Monday, January 08, 2007

How to write a SOP

Some of the guys specifically wanted to know how to write the SOP. So here goes the brief. And as always, please post comments if you want specific help. Also if you want me to evaluate your SOP, I will be very glad as long as you are not asking me to write it for you.

One suggestion that tops them all – “Writing SOP is a time taking process. It will atleast need 12 man hours for the first draft of a good SOP. It will take more time to review and fine-tune. Do not write it a day before you have to send it. Spend time and it will reflect in its quality”

Over the next few days I will be writing tips to the other questions posed by the IIMs and some top colleges. Let me know if you want my help on any specific question.

In your SOP, if you cover the following basic things, you will have a structure to start with.
1. Why MBA
2. Why the particular college
3. Why the particular specialization (if any)
Once you have points for the above, you can twist, tweak, change order, add, delete etc to make it look better.

The answer to the first is most important. It is something that you need to answer to yourself before doing an MBA. If you are doing your MBA listlessly, just because everyone else is doing it, then you need to rethink on your options.

Some key tips while penning a SOP
1. The purpose of your SOP is to tell interesting things about you and to elicit questions on the choices you have made in life. A good SOP will make sure you have a good, self-steered interview and can single-handedly decide the outcome of your selection

2. Make sure you talk about your interests, career and academics. Then talk about what you want to do in life and how an MBA will fit in your plan of things

3. Have statements that summarize what you are saying. It could be quotes, but not necessarily.

4. If you make profound statements, they will lead to questions. So make it if you can defend it. I would say, Make it and Defend it.

5. When you are talking about the future plans, talk in terms of the work you want to do rather than the job you want to do. E.g., rather than saying that I want to be an investment banker, say that you want to handle mergers and acquisitions, or manage portfolios etc because numbers interest me. Rather than saying I want to be an entrepreneur, say that you want to start a company that gives farmers access to weather and production data across the world. Be prepared for deeper questions.

6. You need not always begin with a quote. Quote is nice, but there are nicer ways of beginning a SOP

7. The order in a SOP need not be chronological. That is an easier route, but may not be the best

8. People tend to be very philanthropic in the SOPs, many a times dishonest too. There is no pressure to be philanthropic. Be true. It is sad that some institutes are supposed to favour philanthropic SOPs, but I have nothing to say on them.

9. Show it to 5 people you know. Review of SOP always helps.

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    Anonymous Somil Agrawal said...

    Hi.Thanks a lot for this initiative of yours.I had a small query.Reading your blog and your comments on "about me" and the "SOP" has brought a question to my mind.Is SOP like a written version of what we are going to speak in the PI for "tell us abt urself" question?Can they both be the same?Please let me know of this.My email id is

    8:10 AM, January 10, 2007  
    Blogger Gyan-ee said...

    Hi Somil,

    SOP is a statement of purpose and fits more with the questions "Why do you want to do an MBA" and "Why xyz institute". It will have many points from "Tell me about yourself" but with a few variations that I can note

    1. It will not have hobbies and other information which do not fit with what you want to in your future.

    2. SOP is more of a career question while "Tell me some...." is covers a wide gambit.

    In SOP you talk about your interests, values and achievements more to integrate them with your future plan. In "Tell me..", you try and integrate it with your personality rather than plans. So even though some of the means look the same, the ends are very different.

    E.g., A SOP wud go like this...
    I have always dreamed and achieved big as my academics and other achievements show. With a vision of being a great entrepreneur, I feel an MBA at ABC will help me equip myself to achieve the same....
    ---- Talks about future plans

    A "Tell me someth..." wud go like this
    My achievements in academics and other areas has made me aspire higher. They have given me confidence, encouragement and humility at the same time.
    ---- Talks about personal traits

    Hope it helps

    9:55 PM, January 10, 2007  
    Anonymous Somil Agrawal said...

    Thanks for the comments.Can i have some id of urs where i can send u my SOP to have your views on it if its not much trouble for you.Please let me know.Thanks

    7:19 AM, January 11, 2007  
    Blogger Gyan-ee said...

    Hi Somil,

    Wud prefer you putting it in the comment section. My take is that it helps more people if it is public, which is the intent of this blog afterall.

    But if you have specific concerns, do send it across to In future you can post your answers in the relevant comment sections with 'Anonymous' if you dont want to disclose things about yourself in public

    11:11 PM, January 11, 2007  
    Anonymous anamika said...

    1. If I need to write about the books that have influenced me the most, what kinds of books shall they be? Give a few examples. I have not been an avid reader, have just read a few of them (alchemist, zahir, harry potter, 5 point someone, 1 night @ Call centre, etc) that too arnd 1.5 years back. If you could suggest a good book, I might read them and then write bout them. So, please suggest.

    2. What is the difference between professional goals & personal goals. What kind of goals should be included in "personal goals"?

    3. Again, what is the difference between professional achievements and personal achievements?

    4. Incidents that have influenced my life? Should these incidents be a academic failure, a personal mournful incident, or what?

    8:32 AM, January 12, 2007  
    Blogger Gyan-ee said...

    Hey Anamika,

    Point 1: I would suggest you not forcefully make a book an influence on yourself . That would do more harm than good. Be frank and be smart to divert such questions. If you have not been an avid reader, you could just say “I cant specifically put my finger on a book that had a great influence, but there are certainly few persons whose lives and ideas I am impressed with”…. Or something like that.

    Point 2: Professional life is clearly what you want to do in your career. Personal goals are anything apart from that. Like you may want to retire and start an NGO 20 years down the lane. Or roam around the world to get to know various cultures etc etc…. Again, think what you want to do in life and ‘be true’

    Point 3: Personal achievements could be ‘You are one of the 10 painters choosen for the World Modern Painting exhibition”  or something like that….

    Point 4: Incidents that have influenced need not always be personal. It would be ‘Iraq War’ or ‘Tsunami’ or a personal achiement/ failure or a discussion you had with your father/friend/professor or even a person you met

    4:32 AM, January 15, 2007  

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