I am planning to write these two essays for CM application:
1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement and why?
Q) I am giving a project experience where I performed exceptionally well. Should I explicitly mention the name of the client ( a bank) that I worked for and the project that I was involved in or should a placeholder like "one of the biggest retail bank in Africa" would do ? Is there any drawback if I mention the name of the bank ? Is it customary ?
I don't list client names due to NDAs. I think "one of hte biggest retail banks in Africa" is sufficient - and in all likelyhood, far more interesting than a name which (assuming this actually an african bank) most people might not recognize.
What's more interesting to say? "XYXYXYX Bank" or "second largest retail bank in Africa with branches across Europe and the US"? I know what'd i'd pick.
2) Describe your most challenging experience while working in a group.
Q) Should the answer depict the challenges faced " while working in the group , because of various issues , say difference of opinion / language problems etc and how we overcame the same " or should it say " how we worked as a team to overcome the challenges thrown upon us" .
That would be up to you - the focus of the essay would somewhat change. In variation 1, you'd have to talk more about how you overcame those challenges that the group environment presented - this becomes an essay on maturity and cultural sensitivity - variation 2 would be about how the team overcame the challenges and how you, as a leader and team player helped the team do so.
Depends what else you've already talked about and whichever story seems stronger. Either way, I think it's clear that what they really want to know is "How do you work in a team environment?" - whether the challenge be the team, or something the team had to do.
Personally, I'd head towards variation 2. Variation 1 is harder to encapsulate and write something solid for (in my own experience). That is, if there are language barriers, there are language barriers. There's not that much you can do to overcome them - at least not in any reasonable kind of time frame. You didn't learn Swahili in three weeks. If there's something political going on (which of course there is), its hard to write about it without sounding whiny. It's difficult to talk about a "challenging team" without sounding arrogant unless you preface all your statements with some kind of positive aspect of a team (at which point, what was the challenging aspect then?)... again, just my experience.
Variation 2 is one I like more (again, only in my own experience) because you can talk about both sides - (1) what did you do to help your team achieve its goals? and (2) how did your team achieve its goals? It ends up being a bit more of a feel-good story and you can go much deeper about what teamwork is all about to you - whereas in variation 1, you tend to get stuck trying to show sensitivity and respect - which, again, in my experience, leads to some more lengthy explanations and a bit more wordiness. Variation 2 can be more clear cut -- "the challenge was to achieve X in Y weeks, a crazy challenge considering X was pigs flying and Y was 0."
But honestly, go for whatever story you think you can write more passionately about. Either way focus on :
1) What you did, thought and felt
2) How the team (NOT JUST YOU) suceeded in achieving goals
3) What you did to help the team
4) What you learned from the team