A TOEFL Timeline for MBA Applicants
by: Jon Hodge, Founder & Owner of Strictly English
Because it can take anywhere from four to eight weeks for TOEFL scores to arrive, it is very important that international MBA applicants schedule their TOEFL test as well as their preparation time well in advance of their deadlines.
Why such a long wait? There are two delays in the process. The first delay is unavoidable. It always takes ETS fifteen business days (which is three calendar weeks) to grade your test. And if there is a national holiday or a computer problem, then this could be extended one to five more business days. The second delay might be avoidable. This only happens if there are no test dates available in the near future. For example, I went online today (July 6, 2009), and there are no available exams in the Boston area until July 25, which is nineteen days away. Therefore, do not think that you can sign up for a TOEFL test a few days before you want to take it. Instead, you have to sign up weeks before. In the high season (August through December) you might have to wait three to six weeks for a test center in your area to be available.
Because of these delays, it is good to plan your schedule by working backward from the school deadline. For example, if you want all your materials to be at the admissions office by October 15th, then plan on taking your TOEFL by September 18th, which means you’ll want to go online to sign up for that September test no later than August 18th.
Now that you have planned out your test date, you also have to schedule your study time. On average, you’ll want to plan on between two to six months of study (this is based on five contact hours a week with a trained professional TOEFL tutor/teacher). If you know you are a nervous test taker and that you have never lived in an English-speaking country and your last English class was 3 years ago, then plan on six months of rigorous study. If you know you always do well on standardized tests, and you recently lived in an English-speaking country for more than 3 months and you are currently studying English or using both spoken and written English daily in your job, then you might only need 2 months of study.
Even in the best-case scenario, you should start preparing for that September 18th TOEFL Test by July 18th. Although the date (July 18th) sounds early, it really isn’t once you account for all the preparation time and the scheduling delays.
In sum, do not leave the TOEFL to the last minute. You’ll either find out that you can’t take a test as soon as you thought you could (which means your scores will arrive later than you wanted them to) or you’ll get your scores back and they will be lower than you hoped they would be. Then you’ll lose eight more weeks before your next test scores are ready.
If you fear that you’ll get a bad score the first time you take the test, then move your entire schedule up eight weeks. This will give you enough time to take a second TOEFL if your first one is lower than you wanted.
The TOEFL score is good for two years, so I always tell students to plan for the TOEFL first, and take it eight months before the deadline (which means you’ll be studying for TOEFL about a year before your deadline). If you get TOEFL out of the way early, then you can concentrate on the more difficult tasks of writing powerful essays and getting a high GMAT score. Remember, your essay should be written as close to the application deadline as possible so that it is current. Don’t distract yourself from writing a great essay because you’re still trying to get the TOEFL score you want!