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Step two: provide evidence and examples

The bulk of your personal statement should provide examples and evidence of:

  • your understanding of the subject you want to study 
  • why you wish to study your course 
  • how your knowledge, skills and experiences have prepared you for studying your course 

What to include in your examples 

  • Use your subject knowledge and background reading as a starting point for your examples and evidence. 
  • Include any transferable skills learnt at work. 
  • Include your personal experiences. At Birkbeck, we consider each applicant as an individual and you should feel free to write about raising a family or caring for another, for example. What's most important is: 
    • using your examples to show transferable skills that are relevant to your course 
    • using personal examples to supplement your academic examples - don't write about personal experiences instead of showing academic examples  
  • Focus on, and write positively about, your strengths, and don't write about what you don’t have or about your weaknesses - it's not dishonest to leave out your weaknesses. If you have faced a challenge, such as discontinuing previous studies, write about what you gained from the experience. 

How to structure your examples 

  • When structuring examples into your statement think about using one of the following methods: 
    • P.E.E 
      • Point - what did you do? 
      • Evidence - where is the detail that proves the skills or knowledge?
      • Explain - how is it relevant? How might you build on this experience? 
    • ABC 
      • Action - what did you do?
      • Benefit - how has this benefited you? Show off your subject knowledge or describe a situation which tested your skills. 
      • Course - how is this linked to what you want to study? 
  • Example of the P.E.E. approach from a prospective student applying for the BSc Geology: 
    • All I did was go on a trip. Does that count?
      • Point: I recently visited the Giants Causeway and took part in a guided tour led by the British Geological Association. 
      • Evidence: walking across the Causeway’s plateau, I was struck by the beauty of the 40,000 rocks cascading into the sea. I was left with two questions: how are geologists able to trace the formation of the Causeway to volcanic activity? How do we date this volcanic activity to 50-60 million years ago? 
      • Explain: I am particularly interested in further understanding geological evolutions such as this as an undergraduate.  
    • I’ve never studied the subject! How do I write an academic example? 
      • Action: one area of geology I have studied independently is the impact of earthquakes on the formation of landscapes. 
      • Benefit: for example, I enjoyed reading a New Scientist article about the Daan River Gorge in Taiwan. The gorge was formed as the result of an earthquake that impacted a nearby river in 1999; however, because of the speed at which the river flows, geologists predict the gorge will have eroded entirely by 2050. This is problematic for both the local population and natural habitat surrounding the gorge. 
      • Course: independent reading around this topic has furthered my interest in geology more broadly. The process of geological change is something I am particularly interested in researching further as an undergraduate. 
    • …but work my experience isn’t relevant! 
    • Action: I currently work as a bartender at the George Birkbeck Hotel. One of my primary responsibilities is cash and audit reconciliation. At the end of each shift, I calculate how much has been spent at the bar against the initial float. It is my responsibility to sign off on the final take and account for any inconsistencies, recording this in a daily log book. 
    • Benefit: this requires great attention to detail and the ability to handle information effectively. My ability to balance this full-time role alongside being a parent of two has also demanded excellent time management. 
    • Course: as a student of geology, I am, therefore, confident in my abilities to manage complex information and the challenges of part-time study.