All posts filed under “Cambridge MBA

Cambridge MBA and admissions

I’m currently an MBA student at the University of Cambridge, which has a smallish but rapidly growing business school.

There are a huge number of things that impress me about the school, but I wanted to mention just a couple about the admissions process and office:

  • The MBA Admissions office is blogging! So far it’s a mix of school-related posts and some posts on what it’s like living in Cambridge. I highly recommend reading it. I think it’s fantastic to have a bit more transparency in the admissions process, and congratulate James for starting it!
  • It doesn’t cost anything to apply to the Cambridge MBA. This is different from virtually every other business school I’ve come across, but Cambridge is committed to access to the programme no matter your financial circumstances. It doesn’t make the admissions process any easier, but I believe does help add to the diversity of the class.
  • Since the Cambridge MBA is ~150 students (I believe growing by about another 30 students next year) the admissions office and administration truly get to know you. I was astounded on my interview day and on the first day of pre-term just how well everyone knew me! It was clear they hadn’t done a cursory look at my CV and career goals, but had truly studied who I was through my application. This isn’t something you can get from larger schools.

For those of you applying to the Cambridge MBA, good luck! For those of you considering applying, I hope this gives you a little better sense about what Cambridge is all about.

As for me, I’ve got exams this week… hopefully those will turn out okay!

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Signs of a very weak economy, how Clare College is taking advantage

This article in the New York Times shows exactly how weak the economy has become:

In the market equivalent of shoveling cash under the mattress, hordes of buyers were so eager on Tuesday to park money in the world’s safest investment, United States government debt, that they agreed to accept a zero percent rate of return.

The news sent a sobering signal: in these troubled economic times, when people have lost vast amounts on stocks, bonds and real estate, making an investment that offers security but no gain is tantamount to coming out ahead.


Investors accepted the zero percent rate in the government’s auction Tuesday of $30 billion worth of short-term securities that mature in four weeks. Demand was so great even for no return that the government could have sold four times as much.

In addition, for a brief moment, investors were willing to take a small loss for holding another ultra-safe security, the already-issued three-month Treasury bill.

How Clare College is taking advantage of the economy

Clare College is the second-oldest College at Cambridge, having been founded nearly 700 years ago. One of the benefits of this kind of longevity is that banks are more able and willing to make loans to you.

From the student newspaper about a month ago (sorry, no link):

Clare College has borrowed £15 million to invest in the stock market. The unprecedented inflation-linked loan is due to be repaid in 2048 and the College expects to make a profit of around £36 million.


This is the first time Clare has borrowed to invest in its 700-year history. Hearn acknowledged that it was a potentially dangerous strategy, but said the forty-year time frame brought security.

“Most Colleges have a very long-term perspective, which gives them an advantage over city funds which often have a short term focus.”


Both of these stories are just unprecedented. The economy truly is upside-down.

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Hacking the GMAT

I was thinking recently that it was only about a year or so ago that I finally decided to apply for business school. Registering (and paying!) for the GMAT was a first big step into making it real.

For those people that are reading this and have yet to take the GMAT, I have just a couple of simple tips for hacking the GMAT.

However, before all that, are you aiming to get into a top-tier school? Get a 700+ and you’ll be setting yourself up for success. You can certainly still get into top schools with significantly poorer scores. In fact, I’ve heard of a student who got into a top school with a GMAT score in the 400’s. (What happened in that case was the GMAT wasn’t at all consistent with the person’s CV/resume and work history. The interview clearly showed that the GMAT was an outlier; the person turned out to be a superstar.)

That said, the higher score you get the easier it is for schools to accept you.

Tip 1 – Challenge yourself

My first and most important tip is to really challenge yourself. If you really want to kick ass on the GMAT, forget 90% of the study books out there. Those are written for people who want to do above average on the GMAT, not kick ass. If you want to get that 700+, only go for the books that are trying to get you the mythical 800. Kaplan GMAT 800 is the book that I used.

Why do this? Well, instead of picking a representative sample of test questions, it only focuses on the really difficult questions. This is what you need to get comfortable with and master if you’re going to hack the GMAT. Forget your other study books; focus on the ones that challenge you.

Tip 2 – Prepare your body and mind

The second and final tip is to be very careful in the days before your exam. Get good sleep, and not just the night before the exam. Make sure your head is in the right place by getting good sleep consistently for a few days before the exam. Whatever you do, don’t be stupid and try cramming so much that you lose sleep the night beforehand.

So that’s it… my tips on how to Hack the GMAT. A good score won’t guarantee you entry, but neither will a bad score necessarily prevent it. But the better you can do, the easier it is for your chosen schools to accept you.

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An MBA Rugby Blue, the last sprint and a magnificent cover letter


I want to say a public congratulations to Doug Rowe, a fellow Cambridge MBA student. Just yesterday he was named as the scrum-half for the Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club 1st XV in their Varsity Match against Oxford at Twickenham Stadium next Thursday (the 11th). He will be a bit of a rare commodity; an MBA student that achieves a sporting “Blue”.


It’s hard to express how big a deal this is in the sporting world of the University. A sporting blue is the highest level of sports achievement, and comes with a distinctive blue blazer. While the Rugby Union Varsity Match isn’t quite as high-profile as the Boat Race (in rowing), it’s been played since 1872 and now takes place in the UK’s second biggest stadium, seating 80,000! Doug did used to play on the US Rugby Team, so top-level competition certainly won’t be foreign to him.

So a hearty congrats to Doug… well done! (Match photos of questionable quality taken by yours truly at a very cold home match a few weeks ago.)


On a completely different note, it’s already the last week of classes in Michaelmas Term! I really have no idea where all the time has gone.

Just this last weekend we finished a lengthy take-home exam for our Business Modelling class (lots and lots of Excel… thus the need for a take-home exam). In the next two weeks we’ll complete our term’s consulting project, a final essay for Management Practice, and the essay portion of Organizational Behaviour. Then it’s a month of holiday and revision for exams in the first week of January.

Finally, I just found what is quite possibly the best-written internship cover letter I’ve ever read. Check it out here.