Are you a non-native English speaker (meaning is English your second language? ) 

Have you NOT studied fully in English or  lived in an English-speaking country for at least two years?

If you answered yes to the questions above, then in your MBA Application, you will need to submit an English language proficiency test score. Typically, these tests are for assessing English used in academic study and will test your abilities in these 4 sections- reading, writing, listening and speaking. 

Sadly, getting this English Language Test score adds about 20 -50 hours more of work to an already packed MBA Application Prep schedule. But, thankfully , unlike other tests that may require heavy prep (like the GMAT/GRE), for these English language tests, you mostly spend time familiarizing yourself with the test pattern and of course, work on mock & practice tests. Since mostly many take up English language tests after the GRE/GMAT, it also reduces the test prep time considerably.

Common English Proficiency Tests accepted 

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): MBA Aspirants take the IELTS Academic.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): This test is more popular in the US. 
  • DuoLingo: This gained popularity during the COVID-19 times. However not every university accepts this test though- like London Business School(LBS) for instance. 

Some other tests:

  • TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)
  • CAE (Cambridge Advanced English) and CPE (Cambridge Proficiency English) 
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English)

I have done my entire education in English (a VERY common situation in India). Should I take an English proficiency test? 

Yes, unfortunately, yes!

I have had a few folks who have found it difficult to squeeze in this test from a logistics perspective. Unsurprisingly, some even gave up on applying or even choosing the option to study abroad.

For B-schools, it is necessary to have at least an intermediate/fair level in the 4 sections (out of a maximum 30)which means having the following scores: Reading (15-21); Listening(15-21), Speaking( 18-25) & Writing (17-23). As per the TOEFL iBT®Test and Score Data Summary 2019 report (see link below), for graduate students in B-School programs, the 76th percentile score is 100 (out of 120). Also, as per Table 16- TOEFL iBT® Total and Section Score Means, for India, the score is a respectable 95 (this includes all examinees and not just for graduate schools).

So, would it not be great if B-Schools could use other existing portions of the MBA application to gain proof of English language proficiency?

Yes, some B-Schools do (hope many follow!).If the B-School takes GMAT/GRE, then using that to assess reading and writing might be an idea. Of course, the MBA personal interview will be one of the best tools to assess for speaking and listening abilities.

  •  MIT Sloan uses the verbal components of GMAT/ GRE and the personal interview section to assess English proficiency skills. 
  • Some schools might ask for a TOEFL/ IELTS scores later and not at the time of application. 
  • If your university degree was taught exclusively in English and your transcripts clearly show the language of instruction to be English, then you might get a waiver.  

That said, in an MBA application, the AdCom relies on more than just one component to get a complete picture of your abilities. Hence, both the GMAT/GRE verbal scores and your English proficiency test score would provide useful insights.

So, till policies are changed, the English Proficiency test is here to stay. Do factor in time for the same in your journey to MBA.


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