that speaks to your true passions and what is driving you to achieve your future professional goals.

These are broad categories and a list that is by no means all-inclusive. Hopefully, these ideas will provide inspiration as you work on your application!

Rona Aydin is a graduate of Oxford Said's MBA program. She has an in-depth knowledge of Cambridge Judge and she has helped many clients to successfully prepare their business school applications to European and American programs. If you would like to know more about our services, please contact Rona at

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