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A Step-by-step Guide to Writing a CV

by A.I.

CV, application, university, work experience

Although, you may think that writing your CV is one of the easier parts of your university application, it is also an extremely important part to get right! In this article I will provide a guide to help you put together a CV for your university application.

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae (or CV) is a one to two page document that highlights your academic achievements, professional experience, skills, and interests.


The ‘reverse chronological’ CV is the most commonly used format. For each section of your CV you should present your most recent achievements first and then work your way back in time. This format will provide a clear and complete picture of your achievements in a structured and professional manner.

The sections of a CV should be as follows:

1. Personal information and personal profile

Include your full name, email address, and phone number (optional) at the top of your document. This should be followed by your personal profile.

A personal profile includes a brief statement that gives the reader an idea of your strengths. You might also like to briefly mention your educational/career goals here. This is essentially your blurb and the first thing that the reader will see. Sell yourself!


A.I.'s CV header example

The inclusion of a personal profile at the top of your CV is personal preference. It is not a requirement, and many choose to instead incorporate the information at a later point in the CV or application.

2. Education and awards

For each institution you should include the subjects or modules taken, grades achieved, and any noteworthy achievements or awards.


A.I.'s example of a CV's education and awards section

If you are applying for an Undergraduate degree, the bulk of this section will, of course, be made up of your school grades and achievements. If you are applying for an MSc or PhD, it becomes important to cover your previous degree(s) in more depth than your school achievements (as can be seen in the above example).

3. Work experience

Include any paid or unpaid work, internships, or volunteering experience here. For each position held, try to highlight some of the responsibilities of the role, and the skills that you acquired. It is important to think about skills that would be useful for the degree course you are applying for.


A.I.'s work experience example for a CV

Tip: try and weave the skills/competencies together to save space.

4. Additional skills and interests

This section provides space for information that was not relevant in previous sections, but that you think is important. If you are involved in any extra-curricular activities, it gives you the opportunity to show that you are an all-rounder!


A.I.'s example of additional skills and interests

5. Layout Tips

  • Your CV should be inviting and easy to read.

  • Try to use a clear font and a font size that is easy to read such as 10pt or 11pt.

  • Include blank spaces to clearly divide your sections.

  • Stick to black font on a white background.

  • Be concise. Write in bullet points not paragraphs, and stick to a maximum of two pages. University admissions teams will be reading hundreds of these; you want to catch their eye not send them to sleep.

  • Locate dates down the right hand side. The first thing people should read in each section is the school/university name, or organisation name and role, located on the left.

  • Structure your sections in reverse chronological order.

  • Use simple language. Avoid jargon!

  • Your CV will be mostly a record of what you have already achieved, so completed tasks and activities should be written in the past tense.


Content tips

Try to include recent work experience, particularly if you have been out of education for a year or two. What did you do to prepare for your future during that time?

If you worked behind a bar to raise funds for your study - make sure to include on your CV. Think about what makes you stand out from all of the other candidates. For example, what types of skills have you developed through your experiences? Remember to think about the skills and attributes required for the specific course and target your CV for the course you are applying for. Although you will likely discuss these in your personal statement, you can also start to showcase them in your CV.

Highlight your achievements. Do not be afraid to provide grades, class rankings, and percentages. Remember to also be completely honest. This is important, as it is possible that you will be asked about the content during an interview.

Finally, remember to check your grammar and spelling. Re-check your grammar and spelling. Ask somebody else to check your grammar and spelling.

If you find you have too much to say ...

  • Keep it relevant and targeted. Remove any unnecessary context.

  • Keep it recent. If you are applying for a Criminology degree at university, recruiters would rather hear about your recent internship in a prison than read a list of each of your GCSE subjects and grades from two or three years ago.

If you find you have too little to say ...

  • Use the space to highlight how each experience has helped you to grow and develop.



A.I. is currently a Criminology PhD candidate at University of Oxford. She has previously obtained a BA in Sociology with Criminology from the University of York before taking her MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Oxford.

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