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  • Writer's pictureSam Weeks


Updated: Feb 1

You’ve decided you want an MBA. You've budgeted time and money for the application process. Now it’s time to prove you can read, write, listen and speak in English. But why do schools rely on such dull standardized tests, and should you sit the IELTS or the TOEFL?

Why do schools use standardized language tests?

If you hail from a non-majority English-speaking country and didn’t study your undergraduate degree in English, you’ll be required to sit the IELTS or TOEFL exam. Business schools use these exams to objectively assess your English language ability.

Evidence shows that this is an important indicator of candidate performance during and after business school. Even if that evidence is faulty, what matters is getting through these exams.

What should I score?

Exact score requirements vary by school. Oxford University’s Said Business school requires an IELTS score over 7.5 or a TOEFL score above 110. You should take this step seriously if English might be an issue for you.

Luckily, there are vast tombs of preparatory material regarding these tests online. With this, you shouldn't be spending more than a couple of months preparing for this exam. Most people don't hire a tutor for this step. Test scores are valid for 2 years. For the IELTS, choose "academic".

Schools don’t generally care about your actual grade, as long as you pass their threshold. So don’t spend too much time mastering this exam.


There are two main differences between the TOEFL and the IELTS which you should consider:

  • US vs. UK: The TOEFL is preferred by US schools (and visa authorities), while the IELTS is preferred by UK schools. So if you're applying to US schools it makes sense to choose the TOEFL. If you're applying to the UK, Canada or Australia, the IELTS makes more sense.

  • Online: The TOEFL "home edition" can be sat at home. Obviously. The full IELTS exam cannot be taken at home. If you're most comfortable taking tests in your pyjamas then the TOEFL "home edition" is for you.

I help determined applicants get admitted to top business schools. Get in touch if I can help you with your application. Book a chat here.


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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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