10 Tips for MBA Preparation: Ultimate Guide for Non-Native English-Speaking Foreign Students
Welcome to our MBA preparation quick tip guide for non-native English-speaking foreigners attending the top MBA programs in the world. Pursuing a business school degree can be a transformative experience, but it can also come with its own set of challenges, particularly for international students whose mother tongue is not English. In this guide, we will offer some practical tips and advice on how to prepare for and navigate those hurdles.
If you’re looking for more general advice on MBA Preparation, check out the post by Poets and Quants. Or this Duke Fuqua article which is focused on their program, but the suggestions can be applied to your top choice as well.
Congratulations on achieving a strong score on your TOEFL or IELTS! These tests are excellent measures of your overall ability in the English language. However, even achieving a very high score on an English proficiency test does not mean you won’t encounter difficulties in the fast-paced and demanding business school environment.
We understand that you already have a lot on your plate. However, dedicating a small amount of time each day to MBA preparation can pay great dividends. You can make sure that you will be a highly effective team member and inspiring leader at your dream school.
Here are 10 specific and valuable tips for MBA preparation and success:
1. Don’t just listen, interact! Everyone advises you to use media in English to practice. What not enough people emphasize is the great importance of being active, not just sitting back and passively absorbing the information. In classes, labs, and other activities in your future program, participation and interaction is essential. Watch a TED talk, listen to a podcast, or read a news article and pause every minute or so. Quickly think of a question you could ask a professor or a classmate, give your opinion or challenge the material. It is key to speak out loud when doing this exercise. Here are some great TED talks to get you started.
2. Mingle in English! Many MBA program admits have been using English on a regular basis in their professional lives for years. However, they often don’t have relationships with English-speaking people beyond that sphere. Joining organizations where you can meet a wide variety of people and talk about an amazing array of topics in English is a great way to build your language skills. Plus, you might even make some new friends. For example, try going to an InterNations event where they connect locals with expat Americans living abroad. They have 420 global communities. Check out their website for more information.
Sign up now!
You’re doing great: keep reading for more tips to successful MBA preparation!
3. Improve your business vocabulary. Your English terminology related to your own industry is probably quite advanced. However, at business school, you’ll be reaching across industries to people from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. Investigate the course catalog of your program and search for lists of vocabulary related to the subjects that you may be weak in. Also, make an effort to watch TED talks, listen to podcasts, and read news articles on that theme to find words and phrases that are new to you. Make sure you have a good vocabulary app that you’re comfortable using. Update it and practice with it on a regular basis. If you’re not sure where to start, try Memrise.
4. Attend pre-MBA courses. MBA programs offer classes that can help you prepare for the rigors of the program, including language and communication skills. Look into your business school’s specific offerings and reach out to a school ambassador for advice. If your school offers opportunities to mingle online, do it! In addition to laying solid groundwork for walking into the classroom confidently, you’ll arrive on campus having already established connections with your classmates.
5. Record yourself. Most of us sound much more impressive when we talk to ourselves in our minds than when we open our mouths and speak aloud. To practice answering questions on a range of topics, use a question generator app or website and record yourself answering. This website generates a seemingly never-ending supply of questions. Go here for a list of topics, click through and there are 20 questions for each. Choose subjects that are challenging to you. Finally, try using this app to video yourself. After you finish recording, it generates closed captions which can be useful for improving your pronunciation. Review your recording and determine ways to improve your response.
6. Practice public speaking. Public speaking can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be particularly daunting for non-native English speakers. Look for opportunities to practice your oratorical skills. Presenting to an English-speaking organization that could use advice or information from your industry or joining a public speaking club. Toastmasters has over 280,000 members in 144 countries and over 14,700 clubs.
7. Brush up on academic writing: Academic writing can be quite different from what you might be used to in your home country or profession. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the structure and style of academic papers and practice writing in English. You don’t have to complete an entire dissertation, but try constructing 250-500 word pieces on topics relevant to business school.
Don’t skip these important last 3 MBA preparation tips!
8. Make a schedule and stick to it. Be reasonable about how much time you have every day. Adjust as necessary, but don’t let yourself off the hook. You will never be less busy or more energetic than you are right now so fit in your English practice every single day. Maybe during the week, you don’t have too much time so you’ll do a mix of listening to TED talks, improving your business vocabulary, and recording yourself. But on weekends you can mingle in English, attend online pre-MBA courses, and give public speaking a shot.
If you find that you’re just not getting everything done that you want to, consider working with a coach. For instance, schedule a weekly meeting with us where we can review the work you’ve done the last seven days, activate your new vocabulary, discuss topics you found most challenging during your prep, answer any questions you may have, etc. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your own personal enthusiastic supporter to keep you focused, ensure you’re getting the best results possible from your efforts, and cheer you on!
9. Join an MBA discussions course: these meetings are specifically designed to prepare students for the business school classroom. There are various formats, including case studies, video/podcast/news article-centered dialogues, topic-based discussions, debates, and more. Our MBA prep discussion classes are limited to five participants from around the globe and are led by experienced MBA consultants. Enroll now for the first class for free!
Looking for one-to-one MBA preparation sessions?
Please complete the form below:
And finally, last but not least #10!
10. Be patient with yourself and have fun: try lots of different activities and find the ones that are most beneficial and enjoyable. Preparing for this exciting new stage of your life can be work, but it can be the best kind: engaging, rewarding, and empowering. Fine-tuning your language skills takes time and effort. Be patient and don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep practicing and you will enter your MBA program ready to thrive.
For our suggestions that involve meeting others, make sure you try a mix of online and in-person activities. I know many of us have become addicted to living almost entirely through our laptops and phones, but your classes will be in person. Body language and other aspects of communication come across differently online versus in real life.
Obviously, this is a long list and everything on it may not be right for you. Start simply, choose one option, and do it today. Don’t wait! Try different tasks, dedicate more or less time as life dictates, but do something EVERY DAY.
Follow our tips and you’ll enter your MBA program confident and ready to succeed! Good luck and have fun!