When English is not your first language and you're applying to five or more top business schools essays and have to answer three unique essay questions for each application, that's at least 15 essay questions you have to think about. That's a lot to look at.
I encourage international MBA applicants to break up essay questions into two groups to simplify the long list of essay questions: Emotional essay questions and Matter-of-Fact essay questions.
Emotional essay questions are those that require you to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, your success stories, your failure stories. Most of the time, these type of essays prompt us to feel a certain way. Depending on the style of writing, you can really become a great story-teller here and engage the admission officer. Admission officers are really looking for authenticity here and if you can pull that off with the right stories, then there are few points in your favor right there.
On the other hand, matter-of-fact essay questions are technical questions that business schools love to ask applicants every year. These involve questions like Why MBA? Why Now? Why [x] School? What are your career goals and how will [x] school help you achieve them? etc
Answers to these type of questions should be concise and very clear. It ties into the first tip up above where if you aren't doing the necessary leg work before writing, this part of the writing process becomes difficult because you're forced to stop and think or in some cases, applicants either make up things as they go or they're very general in their answers.
This could be the difference between:
"I want an MBA to work as a higher executive in the nonprofit industry."
"As Managing Director of Development and Operations for a nonprofit like Echoing Green, I envision going beyond health disparities and addressing complex social issues like creating programs for the underserved to build credit."
By just reading the second statement, you can tell that the applicant took the time to think about his career goals and research companies and job positions that may become of interest post-MBA.
Categorizing essay questions into an emotional or matter-of-fact category helps to break down that list and group similar questions together so that you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to dissect an application. On some occasions, you may even reuse some of the content in other essays so you don't have to go back to the drawing back again and again.
And finally, Oscar is founder of MBA Writer's Block [http://mbawritersblock.com], an online admissions resource for young professionals and students applying to business school. He is a seasoned MBA applicant who has secured interviews from top MBA programs. He has taken his years of application experience and funneled it into the MBA Writer's Block blog, as well as his newly published essay guide, MBA Essays Exposed.