Which are the MBA Entrance Exams?

Nearly all the MBA programme candidates must submit one or more test scores along with their application, but which MBA entrance exams are required by the B-schools and universities offering the degrees? The short answer is that it all depends on the school, but what follows is some valuable information on how to jump-start your research.

Purpose of MBA entrance exams

Just as you will thoroughly evaluate the possible B-schools and universities for the best MBA programme for your needs, so will the schools evaluate you for your potential to succeed, both during their programme and as an alumnus. After obtaining your MBA degree, you become an ambassador of sorts for the school. Your success reflects well on the school – and the programme, in particular – so it is only natural for schools to seek out those candidates with the skills and abilities necessary to do well in a rigorous academic environment. The typical way these schools evaluate your candidacy is by requesting – and, in some cases, requiring – you to submit the results of at least one standardised test score.

The standardised tests you will likely encounter fall into one of two categories. First, most MBA programmes are taught in English, so the schools must ensure that you have total mastery of the language, which includes reading, writing and speaking English as well as understanding the spoken word. This is evaluated through English language mastery tests described below. Second, graduate schools in general – and certainly MBA programmes – want a general idea of your potential to do well in the programme, and they often use your scores on aptitude tests to estimate your chance of success.

English language mastery tests

A non-native English speaker might experience great difficulty in an all-English degree programme as advanced and challenging as that of an MBA. To minimise a student’s risk of failure, a particular B-school or university may require a minimum score on one of the following English language mastery tests. This requirement is frequently waived if a student comes from a country in which English is a native language or, in some cases, if a student’s undergraduate studies were composed of all-English language courses.

IELTS or TOEFL

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are – far and away – the most common standardized tests required by B-schools and universities to measure the English proficiency of international students. Each is roughly four hours long, with sections dedicated to testing a student’s ability to read, write, speak and understand English. One of the main distinctions between the two tests is that the listening section (understanding the spoken word) of the IELTS is conducted with a live instructor and can be taken up to seven days before or after the structured exam, whereas the TOEFL tests your listening comprehension with recordings. In addition, the IELTS is still a pen-and-paper test while the TOEFL is administered entirely on a computer.

Read: Why Do B-Schools Require Language Tests?

Students may take either of these tests at any one of thousands of testing centres around the globe, and the scores can be sent to any B-school or university you designate, either at the time you take the test or later (for an additional fee) if you find your short list of possible schools changes. Your scores are valid for up to two years and you can retake the test if you need to do so. You can retake the TOEFL test as many times as you like as long as two tests are not within the same 12-day period. With the IELTS, your retakes are only limited to the available testing dates and times. Though the testing content is very similar for the two tests, the scoring is quite different. The score range for the IELTS is 1 to 9, and the range for the TOEFL is 0 to 120.

Other standardised tests for English – TOEIC, PTE, Cambridge

There are many other standardised tests on the market that measure students’ proficiency with the English language, among them the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), the Pearson Test of English (PTE), and the Cambridge English exams. You will need to check with a particular school for its specific requirements, but in most cases, B-schools will accept minimum scores from any of these common tests. For example, the HEC Paris (France) MBA Programme provides a list of minimum accepted scores for each of the different tests.

School-specific tests

Some schools may not rely exclusively on outside testing providers to measure English proficiency. For example, the Monash Business School (Australia) accepts minimum IELTS or TOEFL scores, but it offers international students another option. They can successfully complete the Monash University English Language Bridging Programme in lieu of a standardised test.

Aptitude tests – GRE or GMAT

Acceptance into an MBA programme is based on many different factors, the strength of a candidate’s application being only one of them. Many B-schools or universities additionally require a minimum score on an aptitude test, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

Read: Some Alternatives to the GMAT Test

Both the GRE and GMAT test a student’s verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing skills. Traditionally, the GMAT was the preferred (or only) standardised aptitude test accepted by B-schools and MBA programmes. In recent years, however, the GRE has become much more commonly accepted, and it has the benefit of being accepted by Masters programmes in many different fields rather than just business or management.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The score range for the GRE is 130 to 170, and the score is valid for five years. The test is administered on a computer in over 160 countries at over 1,000 locations. You can retake the exam up to five times in any 12-month period, with a minimum of 21 days between tests.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

The GMAT shares many of the same characteristics as the GRE, such as scores being valid for five years, but it is only available in about two-thirds the number of countries and locations. You can also retake the test up to five times in a 12-month period, but the minimum time between tests is only 16 days.

Other tests

Some schools have their own aptitude test as part of their admissions requirements, either in addition to or in lieu of a GRE or GMAT score. For example, the Vlerick Business School (Belgium) has its own pass-or-fail admissions test, called the VBAT, or Vlerick Business Admissions Test. Students must pass this test in order to be accepted into Vlerick’s MBA programme, and they can only take the test once per academic cycle.

MBA entrance exams exist to help schools evaluate candidates, but they also prepare you as well. Studying for these exams – whether for English proficiency or general aptitude – is an ideal way to estimate your own readiness for an MBA programme. Even if the exams are not required by the school you finally select, practice tests and preparatory materials can polish your skills, and your exam scores can demonstrate your preparedness to admissions counsellors – and to you.



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