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April 18, 2010

TOEFL AND IELTS Minimums at Oxford Said MBA

My post analyzing Oxford's  MBA application essay questions can be found here.

For applicants who are required to demonstrate their English proficiency, the new TOEFL and IELTS standards for Fall 2010 admission imposed at Oxford University's Said Business School pose a serious hurdle:

Minimum score
TOEFL - Internet 109
TOEFL - Computer 267
TOEFL - Paper 630
Oxford Said now requires the same TOEFL level as HBS. For advanced English speakers, this is no problem, but for many non-native applicants, this is a barrier to entry.  Given Said's decline in the Economist ranking from 27th in 2008 to 47th in 2009, this could not have come at a worse time. 

Last year, when I heard about the new requirements at Oxford, I had  assumed that they were imposed on the Business School and this does appears to be the case. Oxford has university-wide English requirements for postgraduate studies. See here.   Oxford has both "Standard Overall Score" and "Higher Overall Score" English requirements.  The MBA, as a taught course falls under the "Higher Overall Score" requirements of 109 TOEFL or 7.5 IELTS. 

For applicants, especially those coming from countries where getting a 109 or higher is difficult (Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan being the ones that immediately come to my mind), this is good and bad news. It is clearly bad news for those with scores under 109 because clearly Oxford is no longer an option. For East Asians with TOEFL scores over 109,  suddenly the number of highly competitive applicants coming from their region is likely to drop significantly.

I think this is especially unfortunate for my clients in Japan, not only because it will eliminate many strong applicants from applying, but because it will likely damage the ability of Oxford to build a strong network here. Given the large percentage of company-sponsored applicants who don't have TOEFL 109 level English,  I think it is fair to say that Oxford will see a significantly reduced number of Japanese with strong professional backgrounds in the coming years.   Consider that IESE (Economist Rank 1), IMD (Economist Rank 2), LBS (Economist Rank 8), Cambridge (Economist Rank 11), IE (Economist Rank 16), and  INSEAD (Economist Rank 23) have much lower English requirements.  Even INSEAD only requires a 105.  There is actually a significant difference between the 105 and 109 level.  Cambridge Judge, which Oxford is most often compared with, only requires 100 TOEFL or 7 on IELTS. 

To confirm that Oxford was indeed following these new requirements, I contracted them directly by sending an email to their mba-enquiries system. I posed as an applicant with 108 TOEFL score.  Here is the response I received:

"If you are a non-native English speaker, proven proficiency through TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English language Test Scheme) is a requirement for admission to the MBA programme.

Please see below details of the required minimum scores:

TOEFL (minimum score required):

109 Internet based

267 Computer based
630 Paper based

IELTS (minimum score required): 7.5

The TOEFL/ IELTS test can only be considered valid if they were taken a maximum of two years prior to the application deadline for the stage in which you are applying.

Unless Oxford admissions is simply unwilling to state flexibility on this, I assume they are not flexible. Given that they are flexible about GMAT (see here),  I assume they are actually stating inflexible TOEFL/IELTS minimum scores.

If any readers of this post are admitted to the fall 2010 entering class with less than 109 TOEFL or 7.5 IELTS, please let me know.

-Adam Markus
Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

-Adam Markus
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