本文由芝士圈首席文书官Andrew Daum(牛津大学PPE)撰写,芝士圈CEO黄宇人热心翻译(特此感谢)。


How to judge whether the quality of a PS or CV is high or low?



You’re asking a good question about two very different documents.


To address it helpfully, I am now going to give you—in turn—a definition of each document and a list of ‘red flag problems’ derived from those definitions. Neither will be a complete list of possible indicators of low quality. They are all logical applications of the definitions I will give you.

A PS is a tool for the admissions committee to differentiate you from other candidates; and a vehicle for you to deliver a case for admission to the program – that convinces the reader you are equipped to be a success on the program. So: It should be a persuasive case comprised of specific factual information derived from your experiences that substantiates why you think you have the right motivation and aptitudes for the program.


So now some red flag issues drawn from the definition:


1. Generalities: Keep it specific. Eschew adjectives and stick to concrete nouns

2. Epiphanies: Your career goals, your reasons for applying for the program, your interest in the subject should be a result of a series of thoughtful, conscious, and reflective decisions and deliberations, based on actual experiences you’ve had. Not an instantaneous realization or something you’ve mysteriously “always known”.

3. Mom and Dad (or Aunt and Uncle or whatever): This is about you. Your goals and motivations and skills. Not your family or friends.

4. Chronological account: Avoid providing a re-run of all of your activities and achievements depicted in your resume.


5. Clichés: “I like science and want to take care of people therefore I want to study medicine.” – Every medical professional can or should be able to say this. Therefore, it is not suitable for a PS because it’s not something that is particular to you.

6. Grandiose objectives: So often people submit a PS containing claims that they are going to “cure diseases” or “improve quality of life” or “transform education in mainland China”. Grandiose objectives suggest the writer hasn’t reflected on their experiences to date adequately. It therefore suggests what they are saying in the PS doesn’t really matter to them. If the PS content doesn’t matter to you, why should it matter to the reader?

7. Excuses or blame: There are better things to write in your PS than worries about poor grades. Half the time you’re overthinking the scale of the problem and drawing unneeded attention to it. If you have a good explanation for some shortfall, the shortfall will be relevant to the application, and the explanation will be brief, focusing on what you learned as a result.

8. Quotations: In your PS, you have a word limit; you are constrained by the reader’s attention and patience; the reader wants to hear about you. So, there’s no logical way someone else’s words can be a good idea in that context.

5.废话:“我喜欢科学并且想照顾别人,所以我想学习医学。” ——每个医学专家都可以或应该这样说。因此,它不适用于PS,因为它不是你特有的。
6. 宏伟的目标:人们通常会提交一份PS,其中包含声称要“治愈疾病”或“改善生活质量”或“改变中国大陆的教育”。宏伟的目标表明作者至今尚未充分反思他们的经历。因此,这表明他们在PS中所说的话对他们而言并不重要。如果PS内容对你来说没有切身关系,那对读者来说又有何意义呢?

Where the PS calls on you to present facts in order to convey your personality and prove your motivation and aptitude for the program, the resume calls for the facts. An overview. But pay attention to the format and conventions: You have a page or two. You should use three bullet points to provide detail on each experience. You should present in reverse-chronological order. These constraints mean you need to be selective and thoughtful about how you present facts in your resume.


1. Inconsistency: Inconsistency is jarring, interrupts attention, and suggests laziness or lack of care. There are fewer rules with resumes than you might think. With formatting, styling, punctuation, capitalization and so forth simply make a decision and apply it consistently. Be systematic. Create order for the reader’s eye to travel.

2. Job descriptions: A lot of people write entries on their resume as if they’re posting a job advertisement – they talk about their responsibilities instead of their achievements. State (as specifically as possible) what you used the tools and resources at your disposal to achieve.

3. Lack of discernment: Acknowledge the short space at your disposal and demonstrate care by making smart decisions about content: Do you need to include your high school on a resume applying for a master’s? No. You don’t. Because it’s not relevant. Do you need to precede your email address with the label ‘Email:’ No. You don’t. Because it’s pretty obvious what it is!

4. Careless verbs: The verbs you use at the beginning of each bullet point can be very powerful; not all verbs are equal and, as ever, show you’ve thought about it: The easiest way to demonstrate you have not thought about your verb choices is to repeat the same verbs at the beginning of multiple bullet points.


Those are some headline points, drawn from the definition of resumes I gave you.


One last thing that is central to determining whether a document is high quality or low: Obtain and follow the exact specifications and requirements for the PS and resume as stated by the target program. Failing to do this is probably the most foolish thing candidates can do and the quickest route to producing low quality documents.

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