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

December 21, 2010


My colleague, Steve Green, has put together the following list of typical MIT Sloan MBA admission interview questions.  I suggest reading my overall analysis of MIT'S behavioral interviews, which provides detailed analysis of this unique approach to interviewing.  The behavioral interview questions on this list should also prove helpful to those preparing for Wharton interviews.


  • Walk me through your resume (FOLLOW UP)
  • What do you do outside work?
  • How do you have time for all the things that you do (referencing my resume);  
  • Tell me about your job, have your responsibilities changed since your promotion

  • Tell me about yourself, what have you been doing in the last two years.
  • Tell me about something at work you have been proud of in the last year
  • Do you have any recent accomplishments you want to share?
  • What's a personal goal that you've set for yourself recently?
  • Tell me about a time when you set a goal and moved towards achieving it.
  • Why and MBA
  • Why did you decide to apply to Sloan? Tell me your thought process.

  • How did you manage to resolve a conflict situation and move the team forward?
  • Tell me of a time when you took the risk and the outcome, what did you learn from it
  • Tell me about a time when you had to persuade/convince others.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to present something to someone who you did not like.
  • Tell me about a time you had a challenging interaction with someone
  • Tell me about a time you had to convince others to see your perspective
  • Tell me about a time you had to ask for help
  • Tell me about a time when your expectations were not met
  • Tell me a time when you thought outside of the box

  • Where do see your business heading?
  • How would a friend describe you? A client?
  • Tell me about a time when someone needed your help.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to step out from your comfort zone.
  • Tell me about something that you've encountered, at work or outside of work, that made you feel uncomfortable.

  • Tell me about something you've done that you're proud of.
  • Tell me about a time you failed.
  • Tell me about a time you convinced others to follow your plan.

  • Tell me a time when something unexpected happened to you
  • Tell me when you did something innovative
  • Tell me a time when you influenced someone
  • Tell me how Sloan ranks against the other schools you applied to.

  • Tell me about a time you led a team to a solution.
  • Tell me about a time you had to sell an idea.
  • Tell me about a time your idea was rejected.

  • What exactly do you do? What have you been doing in your position recently?
  • Tell me about a time when you mentored someone
  • Tell me about a time when you butted heads with a co-worker/client/employee
  • Tell me about a time when you were part of a team that had poor dynamics/didn't get along well.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone who wasn't pulling his/her weight
  • Tell me about a time when you had to decide multiple options.

  • I'm meeting a lot of people today, what is going to make me remember you?
  • Any questions for me?
  • What do you wish I had asked you?
If you are interested in my interview preparation or other graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. 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 my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
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December 17, 2010


Following Oxford Said's introduction of severely high English requirements for 2010 entry, Cambridge Judge will be getting even more severe than Oxford for 2012 entry.

Oxford Said introduced new English level minimums for entry beginning in 2010:

Minimum score
TOEFL - Internet 109
TOEFL - Computer 267
TOEFL - Paper 630

In April, I commented as follows:
For applicants, especially those coming from countries where getting a 109 or higher is difficult (Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan being the ones that immediately come to my mind), this is good and bad news. It is clearly bad news for those with scores under 109 because clearly Oxford is no longer an option. For East Asians with TOEFL scores over 109,  suddenly the number of highly competitive applicants coming from their region is likely to drop significantly.

I think this is especially unfortunate for my clients in Japan, not only because it will eliminate many strong applicants from applying, but because it will likely damage the ability of Oxford to build a strong network here. Given the large percentage of company-sponsored applicants who don't have TOEFL 109 level English,  I think it is fair to say that Oxford will see a significantly reduced number of Japanese with strong professional backgrounds in the coming years.

In fact, the number of Japanese at Oxford has gone down and they are all, obviously very advanced English speakers.   Oxford is no longer a viable option for many candidates who would have considered it, but find all top US schools (except HBS), INSEAD, LBS, and IMD (GMAT score only) better options both in terms of rank and barrier to entry. 
Not to be outdone, Cambridge will be introducing new standards of required English ability for entry in 2012:

110 TOEFL! Congratulations Cambridge, you are about to have the world's highest TOEFL requirement of any MBA program!  This is a bold experiment in exclusivity designed to radically reduce non-native English speakers without extensive international experience.    I know there is a Cambridge/Oxford rivalry, but.. 

By the way, for those applying for 2011 entry, the old Cambridge requirements-
-are still in place, but I bet they will be making it tougher than these numbers indicate. 

As far as UK schools go, London Business School, with its very flexible entry requirements and top rank, proves that exclusivity per se is not the best way to be recognized as a Top B-School.  For applicants who want to experience real diversity while getting the top B-school experience in the UK, I predict that LBS will be the only game in town.  For those who want to experience working with only fully bilingual/bi-cultural candidates,  Oxford and Cambridge should be your targets.  Each option has its advantages (real diversity versus fluency) and disadvantages (inefficiency versus experiencing the kind of diversity that is the part of working with those who really don't share your linguistic and/or cultural assumptions).

-Adam Markus
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December 05, 2010

Top Ten Ways of Screwing Up Your Grad School Applications

There is always time for another "Top Ten List."  Here is one more.  It is based on working with hundreds of graduate school applicants since 2001.

I can't really say that I have put these ten in order of awfulness as each can lead to its own particular disaster. Often they are combined to achieve the full effect of total rejection. This list is by no means all encompassing, but these are some very common pitfalls.

Adam's Top Ten Ways of Screwing Up Your Graduate School Applications

There is nothing like serious time mismanagement to trash your chances.  Trying to get too much into too little time is an excellent way to produce lousy application components.  OK, you are thinking, I have XX(insert number) of days (hope it is not hours) before my applications are due, so what, Adam, should I do?  Simple suggestion: Spend the 10-30 minutes required to make a schedule for yourself.  Be realistic and see what is actually feasible to get done by the deadlines.  You may have to make some hard choices, but hey, life is filled with those.

The reality is that most writing is never done.  If you asked a bunch of published authors, many would tell you that they want to rewrite or at least amend their books.  I have worked with clients who sacrifice the simple need to generate effective content with the mistaken desire to make it perfect, which often results in the previous problem, time mismanagement, as well as mistaken expectations about what creating a masterpiece will have on the admissions committee.  For me, I look for "doneness," not perfection.  Perfection is unattainable, but really effective essays that reveal your goals, personality, strengths, and passions does not require perfection.  Mostly that requires clarity of purpose and sufficient understanding of the audience that you are trying to convince to admit you.  Your writing need not be artistically elegant, but it must be easy to understand, believable, and convince the admissions reader that you have fit with the program.

3.  NO LEARNING CURVE: Working on Multiple Applications at the Same Time
One of the things that I tell any prospective client is that I only work on one application at a time because doing so results in a natural learning curve, which generates both better content in subsequent applications and also great speed.  I have encountered applicants who worked on multiple applications at once, which tended to result in them needing to reinvent the wheel because they did have a process that allowed them to learn from their own essays.  I see this problem often when I review essays for clients who are asking me for a ding analysis as part of their reapplication process. Another reason to work on one application at time is that it allows you focus on a single "advertising campaign." Especially with MBA application essay sets you need to think about the whole message being conveyed and this is much easier to do if you are focused on one school at a time.

I tell my clients that I am not part of the reality based community, I am part of the "get admitted to graduate school" community.  These are not the same thing.  The essays you are writing are mere documents designed to obtain admission. They serve no other core function. If you take pleasure in your essays, that is lovely. If they truly reflect your passions and goals, that is great, especially if that helps you to be convincing in an admissions interview.  That said, all the essays (and other application components)  have to be is a viable and believable representation of you, which is to say, "the map (the application) is not the territory (you in reality)."  Some people get confused with this and engage in such a heartfelt process of self-evaluation that they lose focus.  Sometimes this results in essays that while truthful, fail completely as documents that should be designed to generate a specific zero sum outcome.

While I am not part of the reality based community, I am not telling you to engage in implausible deception.  The moment your reader does not believe you, you are dead.  You are selling something, yourself,  and nobody wants to buy something from a lying scumbag.   The point is to come across as completely plausible both in terms of your past experience and future goals.  Admissions officers have bullshit detectors of various degrees of effectiveness.  The more prestigious the program, the better calibrated their bullshit detector will be.  Which is to say, since Stanford GSB is the hardest US MBA program to get into, you need to be a particularly convincing liar to get admitted there. As it is easier to get into HBS, you can assume the number of liars is actually higher as well.  Personally, I think honesty or at least something very close to it, is the best policy.

However disclosing more than you need to, while honest, is also a problem.  Confessions are best made to priests, your close friends, your diary, readers of your future autobiography, and/or your therapist, so be careful about what you state.  This might take the form of discussing something really embarrassing as a failure, telling a story about your love life, or including the transcript for part-time program that you did not do so well in because you were too busy with your work.  Only report those facts to admissions that you need to report and/or are in your interest to report.  PLEASE NOTE: If you have committed a crime and the record has not been expunged and you know you will be subject to a criminal background check, don't lie, but do explain the situation.

If you don't know about the program, establishing fit will be difficult.  If you are applying to No Name School of Business or No Name Law School or the No Name School of International Relations, this should not be a problem, but if you are applying to a program that is competitive to enter you better be well informed about the program.  The level of required information varies greatly, but at a minimum, you must be able to demonstrate why a particular school actually suits your professional, personal, and/or academic objectives.

Every year I save a few clients from this most basic of errors.  The first thing to do when cannibalizing your essay for a new school is to change the school name.  For some reason the folks at Chicago Booth don't like it when they are mistaken for Kellogg and the reverse is also true.  God help if you make this mistake with Columbia Business School.

The application form is an actual part of the admissions process. If you fill it out at the last minute, do a sloppy job, provide incomplete information, provide inaccurate information, or fail to include really positive information, you will be hurting yourself for no good reason.  I suggest taking these forms seriously.  Some schools, like HBS, have very short application forms with very limited space, while others, like LBS, provide a huge amount of space to write about your past.  Whatever kind of application form you encounter, use it to your advantage. For my only analysis of an application form, see here. (I hope to update this very soon, but if my clients keep bothering me, that will not be possible, so don't hold your breath).

10. SUCCUMBING TO NOISE: Listening to Too Many People
At a certain point, whatever advice you get, you need to make it actionable.  Talk to three different people, get three different opinions.  Ask an MBA from Stanford (Class of 2000) about how to approach your HBS essays, get one answer.  Ask your sister, who is attending HBS now, get another.  Talk to an admissions consultant, get a third opinion.  Read some BBS or blog (even this one), and become even more confused.  At a certain point this all becomes noise. You are the author of your fate, so ultimately you need to go with what works best for you. The more opinions you take in, the harder it will be to integrate them. I have seen applicants become paralyzed by this.  To get them to act, I don't tell them they need to accept my perspective, but I do tell them they need to accept what they think will work best for them.  For more about mentors and consultants, see here.

Reading about reapplication is also a good way to avoid becoming one.  So I suggest taking a look at this and/or this.


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 my recent post on "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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MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング
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