How to write an Oxford-style CV: Let your achievements shine

One of the most attractive features of our programmes is the diversity of our student body, in terms of cultural, academic and professional experience.

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MPP students

We accept and embrace cultural differences in our applicants’ writing styles, and there is no single ‘correct’ way to write a CV (curriculum vitae).

Successful applications will display a glowing academic record and an exceptional commitment to public service (see Graduate Admissions pages for the full assessment criteria for each course). Your CV is the first place for you to display these things, so it is essential that you present your achievements in the clearest and most accessible way possible. This blog serves as a guide of what the CV of a successful MPP or MSc applicant might look like.

Do note that academic CVs tend to be different, so if you are applying to the DPhil you may want to look for guidance on academic CVs specifically. You can find examples of academic CVs on the University’s Career Service website.

What should my CV look like?

Most commonly, CVs are presented in a time-based structure, where work experience and qualifications are listed in reverse chronological order. This ensures that assessors are able to easily build up a picture of your academic and professional trajectory to date. This is usually considered a Standard or Traditional CV – you can see some sample CVs of this kind on the Careers Service website here.

Alternatively, sometimes CVs focus on a specific skillset, rather than on experience or trajectory. This is more common for candidates who have been out of education or work, or who may have less work experience to display. In this case, specific skills are listed with supporting exemplary evidence of each skill. It should be clear to the readers why each skills would make you an ideal MPP or MSc candidate (bearing in mind our selection criteria).

Information in your CV should always be presented clearly and concisely. The recommended length of a CV is between one and two pages; if you would like to highlight or expand on something specific, you can do this in your personal statement.

Giving headings, such as ‘Education and Traning’, ‘Work Experience’, and ‘Other Skills’ can help you structure the CV if you are unsure of the order in which you should present your achievements.

What should my CV include?

We recommend including the following information:

  • Your full academic trajectory. Include all your academic degrees (including any you are currently completing), making sure to list the awarding institution, the full degree title, the date the degree was/will be conferred, and the final overall grade awarded/expected, along with any special achievements or honours.
  • Details of your professional activities and positions held. Include your full title, the name of the employer or company, the start and end dates, and an overview of the responsibilities the position entailed along with any particular achievements made.
  • Any voluntary work, public service, or political engagement.
  • Details of any additional awards, prizes, or relevant skills you have obtained or developed.

Any gaps in recorded employment should be fully explained, and you may also wish to give a brief overview of your extracurricular activities and interests.

I’m struggling to keep it short, what should I leave out?

You do not need to list any qualifications that are below degree-level, such as high school records.

Extensive personal information is not required either – it is sufficient to just cite your name at the top of the page, as other information such as contact details will be available in other parts of your application.

There is no need to list (or even refer to) your referees – these are recorded in the form you complete during your application, so they do not need to be listed on your CV.

It is important to remember that a CV is essentially a summary of key information relating to your academic and professional achievements, so excessive narrative is discouraged. Instead, opt for concise bullet-points or similar, to aid flow and ease of reading.

Some candidates may wish to include a bibliography of published works to highlight a particular piece of research carried out. This is not, in theory, a faux-pas, but do bear in mind that our assessors will not read a long list in its entirety, so if you do wish to include this, consider restricting this to one or two pieces that you feel best display your analytical ability, and are most relevant to the topics on which the MPP will focus.

Finally, some common Do's and Don'ts

Do target your CV.

Consider what is really relevant for the MPP or MSc and what should be a priority. Your CV should outline your suitability for the specific programme you are applying to, it is not a competition to see who has had the highest number of positions. Make sure to familiarise yourself with our entry requirements to understand what our assessors are looking for!

Do ensure your CV demonstrates what sets you apart from other candidates.

If there is something you are especially proud of, highlight why!

Don’t be too modest.

If you have received special recognition or prizes from your educational institutions or employers then make sure you include those. You should also think about any particular projects you have initiated or led on, as well as any particular achievements you have accomplished. But also…

Don’t lie about or exaggerate your achievements!

It should go without saying that this is a big “no”. Our assessors will be thoroughly checking out any claims you have made; if you are judged to be dishonest, your chances of being selected for a place could be severely hindered.

Similarly, too much embellishment of your role can come across as superficial and our assessors may query the real extent of your accomplishments.

Overall, your CV should show your trajectory to date, and why you would be a good addition to our student cohort!


You may wish to read through the University’s Careers Service CV advice, which includes helpful templates and style advice.

If you would like to apply to one of our programmes and have not yet started your application, you can find all information about the courses themselves, entry requirements and selection criteria, and full instructions on how to apply on the Graduate Admissions pages for the MPP and MSc. If you cannot find the answer to your question online, feel free to email the Admissions Team at admissions@bsg.ox.ac.uk.

Admissions for entry in September 2022 are currently open, and the deadline is Friday 7 January at noon (UK time). However, we would strongly encourage all applications to submit their applications as early as possible before the deadline.