TOEFL= Test of English as a Foreign Language- and is a requirement at most schools. It’s much more widespread than GMAT.
This week we got 2 TOEFL waivers for our clients- a big savings in time and money. The rules for foreign-language speakers to prove English ability are often outdated. There are some situations in which asking for an exemption makes sense.
Most schools require GMAT and TOEFL (or TOEFL equivalent such as IELTS). MBA programs, MiM, and MFA almost universally share this requirement. The main problem is that TOELF “expires” after 2 years. Also, GMAT is the harder exam and it should rightfully have the priority, so TEOFL catches people by surprise.
The main question regarding TOEFL is “why”? Is there really a risk that someone with a good GMAT will be dysfunctional in English? There is clearly lots of redundancy between TOEFL and GMAT, and TOEFL seems to be an obsolete obligation. We face this situation often enough that I can propose a few solutions.
These tips cover the majority of situations:
- Do very well on GMAT. If you verbal performance exceeds the 75th percentile (on verbal), instruct the school of your choice that you would like to demonstrate your English knowledge with your GMAT verbal score.
- Read the TOEFL exemptions carefully at your chosen program. If you have worked in an English speaking company, or possess certain qualifications (CPA, CFA, CPE, etc) you can often exempt from TOEFL.
- Take the TOEFL. I realise that this is a post on avoiding TOEFL, but it is not a hard test. The target group is younger and less sophisticated than GMAT. If you are applying to multiple schools, probably the most efficient solution is to “bite the bullet” and take it. The reading and listening are very standard and easily prepared, so under time pressure focus on writing and speaking. For example, TOEFLzurich.com offers a 5-hour crash course designed for MBA or Master’s candidates.
- Ask the school for a waiver. This may sound desperate, but we have negotiated TOEFL waivers for our students on many occasions. Two times already this week! Sometimes only by citing busy schedules or inconvenient test-centre locations we got the test waived. Clearly if a school is interested, you are in a good position to negotiate– kind of like dating.
As a last point, I can publicly say that I like TOEFL. I created the TOEFL course at the University of St Gallen and I know the exam really well. It’s a fair test that measures English ability faster and cheaper than most alternatives. I am advising people to avoid it only because of time constraints. Also, many MBA / MiM applicants are completely fluent in English.