Business schools want MBA aspirants to have a strong command of the language for a good reason. Most programs are based on immersive learning that encourage public speaking, group discussions, and active class participation. To succeed, students must be able to express their ideas.
PrepAdviser has examined the English proficiency requirements of some of the world’s top MBA programs to give international MBA aspirants an idea of how good their English should be.
Check out: How to Self-Prepare for English Tests
Stanford GSB (US)
Stanford’s full-time MBA program accepts the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and Pearson Test of English (PTE). Applicants who have an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university that provided instruction entirely in English are exempt from these exams.
The minimum score for TOEFL iBT is 100 (on a scale of 0 to 120 points), for IELTS is 7.0 overall (on a scale of 0 to 9), and for PTE is 68 (on a scale of 10 to 90). However, successful applicants typically score much higher than that. The average TOEFL iBT score for the Class of 2020 is 113.
INSEAD requires all kinds of English-language proficiency tests, but the school’s language policy is a bit unusual and requires some clarification. The detailed INSEAD language policy is available here.
If English is your native language, you have to demonstrate at least practical knowledge of a second language, which INSEAD calls 'entry' language, before the start of the program.
If English is not your native language, your native language will fulfil the entry language requirement, so you don’t need to take a test. However, you may need to submit proof of your English-language skills.
In addition to English and your entry language, all MBA aspirants must have at least basic knowledge of a third language ('exit language') in order to graduate.
The recommended minimum score for TOEFL iBT is 105 and for PTE Academic it’s 72. International students can also take TOEIC Listening & Reading (recommended minimum score: 950) and Speaking (at least 190) & Writing sections (at least 170). Those who choose to take the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), should achieve at least Grade B. For IELTS Academic, the recommended minimum score is 7.5.
The Wharton School (US)
At Wharton, the TOEFL or the PTE are required for non-native English speakers with limited exposure to English. IELTS is not accepted. International applicants who earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction may receive a waiver.
In addition to the TOEFL or PTE, the school pays careful attention to a student’s GRE and GMAT (verbal percentile and AWA score), written and spoken English, recommender observations, and exposure to language.
Wharton does not provide a minimum score requirement, but points out that the average TOEFL iBT score for those students in the Class of 2019 who were required to take it was 110.
Harvard Business School (US)
HBS accepts the TOEFL iBT, IELTS, or PTE from candidates who received their Bachelor's degree and any graduate degrees from a university or universities where English is not the sole language of instruction. Applicants who have a Bachelor's degree from a university where English is not the sole language of instruction but received a Master's or Ph.D. degree from a program fully taught in English are also strongly advised, though not required, to submit TOEFL iBT, IELTS or PTE scores.
HBS discourages any candidate with a TOEFL score lower than 109, an IELTS score lower than 7.5, or a PTE score lower than 75 from applying.
MIT Sloan (US)
English language proficiency tests are not required to apply to MIT’s MBA program. Instead, the school measures English ability during personal interviews and also uses the verbal sections of the GMAT or GRE.
Check out: Do You Speak Academic English?
University of St Gallen (Switzerland)
The university recognizes certificates equivalent to at least a C1 level on the European Framework for Foreign Languages (TOEFL, CAE, CPE, BEC Higher). International applicants need to take an English test unless they can demonstrate that they have considerable experience living, working, or studying in an English-language environment. Applicants holding at least a Bachelor's degree taught entirely in English may receive a waiver.
The MBA program itself does not require knowledge of German, but applicants are encouraged to at least learn the basics of the language to improve their integration and increase their chances of securing a job in the German-speaking region. The program therefore includes mandatory German classes.
The score from the English exam you choose to take should correspond to at least a C1 level on the European Framework for Foreign Languages. This means that if you pick TOEFL iBT, your score has to be at least 95.
A high level of proficiency in English will not only enable you to participate fully in the collaborative learning process. It will also benefit your personal and professional life outside business school. Look at it as a long-term investment with life-long returns.