Language tests, such as TOEFL and IELTS, are a popular requirement for admission of international students to MBA and Master’s degree programmes taught in English.
Many of these programmes also require one more test. This could be either GMAT or GRE. Both of these tests are conducted in English. So many prospective applicants wonder why they have to take both types of tests. Also, since GMAT and GRE are perceived as much more challenging than TOEFL or IELTS, applicants may think that GMAT or GRE can replace a language test.
Why do schools require language tests in addition to GMAT or GRE?
Indeed both types of tests – the aptitude tests such as GMAT and GRE, and the language tests – are conducted in English. The difference is that language tests check your language skills, while GMAT and GRE check other skills (for example analytical, quantitative, etc. ) through the English language. International standardised English language tests, such as TOEFL and IELTS, check all four skills which you need for effective communication and learning in an English-speaking classroom. These tests have a listening comprehension part, a writing part, a reading comprehension part, and a speaking section. In addition, these tests provide vocabulary from a wide range of topics, a focus on academic usage of the language and different accents in the listening comprehension part.
Business school admission offices need to make sure that insufficient English language proficiency will not be a barrier to success during the demanding MBA studies. So, requirements for the level of language skills can be quite high, as is evidenced by the language requirements for the MBA programme of INSEAD (France).
To be admitted to INSEAD’s MBA programme, a candidate must be able to communicate in English fluently and precisely in complex situations. INSEAD uses a four-level scale which measures language competency in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for language levels (CEFR). Level of English skills should be equivalent to C1/C2 on CEFR scale, TOEFL iBT minimum required: 105, PTE Academic minimum required: 72, TOEIC Listening & Reading minimum required: 950 and Speaking minimum required: 190, and Writing sections (Minimum required: 170), CPE – Certificate of Proficiency in English minimum required: Grade B, IELTS Academic minimum required: 7.5
Here is an example of why even a good score on the GMAT Verbal and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) will not be sufficient evidence of your fluency in English. On the verbal part of the GMAT, you just use your reading comprehension skills. On the AWA, you demonstrate your writing skills, spelling, and grammar. So, even if you are fluent in reading and writing, you may still be struggling when speaking and expressing yourself in English. GMAT does not test your listening comprehension either. So, it is not a guarantee that you will understand your professors and peers in class discussions.
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Who does not need to provide proof of English language skills?
A language test waiver may be granted to non-native speakers of English only when they have studied entirely in English for their Bachelor’s degree. For example, if you are Dutch and you studied at an American university, you may be eligible for a language test waiver when applying for a Master’s degree or MBA studies. However, this is not a general rule, and many universities may still require that you take a language test.
This requirement may also depend on when you graduated from your Bachelor’s degree programme. It makes a difference if you just finished your studies taught entirely in English or if you graduated five years ago.
The field of study which you wish to pursue for a Master’s degree may be another factor that determines whether you will need to take an English language test. If you apply for a programme in PR, communications or journalism, it is natural that you will have to demonstrate excellent language skills.
How well should you know English?
If you apply for admission to a programme taught entirely in English, you should demonstrate fluency in English. Imagine what will be expected from you during your studies. You should be able to read large specialised academic texts. You will write papers, essays, and presentations and they should be free of grammatical or spelling mistakes. You will be expected to participate in class discussions actively, ask questions, express your opinion, and give arguments. You must be able to understand the lectures and presentations of your professors. In addition, many of the students and professors in international programmes speak English with different accents.
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What is the real value of tests?
You will benefit a lot from preparing for the tests, even if your English language skills are fairly advanced. Tests focus your attention on the skills which you will need during your studies. Take the opportunity to improve your mastery of English. Do not perceive language tests just as a barrier to your admission, a waste of time, or additional expenses. Preparing well for the tests helps you prepare for successful studies.