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Posted by The Lisbon MBA on 15-Feb-2018 17:30:00

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If you’re not a native or bilingual speaker of English, you’ll be asked to submit proof of your proficiency in the language along with your Admission test (GMAT or GRE), CV and essays during the application process. There are 3 English tests accepted by all major MBA-providing institutions:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • CAE (Cambridge in Advanced English)

This blogpost is about these tests and will help you understand their structures and contents. Common features: target-public, 4-part structure, free study materials and open registrations year round.


IELTS, TOEFL and CAE are taken by prospective students and migrants to English-speaking countries as a means to attest their domain of English in general communication situations. The degree of difficulty of these tests is quite similar, as are their individual structures.

Each of these tests is divided into 4 parts: Listening; Reading & Comprehension; Writing; and Speaking.


In the Listening section, you’ll be asked to pay attention to a recording of one or more conversations and fill in the gaps in paper sheet with the information you gather. Since English is the official language of countries as diverse as Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Jamaica, be prepared to decode different accents.


Reading & Comprehension

The Reading & Comprehension exercise uses fiction, newspapers and magazines to test your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, demanding of students the ability to complete and rewrite (in their own words) information given to them in the form of a specific text.



In the Writing section, test-takers are allowed more literary and personal freedom: they’re asked to express their opinion regarding a contemporary issue discussed in a text.



Finally, in the Speaking part of the tests, students are asked to answer a set of questions, in a conversation-like environment, in the physical presence of an examiner.


Apart from attending specialized language schools, you can access free study materials for the 3 tests online (you can also purchase supplementary materials in each test’s homepage). IELTS, TOEFL and CAE accept online registrations all year round.

Specific features: IELTS’ Academic and General Tests, tests’ expiry dates and CAE’s Speaking section

IELTS is the only one of the three tests to present test-takers with 2 options: General or Academic. As the name suggests, the latter must be taken by prospective students (undergraduate and graduate degrees), while the former aims at the regular immigrant. The two don’t differ a lot in terms of structure, yet the kind of vocabulary and grammar usage demanded by the Academic test is more sophisticated. If you’re taking the IELTS, make sure you register for the right kind of test!

Secondly, you should know that the CAE doesn’t have an expiration date, while both the TOEFL and the IELTS expire after 2 years. This may be an important factor in your choice, especially if you’re unsure regarding the date in which you expect to begin your MBA (or the date you’re planning to apply for it). In Portugal, the 3 tests are similar in cost, but verify availability and cost in your own country before you make a decision.

Finally, the CAE’s Speaking evaluation takes place with 2 evaluators and 2 students, instead of the one-to-one setting of IELTS’ and TOEFL’s Speaking sections. According to Cambridge’s reasoning, this creates a more realistic assessment environment.


Which english test is the right one for you?

The truth is, there aren’t many specific features that suggest you should take one test or the other.

It's important to check your targeted schools' website, or contact directly their admission's office, since they may accept additional tests, like the BEC Higher (Business Higher) or CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English).

Our advice is that you check registration fees and available dates and enroll in the test that best suits your application calendar.


Then, you can move on to other application requirements! Good luck and please contact us if you have any questions!

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Topics: MBA, MBA Resources, English Tests

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Find all the resources you need before choosing an MBA or Executive MBA program. The Lisbon MBA team aim to be your personal MBA Admissions ConsultantsThrough our team experience, we are able to help you understanding the MBA or EMBA admissions process in Portugal. Here you will find expertise in the following topic areas:

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