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Fine tuning your MBA application for success

1 November 2021

The article at a glance

Putting together a competitive application for an MBA programme takes planning and commitment. We know there’s a lot to consider but early …

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Putting together a competitive application for an MBA programme takes planning and commitment. We know there’s a lot to consider but early preparation does pay off. Think about getting your application underway as soon as possible, with the help of our guide of what you need to do, and when.

Be GMAT/GRE prepared – twelve weeks ahead of application

Get your exams done first. A GMAT or GRE score is an essential entry requirement for your Cambridge MBA application.

Allow at least three months of study and practice before you take your test and begin your application. Understanding the scoring, question types and test structure will be the key to your success. You may also want to allow time to re-sit the GMAT or GRE to improve your score, if necessary. For first timers, and other candidates who have English as a second language for example, it may take much longer to achieve the scores needed for this highly competitive Master’s.

While the Business School does not specify a particular result, the average GMAT score this year is around 687 with the median at 700 (mid-80% range is 630-740). Cambridge looks for balanced scores across all sectors of the exam to identify students who are well prepared for the academic rigours of the MBA curriculum.

Most of the global GMAT test centres are open after COVID-19 (coronavirus) hit, but they are operating at lower capacity to support ongoing social distancing requirements. If you, like many other candidates, prefer an in-person test you may have to book it well in advance. We continue to accept online versions of both the GMAT and GRE exams.

All applicants need to submit their own GMAT or GRE result in time for their Cambridge MBA application. You should also ask the test provider to make your official score report available to us online. We won’t be able to review your application until we have checked that your scores are valid.

Speak to your referee – six weeks before applying

An automated reference request will be sent to your referee once you have entered their contact details into our online application system.

For the Cambridge MBA your referee should be a current supervisor, or if that’s not possible, a former line manager or supervisor. If you are self-employed or run your own company, you can nominate a client or supplier with whom you have a professional relationship.

Either way, please make sure your referee has enough time to write a considered reference. Applications are often held up because references are submitted late.

Start your application – four to six weeks before the deadline

The Business School insists there is no “blueprint” of a candidate who might jump to the front of this admissions queue. We are happy to consider any candidate with a strong profile and application, even if they do not exactly meet all our stated requirements. A holistic approach is always taken when reviewing an applicant’s profile.

We recommend that you start your application at least four weeks before you intend to submit it. Remember you can save your Cambridge MBA online application at any stage.

We require at least a 2:1 Honours degree on the UK grading scale or the international equivalent. If your academic results are lower, we can still consider your application, but we will need to see a strong GMAT or GRE score.

A copy of your degree transcript should be attached to your online application. If you don’t have a transcript, your university can usually provide one, but it may take several weeks to arrive.

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Charlotte Russell-Green

Candidates are advised to familiarise themselves with the essay questions early on and consider recent examples from their professional life that will add impact to their answers.

“Take your time to put together really solid answers for your essays, especially your careers essay as well. Think about why we’re asking the questions and answer in an honest way,” says Charlotte Russell-Green, Head of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at Cambridge Judge Business School.

“We look at how candidates work with other people. What are they like in a team? How do they take instruction? Are they always trying to be the leader? These are the things that we take into account in the essays.”

Click submit – a week or more before the deadline

You can submit your application by 23:59 GMT on the day of your chosen deadline, but we recommend you do it a week or so before in case you have any technical difficulties, or you need to get in contact with the MBA Admissions team.

Ready to go? Re-read your application first and consider this advice.

“We often come across simple housekeeping errors where people mention another business school in one of their essays, or in their CV, or a resume might be uploaded with another business school’s name on the file. We know you may be applying to other schools, but check and check again before you click submit!” says Charlotte Russell-Green.

We read all applications after the relevant deadline, but not before. If your application is successful, we will contact you within three weeks to invite you for an interview.

The Cambridge interview – six weeks after application

Shortlisted candidates are usually invited to an interview day in Cambridge around six weeks after their application deadline. Due to the impact of COVID-19 and in order to adhere to social distancing, all interviews will be conducted online until the end of the next admission cycle in April 2022.

During the virtual interview day, you will have a one-to-one interview with a member of the faculty on Zoom. There will be a Q&A session with the CJBS Careers Team, the Business School’s Executive Director, and MBA Admissions staff. Candidates will also be offered the opportunity to speak to alumni and current students during an online networking session.

You will hear the outcome of your interview within three weeks of your interview date.

Scholarship deadlines

A wide range of scholarship and bursary opportunities are available from Cambridge Judge Business School, the University of Cambridge, the Colleges, and external sources.

For those considering a scholarship, it is important to prepare early and apply in the early application rounds, as many of the University scholarship deadlines close early in the cycle.

For the new admissions cycle, we have extended some scholarships which are now on offer across all five rounds. Be sure to check carefully through our scholarship brochure for the relevant deadlines at Cambridge Judge, as well as those scholarships from the University of Cambridge. Bursaries, however, are awarded throughout the year.

Scholarships are only available to shortlisted candidates. When a candidate is contacted for an interview, a link will be sent to our scholarship application portal with further information of individual scholarship requirements, including whether a video application will be needed.

The scholarships brochure for the 2021/22 admissions recruitment cycle including a new scholarship offering can be found on our MBA fees and funding page.

Other deadlines

Emily Brierley.
Emily Brierley

If you require a visa to study in the UK, we recommend applying by Round Four at the latest to allow for this. It is also important to think well in advance about our language requirements, your funding options and the practicalities of leaving your current position and relocating to Cambridge.

We encourage candidates to discuss their specific circumstances with the school’s admission team.

Emily Brierley, from our MBA Admissions team has this final advice, “We know the applications can be lengthy and if you are applying to multiple schools, it can seem daunting. But I speak to a lot of students who say that rather than this just being a chore, they see it as a useful catalyst for change. See this as a unique opportunity to take stock of where you are now, where you want to be, and how our MBA will help get you there.”