How to Get into the University of Cambridge Judge Business School One Year MBA Program - (Based on My Experience)


For my MBA, after attending several webinars from different business schools, including Stanford, I only applied to Cambridge because its values of collaboration, and diversity and the curriculum appealed to me. The curriculum covered all the key areas of management that I was keen on. See the Curriculum here.

I especially liked that the program is one year, experiential and that there is an overall focus on building sustainable businesses.  


Each term has an experiential team based project; the Michealmas (first) term has the Cambridge Venture Project, the Lent (second) Term has the Global Consulting project, and the Easter (third) term has the Concentration Project. (I wrote about my Cambridge Venture Project experience here.) 


Overall, these projects have given me multi-cultural professional experiences in a variety of fields/ industries. And if you are keen on more experiential experience, over the summer, there is also the option to have a work placement with a company of your choice.

I also liked the small cohort – a class size of 200, versus the huge class sizes of other business schools. I wanted to know that I would have the academic access to the faculty and resources I needed during the program. 

A big plus that Cambridge has, is the collegiate system. Essentially, every student belongs to a college and also to their school, in my case Girton College and the Judge Business School. The colleges are a great way to interact with other students, especially for college-organized events and the weekly formals. 

At the time of writing this post, the management questions that I had prior to the MBA have been answered, and I am happy with the intellectual rigour, the practicality and the mindset shifts that the program has given me thus far. 

The key takeaway here should be: make applications to schools whose values and major outcomes will align with who you are, and the career outcomes that you desire because you are going to take a work break to spend one or two years and your hard-earned money in the business school, and therefore it is imperative that you make a choice that makes you happy. 


Different schools have different values, and they have the profile for the kind of student they are looking for. To know which ones will align with you, check their website, speak to the admissions officers, and also speak to alumni. If it feels like the right school/ schools for you, then apply. It would also do you well to make a school visit if possible. 

It will also be useful to check the MBA rankings on the Financial Times and other related publications.


Before we proceed, I would like to address imposter syndrome as it has come up in many conversations I have had with prospective students. 




In this entire process, do not let imposter syndrome get the better of you. Do not belittle what you've done thus far with your career, your background, your life story, and your strengths and achievements. The MBA program thrives on diversity of thought, experience and background, and you should use every part of your application (the essays, your CV, the standardized tests, the reference) to let the Admissions Officers know how amazing you are, and why you deserve to be in the program!




Unlike many other Master programs, the MBA application process is long and taxing,  as it has various steps that you need to cover. It will do you well to start early and set aside time for the preparation so that you make a good application. 


Be sure to check the Business School application page to see what the application requirements are, as each application is unique. Here are all the requirements if you are keen on applying to Cambridge Judge Business School.


The steps I cover below, should be applicable for most Business Schools, and they include:


Now, let's get into it!


Depending on your country of origin, and the Business School you choose to apply to, you may or may not need to take the English test. For other reasons, I had taken the English IELTS test, and when I made my application, they fit right in.


That said, registering for the test was £175 (~$210),  and it took me a month or so to prepare for the exam. A useful resource for my preparation was The University of Queensland Australia IELTS Academic Test Preparation on EDX. Link to course.

The test had 4 sections – speaking, writing, reading and listening. My score was an overall band score of 8 out of 9. To register for the test, you need to go to the British Council in your country. It could be that the service is now available virtually. 


Most business schools will accept either test. In my case, at the very beginning, I decided to take a mock exam of each to see which one suited me best. I preferred the GRE and therefore, spent my time studying GRE-related material. I used the Manhattan 5lb Book to prepare for both the quantitative and verbal aspects of the test. I also used the Official GRE Test Guide. 

I registered for my GRE exam test on the ETS platform (link) and at that time, it cost $205. Within the ETS platfrom, they have exam mockups that you can use to periodically gauge your expected score as you continue studying. 

Since this was back in 2020, there were no physical exams taking place due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, and I opted to take mine from home as opposed to waiting until the test centres were open. The test was 3 hours and 45 minutes long, and all the instructions required to take the test were provided via email from the ETS centre. It took 21 days to get my test scores back, and they also offered the option to send my test scores directly to the business school, which helped with the verification of their validity. 


Note on Retakes: I did not retake the GRE, and I believe that with ample preparation, the scores you get the first time should be sufficient to make your application. That said, I know of people who need consultants to prepare for the exam. I cannot recommend any agency as I did not use them. 


Note on GMAT: With regard to GMAT, I recommend that you get in touch with someone who did the GMAT and ask what resources helped them. The closest I came to anything GMAT related after the mock test I mentioned earlier, is this fun 2-hour live stream with the GMAT Club, where 3 other succesful Cambridge MBA Candidates and myself talk about our application experiences. Watch to get more familiar with the application process.


Most prospective students wait until the last minute to write their essays, instead, I would advise that you start early on, say 3 to 4 months in advance if not earlier. The temptation is to focus on the English or GRE/GMAT test and to tackle the essays last.

However, in my experience, taking the time to think through your reason for choosing an MBA program at this time of your life, how you want to use it for your career, and the why behind your business school/s selection while simultaneously preparing for the standardised tests is the prudent thing to do. It will save you so much time, and your essays will be of high quality and more refined.

In my case, I began thinking them through and writing the rough draft 4 months before. I used the Cambridge MBA essay question prompts to list out all my ideas for the first draft, and then in the weeks that followed, I listened to the Changing Careers with Conrad Chua podcast for post-Judge Business School experiences to understand what would be possible for me and to further refine my ideas.

Key resources and mindsets that helped me write good essays that got me into the program include;

  • Working and reworking the drafts to make my story and thoughts coherent. Realize that the person reading the essay does not know you, and those essays are the one chance you have to let them know who you are, and what value you will bring to the MBA.
  • Realizing that the MBA program wants the diversity that a different background brings. Professionally, mine was in engineering and entrepreneurship, and in terms of cultural and national background, I brought the emerging economy experience of being a female, and also African into the program. While for me this was a normal fact of my life, for the MBA program, I brought in a unique perspective and experience that the rest of the cohort would benefit from.
  • Speaking through the main ideas in my essays with someone who had already gone through the process, taking in his viewpoints and filling in the gaps that needed further clarity or explanation.
  • Reading Your MBA GamePlan; Proven Strategies for Getting into the Top Business Schools by OmariBouknight and Scott Shrum. I found this book especially useful in helping me see which skills and competencies I needed to bring out in my essays. 
  • Deciding to tell my story as is; there was the temptation to write an essay that I thought they would have wanted to read, instead, I wrote what was true and that made the acceptance offer much more meaningful to me in the end. The key takeaway here is that you need to tell your own true story. So comb through your life story, and your career story and understand what you want the MBA to do for you, and then write progressively, and use the essay to explain any gaps or bad grades you may have had.   


It goes without saying that networking is an intergral part of your MBA experience. And surprise, the networking starts even before you set foot in the Business School!


Use LinkedIn to get in touch with the Business School alumni and current students of your preferred school to get a proper understanding of the Business School, the MBA program and what to expect from the experience. Those who have gone through the process have a hindsight view and they will provide valuable information.

At various points of my application process, I sought and spoke with current students and alumni about questions and concerns that I had. Each conversation proved resourceful.



The purpose of your CV and reference is to communicate your professional experience. These two elements of your application are integral, because while the essays cover your motivations, your aspirations and personality, the CV and references are the evidence of where you have been and what you have accomplished thus far. 


You need to highlight your capabilities, and your referee should be in a position to show how you brought value in previous academic or professional experiences. Just like I recommend with the essays, do not leave these for the very last minute!

Note on Your CV: I will not cover resume editing. Even so, the quality of your CV greatly matters. To prepare a business school worthy one page CV that highlights your professional strenghts, I recommend watching these 2 value packed webinars by City of Lane - which is an African Platform that strives to get more African professionals into international and world class MBA programs.  


Note on References: Cambridge requires only one reference, but it must be high quality. Select someone who knows your professional or academic capabilities well, who will have the time to write a good recommendation/reference that supports your entire application. The quality of the reference can make or break your application, so ask for the reference well in advance. After you make your application, the referee will receive a link through which they will submit their reference. 


To make sure that the reference that was submitted was solid, I let the referee know that he needed to also highlight my teamwork, leadership and soft communication skills to compliment my very technical and analytical CV based on my engineering experience. 


Ask yourself, what would you like for the referee to highlight? Once you gain clarity, inform them so that they can make a strong submission.

A word of caution on referees; some referees may not have your best interest at heart, they may not know how important, costly and demanding this application is, and they may, therefore, write an average recommendation at best, and at worst, may also be late to submit or forget to follow through and miss the deadline! 


Therefore, make a wise selection, highlight why this application matters to you and what you would like for them to spotlight and keep reminding them, especially if they have a busy schedule!




If you get shortlisted after making the application, you will be invited for an interview. It means all the preparation and hard work that went into your application, helped your submission to stand out. For that, congratulations!

Now, the interview will be conducted by a faculty member, usually a professor. The purpose of the interview is for the Business School to understand if in essence, you are who your essays said you are, and if you will positively add to the interactive class experience.

They will be assessing your communication skills and for coherence between what you wrote in the essays and what you share during the interview. If you cannot come in for an in-person interview, make sure to have a professional presence even when it is virtual. For this, look online for guidance on how to come across as confident during a virtual interview.

The Business School will send you an email with the name of the faculty member who will be conducting your interview. What I will recommend is that you look up their profile on LinkedIn, and online, and also check if they have published any articles, journals, or papers. Get a sense of what they care about, because, towards the end, he or she will ask you if you have any questions for them, and that is a good chance to ask a question on a subject or matter they care about.

The key thing is to stay confident, articulate your responses well, and have a natural conversation. My interview was not very formal even though the professor who interviewed me has numerous accolades and is well respected in his field. So come prepared for either a formal or informal interview.

For practice, there are different types of questions that you can find online on Reddit or just on the internet if you search "Cambridge MBA interview questions".  They should give you a gist of what to expect.



The non-refundable application fee is £165 (and may be subject to change year to year).


If you get a conditional offer, which will be communicated in a given timeframe, after the interview, there are various ways in which you might choose to pay for your MBA. That could be a mix of scholarships, student loans and your own finances to cover the fee (see website for further details). Factor in visa application fees, and also flight and relocation expenses. 


Note on Scholarships: Some Business Schools are able to offer full MBA scholarships, to my knowledge, Cambridge Judge does not. Therefore, consider supplementing with internal and external scholarships. The internal scholarships are available for application once you get a conditional offer. Consider external scholarships such as Chevening, Rotary International and Commonwealth etc. To increase your chances of applying well and early, scour the internet for their annual timelines and conditions and have ready the required documents.


Note on Student Loans: The international student loan bodies to consider are Lendwise (UK based and hence no currency exchange losses), and Prodigy Finance (US based and subject to currency exchange rates). These require you to have a high credit score rating, and proof that you have considerable funds besides the scholarships you may have received.


This post has covered how to get into the University of Cambridge Judge Business School one year MBA Program, based on my experience. We have covered what attracted me to the program, how to  prepare and ace the standardized tests ( IELTS and the GRE), how to make sure your essays stand out, why your CV and references matter and how to make them count,  how to approach networking and the interview process and how to cover the MBA program expenses. With these, you are better informed on how to proceed with your application. If you have any questions, contact me on my LinkedIn and I will get back to you when I can.

 All the best in your application!

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