How to answer short answer questions when applying for your MBA

For the new readers (welcome!): My name is Mylène Besançon and I hold an MBA in Marketing.

I thought I would share my thoughts on applying for an MBA, which includes being interviewed and answering essay type questions… Here’s my take:

First of all, short answer essay questions are nothing to be afraid of. They ensure the application process isn’t longer than it has to be, plus it’s easier for people on the admission committee to scan through a series of short answers than having to read a thousand-word essay on why someone wants to do an MBA.

With that said, applicants nowadays may feel intimidated by the current short answer essays because they think the low word count will rob their applications of valuable information that could plead their cause. However, it’s possible to answer these questions effectively without using a lot of words. Here’s how:

Answer questions directly, i.e. not providing details about anything that wasn’t explicitly asked.

Use active voice rather than passive voice when writing answers.

Prepare beforehand. There are tons of MBA question examples online that you can research and practice on before attempting your own MBA application.

Here’s an example of a common MBA application question and how you can go about answering it in a concise but effective manner.

Question: “Discuss a non-academic failure. What did you learn?”

Here, the reader won’t necessarily be interested in hearing about all the details leading up to or surrounding what happened. Instead, he or she will most likely be interested in the specific failure, how it made you feel and what you learned going forward. So, I would recommend not starting with something like “When I was in fifth grade, I thought it was a good idea to enter such and such competition because my loving parents told me I belonged on the football team. However, as it turned out, I fell short of the required number of points to advance to the x,y,z…blah, blah, blah….”

Instead, start with something like “I failed at landing the lead role in the school play in fifth grade due to forgetting my lines… I was disappointed because x,y,z, but I learned that…”

As you can see, the second response goes straight to the point but still paints a strong picture. Of course, you want to try and include little items that give glimpses of your personality but keep it to a minimum.

Finally, I would encourage MBA applicants to be confident in answering short questions and also not to stress. The people on the admissions committee just want to have an idea of the type of person you are.



‘Mylène’s Blog’ gives you an answer to something you’ve been curious about. ⑇ The Homepage of my website is the best place to learn about me. Homepage LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Instagram Gallery ⑇

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • OMG! you have no idea what this short but mighty post has saved me right now! I mean, I’ve spent hours memorizing a whole speech to present when asked any question during the MBA interview process but I am kinda glad I saw this before I got there and made a complete fool out of myself. You just saved my face, Mylene.

  • So concise. Thanks a lot for this. I have an MBA interview very soon and I am really nervous I may mess it up. A lot of people I know have shared their experiences with me and it sounds scary already. But this is really a good source of hope for me and I am grateful you shared this.

  • […] Hello to all new visitors, and welcome everyone. My name is Mylene. I have talked about my educational background a few times, such as in this piece titled “How to answer short answer questions when applying for your MBA.” […]


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