Graduate Management News

August 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Using Video to Help Non-Native English Speakers Get Ready for the B-School Classroom

For US business schools, applicant video platforms serve as a great opportunity to level the playing field in the classroom for non-native English speakers.

Video for Classroom Homepage

Applicant videos are being used in the Graduate Management Education admissions process in a variety of ways, including to assess language skills, virtually “meet” candidates, get a greater sense for personality and program fit, better understand ability to think on their feet, and give our admissions committees one more touch point with which to evaluate applicants.

One of the challenges we face every year at the Brigham Young University (BYU) MBA is helping our international students get ready for a US academic experience and understand cultural nuances to be competitive in their job search. Despite the TOEFL/IELTS, a rigorous interview process, and an orientation just for international students, we still hear year after year from professors, career services staff, and the students themselves that transitioning into the MBA experience as an international student is tough. There is a lot of work required to get up-to-speed in a very short amount of time.

Some students struggle with language comprehension when the class pace moves quickly and an MBA program requires a whole new vocabulary. Others struggle because of cultural differences and may have a hard time engaging in a classroom environment where cold-calling is the norm and challenging the professor and other classmates is expected and even required. In addition, navigating the job search poses an additional hurdle for these students as US search tactics, such as informational interviews, can feel forward and unfamiliar. Further, many of our students reach out to us in advance asking for suggestions on what to do to prepare themselves, knowing they are facing some of the barriers previously mentioned. We’ve even had students request the book list so they can get a head start on the considerable amount of reading required throughout the first semester.

When the BYU MBA was invited to participate in a trial for a new video software platform specifically designed to help international students get classroom and job-search ready, we couldn’t pass it up. We saw this as a great opportunity to explore a way that applicant videos could help level the playing field for these students.

We worked closely with English3, a company with an existing platform for teaching ESL classes using video interviews, to build a course tailored to our MBA students. For our test, we decided to design a course specifically for students who have accepted our admission offer and paid a deposit to complete prior to arriving in the US for orientation.

We used existing modules from English 3’s library and built some of our own, including a business vocabulary quiz, as well as modules designed to help students practice challenging a professor in class, practice responding to a cold-call question in class, and practice responding to a job interview question. Each module is monitored by English3 tutors, and the students receive feedback from a tutor within 24 hours so they can begin to immediately course correct if needed. 

We rolled out our custom course to incoming international students for the fall 2015, and are just beginning to gather feedback from them as they arrive on campus this month. Although we don’t have complete results to share as of this writing, we have some anecdotal evidence that portions of the course were extremely beneficial to our students (the quick response feedback from tutors) and others were not as relevant (no specific action plan for incorporating feedback after the course is completed).

We are excited to gather additional insight and begin working to improve the course for 2016. In the long term, we anticipate using the course in our admissions process for assessing language abilities beyond the standardized tests, a use that we believe will benefit our admissions success.

About the Author

Julianne GreyJulianne Gray is recruiting manager, BYU MBA Programs, Marriott School of Management.