Wow. That was close. But let’s start at the beginning.
You must know, that IESE waived my TOEFL requirement. I got accepted without ever having to take an English language test such as the TOEFL or the IELTS. The fact that I worked for four years on cargo and passenger ships, where the working language is English only, was sufficient to make that claim. The general IESE rule is that you can get exempted from taking the TOEFL if you spent a minimum of 2 years in an English speaking country. For my special case, however, I had to conduct a short, informal telephone interview with a person of the admission team on January 1st, just after New Years Eve (yay). Anyway, it worked out, and one of my main concerns was gone. I was not worried about the test itself, but was under immense time pressure. I was about to board the MS “HAMBURG” end of January and just barely managed to get GMAT, application essays, and admission interview in Barcelona done in time. There was no way to take the TOEFL as well. Actually, I took a flight to Asia just five days after the interview took place.
Now I discovered an unsettling piece of information: If you want to take part in the MBA Exchange Program, the respective partner schools might request to see your TOEFL score – they certainly all have it as a requirement. I contacted IESE to get advice how to proceed, and learned, that the partner schools have trusted IESE’s criteria regarding the English proficiency until today. To meet all criteria and to be on the safe side though, they advised me to take the test if I wanted to do a summer exchange. I definitely want to go and so the decision was clear: I had to take the test after all.
I would have preferred to take the IELTS as it seems to be better suited towards my strengths. But I had only 2 weeks in Germany and not enough lead time to get an appointment, so I had to go with a last minute TOEFL booking.
All slots in Hamburg, where I live, were taken already, but I luckily got one of the last ones in Hannover, which is a 2 hour drive away. As the test was scheduled for 09:00 AM on a Saturday morning, I had to start my travel quite early.
I started at 06:00 AM and arrived well in time at the test center. The drive was a piece of cake and requires no further elaboration. Yet, what was to follow, could have turned the day into a disaster.
Together with me, there were around 40 other people in the waiting area of the test center. The atmosphere was calm and quite relaxed initially; people were chatting about their reasons to take the test and discussed career options. But when there was no sign of an attempt to register the crowd after 09:00 AM had passed, people started to question what was going on. We should learn soon: Two student girls appeared and told us, that they could not get the entire system running, had no way to contact their superior and did not even reach the TOEFL administration in the U.S. All they said was to wait for further progress and that they would give us an update every half hour, yet, they did not look optimistic. You can imagine that people started to worry – many others had traveled far to take this test and had appointments for the late afternoon.
After one hour of waiting, many discussions, and a few affirmations from the girls, that they had no clue how to get the system running, there was finally hope. They reached the U.S. administration and were able to get eight computers running. So eight persons could take the test, and as you can already guess, I was one of them! What an incredible luck! I was picked because they chose people alphabetically and my last name starts with a C.
But what about the others? They had to wait another hour until they were released with bad news: no test today for them, as the system remained inoperable! They all had to drive back home, many with important deadlines to catch. I feel with them, something like that can really ruin your plans. They will get a refund and the opportunity to take the test on another date, of course – but what about their travel costs and missed deadlines? I’m sure ETS (the TOEFL makers) have clauses that will set them free from any such claims, but I did not check.
It would certainly have caused me some trouble if I were not so fortunate to be granted to go through with the test. Even though I did not prepare an awful lot for the test, I did go through the general setting and the different assignment types. I practiced each section (besides the writing section) at least once and had a rough idea how to tackle the questions. With my return to the ship already fixed I would have had to take the test in the short period between the end of my contract on board and the beginning of the MBA instead. As I have a lot of things to do in that time frame, spending time again to prepare and take the TOEFL would really not have been helpful.
So nice that it turned out this way!