Jose Ferreira is the Founder and CEO of Knewton.
In response to my last post on BeatTheGMAT, a commenter asked whether native English speakers have an advantage on the GMAT, and whether the test gives more weight to the verbal sections. Business schools care about both your math and your verbal skills. Math is a universal language, the same everywhere in the world. The verbal sections, on the other hand, are, simply put, in English. Native speakers will naturally have an advantage. It makes it harder for non-native speakers, but that disadvantage can be overcome.
Business schools are eager to attract international students. But if you’re going to function in English-speaking business environments, it’s reasonable to expect you to be able to have a command over the language. You might need to devote extra time to study and practice. You’ll have an easier time with the writing sections if you spend some time reading well-edited, grammatically correct English. Publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Economist will all help you absorb the correct use of idiomatic expressions.
There are certain qualities that business school admissions officers look for in applicants, regardless of nationality. Business schools like students to be competitive, driven, goal-oriented, analytical and extroverted—the classic “type A” personality. Shape your application to market at several of these qualities (assuming you have them). Once you’re in business school, no one will care if you have a thick accent as long as you speak and act confidently.