Numerous MBA courses are partly or even entirely taught in English. Accordingly, applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient language skills to follow and understand the course content. Evidence is usually required in the form of a language test such as the TOEFL or IELTS. Below is an overview.


The so-called “Test of English as a Foreign Language” is a standardized language test that serves to check the language level of non-native speakers. It is recognized at more than 9,000 universities, business schools and other educational institutions worldwide and consists of four different parts of the exam:

  1. Reading Comprehension – understanding written language
  2. Listening Comprehension – understanding of heard language
  3. Speaking – the speaking itself
  4. Written Expression – the independent writing of English texts

The TOEFL has a duration of 4.5 hours. The performance is assessed using a points system on a scale of 0-120; however, the test cannot be passed or failed. Rather, different universities require different minimum scores that must be achieved in the TOEFL. For this reason, it is best to find out at an early stage what requirements the MBA provider of your choice requires in order to be able to prepare accordingly.

The TOEFL has a limited validity of two years ; If you do not enroll in this period, the test must be taken again.

Until 2005, the test was only offered in the classic paper form; in the meantime, however, it is taken as a so-called “internet-based test (ibT)” on the computer. The test is taken at one of the local TOEFL centers; a complete overview of these can be found at


The abbreviation IELTS stands for “International English Language Testing System” and also serves to check the language level of the participants.

The IELTS can be divided into two different categories; the “Academic Version” and the “General Training Version”. While the former is aimed primarily at students, the latter primarily appeals to people who want to live and work in an English-speaking country.

Like the TOEFL, the IELTS can be divided into four parts:

  1. Listening – the test participants listen to dialogues and monologues and have to answer questions about what they have heard below
  2. Reading – the test participants read texts and then have to answer 13 to 14 questions about them
  3. Writing – Exam participants must describe a diagram in writing and provide reasoning in writing
  4. Speaking – the exam participants have an oral interview with the examiner; the first part is about personal interests, the second part is about a given topic

The test has a total duration of more than two hours. The test participants receive the results after 13 days.

Unlike the TOEFL, the evaluation here is not based on a points system, but on categories from 0-9. Anyone who achieves the highest rating with Category 9 is considered an “expert” and has thus demonstrated fluent language skills and complete understanding. The test results are valid for two years.


With the better German and numerous international MBA, a passed GMAT is a basic requirement to be able to enroll. But what is the GMAT actually, how can you prepare and what are the recipes for success?

The GMAT is a globally standardized test that can be used to test suitability for master’s programs in economics. Every year, over 100,000 test subjects take part in the test. You cannot fall through, you end up with a score between 0 and 800 points.

How does the GMAT work for the MBA?

The GMAT consists of four parts:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section
    The first part is the writing of an essay. This checks to what extent you can think critically and communicate your ideas, suggestions and opinions.
  2. Integrated Reasoning Section
    This is a logic test, so to speak. Different data sources have to be interpreted, e.g. graphics or tables.
  3. Quantitative Section
    Most test subjects are afraid of this. This is the mathematical part that is structured as a multiple choice.
  4. Verbal Section
    The English expression and ability to understand and reproduce English-language literature are queried in this part, also as a multiple choice.

You have a total of four hours. 30 minutes for the essay, 60 minutes for the logic test and 75 minutes each for the last two parts. Every question has to be answered, you cannot go back.

At the end of the test, the scores obtained for the two multiple-choice sections and an overall score are obtained. Good to know: The results of the essay are not included in the overall score. Only those who do really badly here have disadvantages.

The level of difficulty and the topics are selected by the computer from a pool of possible questions depending on the level of performance of the respective candidate. This means that the respective test course is different and unique for each participant. You should therefore know that the first questions in each section are particularly important because they affect the level of difficulty of the questions that follow and, of course, the opportunity to collect points. Because the more difficult the questions, the more points there are logically.

Low score, what now?

Would you like to apply for an MBA but only achieved a low GMAT score? Then there are two options: communicate or repeat.

Under no circumstances should you simply enclose the bad GMAT with your MBA application without a word and hope that it will be accepted anyway. Call the student advisory service beforehand and discuss the options. Because even at the best German MBA Business School, exceptions could be made, says Stefanie Will from Mannheim Business School:

“The complete package when applying must be right. Our minimum GMAT score is 600. However, we know that even after good preparation, the GMAT can go wrong. If a candidate has not achieved this result, but otherwise everything is correct, we look for the interview. As a rule, we ask him to repeat the test. ”

But not everyone is so accommodating.

“A result with GMAT below 600 is a no-go. We know that the best GMAT candidate is not the best MBA student afterwards. Nevertheless, mathematical-analytical knowledge is important. ”

In this case, you have no choice but to repeat the test or apply for an MBA that does not require a GMAT or at least a lower score.

Preparation for the GMAT

The test is undoubtedly quite difficult, but you can also prepare very well for it. And you should too!

These are the empirical values ​​of successful participants:

  • “For me it was 5 days a week x 3 weeks of preparation time.”
  • “In the last 4 weeks before the test, I did a daily test (20 in total). That was very safe and I can only recommend it (even if it doesn’t have to be 20; writing the essay at the beginning is also very easy). ”
  • “My preparation: 6 hours a day for 6 weeks.”
  • “I learned a total of approx. 100 hours over 6 months (worked full-time and could only learn on weekends) for the GMAT and subsequently got 620 points.”


MBA Admissions Exams: TOEFL, IELTS and GMAT