Damiano Pietroni




United Kingdom




Sep 2018 - May 2020

By Damiano Pietroni

Preparing for the Oxford Executive MBA

There are a number of steps between the moment in which a person decides that the Oxford Executive MBA is the best choice and the moment that person starts on the programme. This article seeks to cover some experience based points in this space.

The very first step, relevant especially to those with less than ten years professional experience, is to study for and complete the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), attaining a score demonstrating sufficient analytical rigor to complete the Oxford EMBA.

The second step is to understand what level of support would be provided by one’s organization. The most comprehensive form of support entails full financial support and time off. The least comprehensive form of support entails the organization agreeing that the employee can do the programme, but not providing any support beyond that. The outcome of the initial conversation on support matters as it allows the prospective student to start planning from a financial perspective.

The third step is to get to know the programme in detail – so as to ensure the best possible application. This can be achieved in many ways, including attending Oxford EMBA events, reading up on the programme online (the Oxford EMBA blog is a great resource), and directly asking friends and colleagues with first-hand experience.

Strong with the knowledge from this “discovery” phase, the fourth step is to apply to the programme. There are two intakes per year, namely September and January, so there always is a start date not too far off in the future. The application includes a CV check, three essays, and an interview. For the CV check, it is important to ensure that key achievements are clearly flagged, and that the CV communicates a level of experience and seniority aligned with an Executive MBA. The essays are a lot of fun, allowing the prospective student to share her views on interesting matters, whilst giving the university insights on the candidate herself. The interview can be unnerving, but again is likely to be a positive experience if one has prepared sufficiently and is strong on current matters.

Having received a response from the university with regard to the application, and assuming the response is positive, the next step is to align colleagues to the fact that one will be off one week in six. Operationally, this may mean agreeing that another resource will step in during the weeks of absence, or may entail picking up work that can be progressed with the EMBA schedule.

Following that, the sixth step is to choose an Oxford college. Key things to look at are how far the college is from the Saïd Business School, whether the college allows six-seven night stays (as that is the duration of an EMBA module), and whether there are any personal elements that truly stand out, such as especially beautiful architecture.

The seventh and final step is to show up on day one of the programme, learn about the other classmates, and mentally prepare for what will undoubtedly be engaging, challenging, and transformational twenty-one months.

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