Business School in English – What You Need to Know

If you are on this blog, chances are you are looking to attend a primarily English-language business school. Also, chances are English is your second or third language and we all know English is not an easy language. Is this causing some anxiety? Don’t fear…

Verbal and Written Participation in MBA Programs:

Not all English programs are going to feel the same to a non-native speaker. It comes down to how you are going to be graded. Heavy case-based programs like my alma-mater, HBS or University of Virgina’s Darden, are going to derive 50% of your grade from your verbal participation in the case discussions. Of course, nearly every program is going to have some case-based classes, but these two programs contain greater than 80% cased-based classes. That might feel like a lot if you are struggling to keep up. Discussions can move very quickly, and if you are still translating English into your native language in your head, the discussion will likely have moved on by the time you formulate a response. This can really hurt your ability to participate and lead to low grades and dissatisfaction.

The other 50% of your grade at HBS is going to come from written case analysis. Generally, this is less of a problem for most people because instructors provide ample time for you to formulate a thoughtful response.


Business schools will adapt their admission practices to meet the needs of their program, but most business schools do offer a minimum TOEFL (or similar score) requirement.


The English language part of the admissions process doesn’t end with you meeting the minimum requirement. Your communication and English skills will be assessed throughout the admissions process: as your writing skills will be evaluated in your essays, your verbal communication will be tested in the interview, and the verbal section of the GMAT will test your reading comprehension.


Most schools will wave TOEFL requirements for anyone who attended an undergraduate university taught entirely in English. If you did not attend such a program, you should make sure you get that minimum score or score near the median (if a minimum score isn’t supplied).

There are plenty of online and printed resources for prepping for the GMAT, below you will find some links to some highly rated resources:


Alternatively, if you don’t want to limit your studying to cramming for the TOEFL or just want to brush up on your English skills before heading off to school, check out some of the advanced offerings from services like Babbel.

 Save 25% Off Babbel! (3 Month Subscription)

Hope this helps and Good Luck!

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