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Video Essays for MBA Applications

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

Many top business schools have started asking for impromptu video essays as a key part of their application process.


Are you prepared well before attempting your MBA video essays?

Please note the following before you continue: this article only deals with impromptu video essay questions from schools such as INSEAD, Kellogg and Yale. We do not cover the topic of recorded video essays which are asked by schools like MIT Sloan in this article.


As per the INSEAD admissions team: "The video should be seen as a unique opportunity for you to share your passions, your motivations and who you truly are. The MBA Admissions Committee is interested in obtaining an authentic view of you as a person, to see how you think on your feet and how you convey your ideas."


The Kellogg School of Management has similar expectations from its video essays: "The video essays provide you with an additional opportunity to demonstrate what you will bring to our vibrant Kellogg community — in an interactive way. You will respond to several short video essay questions. The questions are designed to bring to life the person we have learned about on paper."


So how do these video essays work? What do the schools ask? What are they trying figure out?


We tackle all these aspects in this blog post, along with some key tips on how to prepare for them.

 

Why ask for video essays?


Before we even begin talking about these video essays, which literally feel like an extra hassle for the candidates after they have gone through the entire, exhausting written application, the first question that comes to mind is - why!?


Over the years, more and more schools have started asking for video essays, and have made it an important part of their application. The premise is simple - video essays help them see the candidate in a different light, compared to the written application.


While you might have excellent writing skills, and know your story well, videos help the schools gauge your real-life personality.


Are you someone who can interact easily with their future classmates?

Are you able to think quickly and structure yourself in a short-span of time, while maintaining your calm?

Are you able to present yourself confidently?


All these points are tackled very easily through a video presentation, when you are faced with multiple, unknown questions.


How to tackle video essays?


The first thing to keep in mind while addressing the video essays is that their purpose is NOT to filter candidates, rather help the admissions committees get a better idea of their personality.


One key thing that all schools look to understand from their video essays is - how does the candidate react in unfamiliar, unexpected situations. (To know about specific questions asked, scroll down to the bottom of the article.)


The trick to sailing through, therefore, is to remain calm, and be prepared!

How to prepare for video essays?


We suggest a very simple, step-by-step process to help prepare for video essays.


Step 1: Know the questions.


Some schools, such as Kellogg, provide a pre-defined list of questions that you will face during the video essay section. For Kellogg, a total of three questions are asked, of which the first two remain the same for all candidates, and the third one is a randomised question.


However, for some schools such as INSEAD, all the questions are completely random. However, if you analyze carefully, the questions are usually associated with certain topics that are of great interest to the schools, or directly align with the school's values.


So it's imperative for you to know which kind of questions are usually asked during the video essays.


Step 2: Identify key experiences, events, strengths, weaknesses, and associated examples.


Once you know the kind of questions that might be asked by the school, you should identify your key experiences and examples of your strengths and weaknesses which could help you answer such questions.


For example, if the question asked is - what is your biggest strength, you shouldn't start thinking about your biggest strength while you are about to record your answer. Ideally, you should already know the answer, along with 1-2 examples of situations where you have displayed these strengths.


Step 3: Structure your answers.


So you have the question, you know the content that will fit in perfectly with the question, but do you have the perfect structure which can help you bring forth all the points that you want to make, in the limited amount of time that you have?


The 20-45 seconds of prep time that schools provide after asking the question should ideally be utilized to structure your response.


A highly productive use of this time is to clearly identify the introduction, body and the conclusion of your answer so that you are able to present yourself in a structured and composed manner.


Step 4: Practice. Practice. Practice.


There is no substitute for practicing for the video essays. Familiarize yourself with the setup, practice multiple questions, identify the perfect ways to illustrate your various examples, and keep practiciing further.


Unlike written essays where you have the possibility to review and edit your essays numerous times before submission, video essays don't provide you that flexibility. Further, they often come with stringent time-limits - try speaking about a key experience and you will realize how quickly 60 seconds pass away.


Therefore it is almost non-negotiable that you undergo multiple rounds of practice before attempting the video essays. Almost all schools provide this opportunity to practice innumerable times before you attempt the actual essay questions.


Practicing can also help you get rid of any anxiety, while creating a familiarity with the overall setup.


So, that's mostly it about video essays and how to tackle them.


Now we are going to dive deeper into the various schools which ask for video essays.

 

Few big names in the world of video essays are INSEAD, Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management, and Oxford Said Business School. Few other schools such as LBS, Rotman, Georgetown, Emory Goizueta and IE Business School also ask for video essays, but we wouldn't be going into much details for those in this article. For example, LBS does not have a video interview component while submitting applications, but only for those candidates who receive an interview invite.


Also, once you get the hang of how to prepare for one-two schools, the rest of the schools should be much easier to tackle. So, let's start.


Kellogg School of Management


How to access video essays: Link is made available after written application is submitted and paid.

Submission Deadline: 48 hours after round deadline.


Number of questions asked: 3 Pre-defined questions: 2 Randomised questions: 1


Preparation Time: 20 seconds for each question

Answering Time: 1 minute for each question


Pre-defined questions:

  1. Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.

  2. What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?

Randomised questions:

The third question will ask about a challenge you’ve faced.


Examples of randomised questions:

  • Talk about a team disagreement and how you handled it.

  • Tell us about an organization or activity in which you have dedicated significant time. Why was it meaningful to you?

  • Tell us about something good someone else did for you and how you felt about it?

  • Tell us about the most interesting place you’ve traveled to. What did you enjoy most about it.

Link for more info: Kellogg Video Essays


 

Yale School of Management


How to access video essays: Link is made available after written application is submitted and paid.

Submission Deadline: 48 hours after round deadline.


Number of questions asked: 3 Pre-defined questions: 0 Randomised questions: 3


Preparation Time: 20 seconds for first two questions, 30 seconds for third question

Answering Time: 60 seconds for first two questions, 90 seconds for third question


Randomised questions:

As per Yale admissions team, "The questions asked are similar to typical interview questions, and there are no “trick questions.” We are not trying to stump you."


Usually Yale categorizes its questions in three distinct groups.


Examples of randomised questions:

Group 1: Motivation for MBA

  • Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your life?

  • Why are you doing an MBA now?

  • Why Yale?

Group 2: Behavioral Questions

  • You are starting a new project with team members coming from different cultures and educational background. How would you help them get to know each other?

  • What do you do when someone comes to you with a problem?

  • A colleague is asking you to help him/her to assess his/her future career options. How do you help him/her grow?

  • If you were a team leader and you had a worker who constantly underdelivered – what would you do?

  • What is your management style?

  • Give me an example of a time you convinced your other team members.

  • What word describes you best and why?

  • Tell us about an organization or activity to which you have dedicated significant time. Why was it meaningful to you?

  • What impact do you have on your co-workers?

  • How do you deal with conflicts in the work environment?

  • How do you deal with difficult people at work?

  • Have you ever been in a negotiation that wasn’t win-win, rather, win-lose or lose-lose?

  • Tell us about your leadership style.

  • What does leadership mean to you?

  • Tell us about a situation that you had to convince others of your opinion

  • What would you say is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

  • What 3 qualities must a leader have and which is your weakest?

  • Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.

  • What qualities would your friends use to describe you?

  • Tell us about a challenging work experience and how you handled it.

  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?

  • Tell us about a time when you had to maintain your calm. Describe the situation and how you handled it.

Group 3: Thought-provoking and presenting yourself

  • Please respond to the following statement: “It is better for a leader to have superficial knowledge of many topics than to be an expert in one topic.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “It is more important to judge people by their actions than by their intentions.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “If freedom is about doing whatever you want, then animals have more freedom than humans.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “The world has changed so much in the past 500 years that it is simply impossible for innovation to keep at the same pace, meaning the next 500 years will change less than the previous 500 years.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “The people who we remember most are the people who break the rules.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “Without Arts, education cannot be accomplished” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  • Please respond to the following statement: “As businesses become more global, the differences between cultures decrease.” Do you agree or disagree? Why

  • Please respond to the following statement: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  • Some say that the invention of the automobile caused more harm than good to society. Do you agree? Why?

  • Globalization can be effective only when companies do not have to worry about health, environment, and employees”. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Link for more info: Yale Video Essays


 

INSEAD


How to access video essays: Link is made available after written application is submitted and paid.

Submission Deadline: 48 hours after round deadline.


Number of questions asked: 4 Pre-defined questions: 0 Randomised questions: 4


Preparation Time: 45 seconds for each question

Answering Time: 1 minute for each question


Randomised questions:

Based on our analysis of INSEAD video questions, we broadly classify them into 6 different groups - representing the different values or qualities that INSEAD looks for in its candidates.