The IELTS and Business School

IELTS Policies at Graduate Business Schools

Language testing requirements in graduate business programs usually apply to non-native English speakers who earned undergraduate degrees in languages other than English. At Harvard Business School (HBS), applicants must submit scores for the IELTS, TOEFL, or Pearson Test of English (PTE) if they did not complete an undergraduate degree at an English-speaking institution. HBS candidates with master's or doctoral degrees from universities in English-speaking countries are encouraged but not required to take one of the exams listed above. The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) provides IELTS exemptions only to applicants who completed bachelor's degrees at universities that teach entirely in English. Testing waivers at Stanford GSB are not granted solely on the basis of citizenship, work experience, or study in a program that teaches only some courses in English. London Business School, on the other hand, will consider exemptions for students who have lived and worked in an English-speaking country for at least two years. All graduate business programs require test scores to be valid when submitted (the IELTS is valid for two years after the test date). The Stanford GSB, like many programs, defines validity in terms of the application deadline. Round 1 applications in 2017, for example, were due on September 19, and this means that the student must have taken the IELTS no earlier than September 19, 2015.

Business School IELTS Score Requirements

The most selective business schools will invariably mandate a high level of English proficiency. IELTS score requirements are typically 7.0 and above for these types of institutions. Harvard "discourages" applications from students with IETLS total scores below 7.5, and the minimum composite IELTS score at Stanford is 7.0. The University of Oxford's Saïd Business School and the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School both require at least 7.5 overall and at least 7.0 on each paper. Some elite graduate business programs, such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, do not stipulate minimum IELTS scores, but applicants should nonetheless assume high standards. Darden, for example, reports only its average score for the TOEFL, but this number (106) is in the 87th percentile of all test-takers. Strong graduate business programs will nearly always expect IELTS scores of (at the very least) 6.0 for full admission without the need for further instruction in English.

International Students and Graduate Business School

Many prestigious business schools in the United States are heavily populated by international students. Approximately 40% of MBA students at Columbia Business School, for instance, are from outside of the United States. According to the most recent full-time MBA class profile at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, 34% of students come from overseas, 67% speak more than one language, and 77% have either lived, worked, or studied abroad. More than 50 countries, mainly in Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America, and Europe, are represented among MBA students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. These students are 33% of Sloan's total MBA enrollment. Many lesser-known graduate business programs in the United States have a majority international student population, such as the University of California-Riverside's Anderson Graduate School of Management, Hofstra University's Zarb School of Business, the Rochester Institute of Technology's Saunders College of Business, and George Mason University School of Business.

Financial Aid Options for International Graduate Business Students

Aspiring international business students can help themselves by exploring options for financing their graduate business degrees. International students are frequently eligible for various types of loans or grants, although qualifying criteria can vary by institution. Cornell University's Johnson College of Business offers loans to international students, as long as they have good credit. Qualified applicants may borrow any amount up to the cost of full tuition, and a co-signer is not required. At Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, a number of scholarships are intended specifically for students from overseas. Admitted Kellogg students who are citizens of African countries are automatically considered for the African Scholars Program, which pays partial tuition ($70,000) to four students each year (decisions are made by the Office of Admissions on a competitive basis). The Donald P. Jacobs International Scholarship is given to "strong international students in the two-year MBA or MMM program." Business school scholarships based on financial aid are generally reserved for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

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