How To Write University Exam Essays On Leadership

MBA LEADERSHIP Sample Exam Questions with Answer Guidelines The exam is an important assessment and you need to pass the exam in order to be able to pass the subject and to have over 50% overall for ‘assignment + exam’. Make sure you understand the requirements of AIB exams by familiarising yourself with the Exam Guide for Students. To help you with your exam preparation there are some sample exam questions with answer guidelines below. Practise answering the questions spending approximately 40 minutes for each question. Once you have written your answer you can check whether you have included the type of content that the examiner would be looking for. Note that the content for the answer is written in bullet-point and note form. We provide the sample content in this form to enable you to quickly check whether your own content corresponds to the expected content. However, in an actual exam answer you are required to provide the answer using normal sentences and normal paragraphs as in an essay or report. QUESTIONS Question1 a) The Triarchic Theory of Intelligence describes three kinds of intelligence: Analytical, Practical and Creative. Explain the essence of this theory and give examples of each (from your memory or imagination not the textbook) of these types of intelligence and say how each is important to leadership. Identify any criticisms you may have of this theory and/or strengths of such a model. b) Emotional Intelligence (EI) was described by Aberman as ‘the degree to which thoughts and feelings are aligned’ (as cited in Hughes, Ginnett & Curphy 2015, pp. 2211). Using examples from your own behaviour and experience in leadership, discuss what you think he means and why this might be important. For extra marks, compare this take on EI to other perspectives. Identify which model you personally favour and why. Question 2 a) Using your organisation or an organisation you are very familiar with, use the Interaction Model of Leadership to explain how the current organisational culture developed. Use specific examples to support your conclusions. b) Your textbook refers to Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework. Use Cameron and Quinn’s model to evaluate what type of organisational culture exists in 1 Hughes, R, Ginnett, R & Curphy, G 2015, Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York. ©Australian Institute of Business. 27MAY16 1 the organisation chosen in part (a). Provide specific examples to support your conclusion. Question 3 Leadership is not only a science and an art, but also has rational and emotional properties. Using concrete examples (descriptions of actual incidents) from your own leadership, and/or leadership you have personally observed, discuss and evaluate these claims. Use as much theory as you can to show you can analyse the leadership behaviour process in terms of the theories and concepts in the unit. Question 4 After benefiting from this subject and based on what you now know about Leadership theory, develop a detailed plan that maps out your own future Leadership Development Plan. In your plan you should identify what organisational provisions are currently available to you. ©Australian Institute of Business. 27MAY16 2 ANSWER GUIDELINES Question 1 a) • Analytical intelligence is problem solving ability, so students may give an example of a particular analytical problem. Analytical intelligence is important for learning and having the ability to make accurate deductions and see connections between issues. • Practical intelligence is being street smart or adaptive to situations. It is important for leaders to know how or what to do in a situation. Creative intelligence means the ability to produce work or solutions that are both novel and useful. Students should give practical examples of each. An example of creative intelligence might be when a student developed a new use for an existing product (provide example) or a new marketing strategy or a new application of an existing marketing strategy. • Better students may be able to posit criticisms of the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. This part of the question is designed to show that students have thought critically about the concept. Therefore, any answer that demonstrates this is acceptable. • For example, the theory does not specifically discuss intuitive cognitive processing and what is now called emotional intelligence. These two aspects of intelligence seem to be lumped in together with practical intelligence. Creative intelligence is also a product of intuitive insight (the Eureka Effect). The label “Street smarts” could be considered to be too vague. Strengths of the model could include the importance of recognising that intelligence is not just IQ and recognising that people have strengths in different areas of intelligence as described by the model. b) • If thoughts are not consistent with feelings, inner conflict results and success may be precluded. For example, your analysis may say a new job is good as it pays more, offers more opportunity and a higher material standard of living, however, feelings and intuitions may point towards a bad organisational culture or repugnant nature of the work. • Similarly, a leader’s thoughts might be directed at achieving a certain target but he or she may feel it unachievable or may have emotional reservations about that target. Those people whose feelings and thoughts are aligned are more likely to succeed. • Students who can compare this take on Emotional Intelligence (EI) to any other take, such as Slovey and Mayer, who posited EI as the recognising and managing of emotions in oneself and others, should be given higher marks. Better students will argue why they favour a particular take on EI. The examiner is looking for understanding of the theories and coherent logic to support their position. ©Australian Institute of Business. 27MAY16 3 Question 2 a) • The student must provide the examiner with a specific organisation and its prevailing culture. • Using the Interaction Model of Leadership, the student is required to explain how the organisational culture formed through the interaction of the three core variables of the leader, the follower and the situation. • The examiner is not looking for a description of the model, but rather a sophisticated analysis and organisational examples of how these three factors have all worked together and resulted in the current culture. • There is no right or wrong answer in this question; however, at master’s level the examiner is looking for depth of reasoning, a sound rationale for why things are stated or solid justification for the assumptions propounded. • The more in depth the interaction examples are explained and supported with evidence, the higher the marks. b) • Following on from part a), and using the same organisation as in part a), the student is to refer to Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework. • They are to determine which of these cultures (hierarchy culture, market culture, clan culture or adhocracy culture) best represents their organisational example in part a). • They should justify their decision with examples of the prevailing cultural norms and practices. Question 3 • The nature of the question is broad so that students may draw on any number of theories to combine with examples if they can show relevance. As clearly stated, students should talk about actual incidents and view these through the lens of theory to come to conclusions in relation to the claims made by the literature. • For example, students may argue that in their own leadership they have used a particular theory to analyse a leadership problem, say a contingency theory, to come up with a strategy to appropriately guide followers in a given situation. They can therefore claim that this leadership was science based and rational. • On the other hand, students may claim they have seen a leader appeal to the emotions of followers through articulating a vision (transformational leadership). They can then claim that this leadership was artful and emotional. The examiner will award higher ©Australian Institute of Business. 27MAY16 4 marks to students who 1) use concrete examples of behaviour, and 2) compare these examples to theory in their answer. • Better students may take a strong position in relation to these claims and clearly support it with their discussion. Question 4 • This is a broad question, designed to ascertain the student’s level of engagement with the many theoretical concepts taught in this subject. Below are some of the concepts: o o o o o o Action-observation-reflection model Learning from experience Leadership education Single-loop and double-loop learning Gaps analysis Spiral of experience:  perception and observation  perception and reflection  perception and action. • Development planning is the process of conducting a gaps analysis, prioritising needs and building a development plan. The purpose of a development plan is not only to increase knowledge and skills but, in so doing, to alter behaviour for the better. • Leadership improvement involves the practising and development of skills. Successful leaders will act to hone their skills and continue learning and developing throughout their career. • Learning from experience is an important skill for leaders and will enhance effectiveness. • Learning from others is a powerful learning experience for leaders. • A method of enhancing learning from experience is in keeping a journal. • Building technical competence is the process of gaining the knowledge necessary to perform a task effectively. • Becoming an expert in the job can be achieved through additional training, observing others and teaching others. ©Australian Institute of Business. 27MAY16 5

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Top 10 Tips for College Admissions Essays


In the admissions process, US colleges and universities generally use three criteria for determining which students to accept and which to reject:

  1. Previous coursework – your college preparatory work and grade point average (GPA)
  2. Standardized test scores – SAT and ACT are the two most respected.
  3. Admission/Entrance essays

Of the three criteria, the college entrance essay provides you with the greatest opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competition and show off the person behind the statistics. This article will help in writing a college essay and help you boost your chances of being accepted by an American university or college

Section 1: Planning Your Essay

Tip #1: Understand the Admissions Board Psychology

When you have compiled all the pieces of your application and sent it to the college/university of your dreams, all of your hard work gets placed in a pile with hundreds of other applications. Then a small group of admissions officers will review each application, looking over the scores and coursework and reading the college application essays.

The key to convincing the admissions officers is in understanding what they are looking for. They want students who will:

  • Succeed once they are admitted;
  • Contribute to the educational experience of other students; and,
  • Bring honor and prestige to the university once they graduate.

In your college admissions essay, you want to portray yourself as a student who will meet those needs. Of course, the specifics of what qualifies as “succeed” or “bring honor” will depend a bit on the particular university, but all admissions officers share these three goals.

Before you write your college admissions essay, take a few minutes and jot down some answers to the following questions:

  • How can I reassure the admissions board that I will succeed in their school?
  • How will I show that I am determined and ambitious; that I will not get poor grades or drop out?
  • How can I contribute positively to the educational experience of other students?
  • How might I bring honor and prestige to the university?
  • What are my long-term goals? Might I win an award someday, or start a business, or improve a scientific process?

Your answer to these questions will help you frame the content of your essay.

Tip #2: Determine Your Essay Goals

Along with the three questions above, you should contemplate how you want the admissions officers to perceive you. After reading your college admissions essay, what should they think of your personality and activities?

Most students want the college admissions board to view them as responsible, dependable, and academically ambitious. These are excellent essay goals, but you should also consider the essay in relation to your classwork. If your classwork already shows that you are studious and determined (because you have taken a wide variety of advanced classes), then you may want to highlight another feature of your personality.

Along with developing an image of your character, writing the college admissions essay allows you to feature other aspects of your life that are not reflected in your pre-college coursework. Some aspects to consider:

  • Have I worked at an interesting or relevant job?
  • Do I belong to any clubs or organizations?
  • Have I demonstrated leadership or teamwork?
  • Have I demonstrated compassion or community-responsibility?

Tip #3: Distinguish Yourself from the Other Applicants

This bit of strategic thinking should be fairly easy. As an international student, you by definition are different from the bulk of American citizens who apply to American universities. However, it is not enough to simply say, “Well, I’m not from around here.” Instead, you need to reference the strengths of your home culture. You don’t need to elaborate at length; a sentence or two should be enough to ensure that the admissions board pays attention to you.

Remember that you are more than just an international student from an interesting background; you are a complete person with a lifetime of experiences. You should take some time to think about what else makes you different from most the other hundreds of students writing college admissions essays. Add those features (plays piano, excellent at football, speak five languages) to your growing list of essay goals.

Tip #4: Contribute to the University

Remember that one of the goals of the admissions board when reading college admissions essays is to find students who will enhance the educational experience of other students. In other words, how can you contribute to other students’ learning? As with tip #3, you already have an edge by being an international student.

One of the general goals of education is to broaden people’s experiences, so that they come to realize the limits of their own intellect, and then grow beyond those limits. As an international student, you offer other students an opportunity for cultural diversity. As with Tip #3, it is not enough to assume the college admissions board will recognize this benefit. You need to highlight it in your essay. Again, a sentence or two should be enough to accomplish this goal.

Again, remember that you are more than just an international student. You have so much more to contribute to the campus social and learning environment than just your home culture. Take a few moments to consider what else you may contribute.

  • Maybe you are excellent at study groups or other forms of collaborative work.
  • Maybe you will join a student organization or athletic team.
  • Maybe you will write for a student newsletter or blog.

Whatever you feel you can contribute, add that to your list of essay goals.

Tip #5: Understand and Answer the Essay Prompt

At this point, you’ve come up with more ideas than you can possibly fit into one essay. Now you need to focus your goals to only three or four ideas – the ones that will make you the most attractive to the college admissions board. No matter what the prompt asks, you want to ensure you include those three or four ideas in your college admissions essay.

The concept is to present a few ideas very well, rather than list all your ideas poorly. A narrowly focused essay will be much more effective than a general, vague one.

Reading and answering the prompt may seem a bit obvious, but it’s often the obvious that people ignore. You should take the time to read and re-read the essay prompt, so you can answer it fully. Don’t be intimidated; unlike some college exams, the college application essay prompt is not designed to trick you. However, you must demonstrate that you can read and follow directions. Think of that great pile of applications. The admissions officers are looking for a reason to disregard candidates. Don’t let them reject you because you hastily overlooked a sentence in the essay prompt.

On the other hand, the prompt is designed to give you some freedom for creativity, which will allow you to work in those three or four key ideas that you have developed through tips 1 through 4. You are encouraged to find novel ways of answering the prompt, so long as you do indeed answer the questions provided.

If you need more help choosing a topic, you can find some tips on our Choosing a Topic for Your College Essay page.

Section 2: Writing Your Essay

At this stage in the college admissions essay writing process, you have considered the goals and psychology of the college admissions board. You have produced a list of ideas/attributes/details about yourself that colleges will find appealing. You have narrowed that list to the three or four most important ideas – the ones that will get you into your preferred college/university. Now it is time to actually write the essay.

Tip #6: Write with Specific Details

The key to excellent and memorable writing is to write in fine detail. The more specific your essay, the stronger an impression it will make on the admissions board. If you are trying to show that you are a dedicated scholar, don’t write: “I never missed an assignment deadline, no matter how poorly I was feeling the night before.” Instead you write: “In my junior year, I came down with a terrible case of pneumonia. Despite having a 103 degree fever and being required to stay in bed, I still completed my draft speech on the possible impacts of global warming on agriculture.” The latter will make a stronger impression; and people vote for the people they remember.

As you are writing your essay, ask yourself:

  • Is there a specific instance or example that shows this?
  • Can I add imagery (colors, shapes) to make it more interesting?
  • Can I replace general nouns (“class” or “car”) with something specific (“Honors Geometry” or “Honda Civic”)?

You may be thinking, “I don’t really like to boast about my personality; I prefer to let my record speak for itself.” While you should try to avoid sounding too arrogant, the college application essay is not the time for modesty. The admissions officers are expecting you to celebrate yourself, to underline your strengths and personality, so they can make a quick, accurate judgment about you.

Tip #7: Demonstrate College-Level Diction

Diction (word choice) is the fundamental structure of writing. Your word choice reveals a great deal about your personality, education and intellect. Furthermore, as an international student, you want to reassure the college admissions board that you have an excellent command of the English language (remember: they want you to succeed; they need to know that you can actively participate in English-only instruction).

With this in mind, you should replace lower-level words (bad, sad, thing, nice, chance) with higher-level words (appalling, despondent, phenomena, comforting, opportunity). You might consider looking up SAT/ACT vocabulary words and working a handful of those into your essay.

You should also remove any slang or casual diction; the university is not interested in casual language in their admissions essays.

Tip #8: Demonstrate College-level Style

An American proverb states, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” In other words, you want to present yourself as being ready for the next job. In this instance, you want to show that you already have college-level writing skills. So, in writing your college application essays, you should write with the following features in mind:

  • Write primarily in complex sentences, rather than simple or compound sentences;
  • Include figurative language such as a metaphor, a simile, personification; and
  • Include a trope or scheme, such as chiasmus, oxymoron or anaphora.

As with tip #7, this serves two functions: 1) it distinguishes your essay from those that are poorly written; and 2) it reassures the admissions board of your excellent command of written English.

Tip #9: Have Someone Proofread Your Essay

This is one of the most important tips on this list. Everyone who writes knows that the words in your head don’t always make it onto the page the way they should. Because you know what it should say, it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking the essay says something that it doesn’t. For this reason, you should ask a friend or a relative (or an English teacher) to look over your essay and check your:

  • Grammar: did you write in complete sentences? Do all your subjects and verbs agree?
  • Diction: are all the words used properly for an American audience?
  • Organization: have you grouped sentences together coherently?

Tip #10: Pay Attention to Deadlines

College admissions essays require a tremendous amount of work. As you work and rework the essay, pay attention to the admission deadlines and requirements. Every school has their own system for how and when to file your application. Do not assume that, because one school uses e-mails and PDFs, that another school does as well.

The best way to stay organized through the college admissions process (and at the university when courses begin) is to rigorously maintain a calendar that includes:

  • Final deadlines
  • Reminders of upcoming deadlines
  • Process deadlines (breaking larger tasks into smaller steps)

Bonus Tip: Post, but Don't Panic

At some point, you will file your college admissions application. After you post it, please don’t panic. With these tips, and your determined intellect, you have an excellent chance of being accepted to an American university.

Take a look at our college essay samples to get an idea of what colleges are looking for in your essay.

Admission Essays

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