Employers’ Expectations and MBA Students’ Spoken English Skills: Exploring the Divide

1. Introduction

There is a requirement for qualified and capable business professionals who can sustain India’s economic growth. This is perhaps the reason that the number of students seeking admission to the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) has escalated over the years. According to a report by MBAuniverse.com, the number of MBA seats in India has grown four fold, from 94,704 in 2006-07 to 35, 2571 in 2011-12. While there is no dearth in the number of management graduates in the market, employers claim that only a small percentage is actually employable. A survey of 2,264 MBA graduates carried out by MeritTrac, an Indian Assessment and Testing Company in 2012 showed that only 21% were employable. Graddol observes that ‘a part of the unemployment problem emanates from the mismatch between the skill requirements of the market and the skill base of the job seekers’(Graddol, 2009, p.106).

In a multi-lingual country like India, English has evolved to become the language of the workplace. MBA graduates are expected to possess excellent communication skills in English. It is taken for granted that they are fluent in English because the MBA selection criteria include examination of their linguistic skills in English. Since English is the medium of instruction in Indian business schools and management institutes, it is thought to contribute to the development of their English language skills. 

2. Participants

Fifty (50) MBA graduates from various Indian business schools/management institutes who had been working for more than a year were chosen for the study. They were all working in organizations located in Delhi and Gurgaon, India. The sample consisted of 23 females and 27 males. English is the second language for all the participants.

3. Procedure

Interviews with the respondents were recorded which were analyzed to determine their proficiency in Spoken English. These interviews were evaluated by the experts based on a five point scales adapted from the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) handbook.

4. Evaluation of Spoken English Skills

According to the evaluation by the experts more than half the respondents (54%) have Above Average Spoken English skills. However, about 30% have been rated as having Average Spoken English skills. Though many respondents appear to be quite fluent in English, they make errors, which are discussed in the following sections.

4.1 Vocabulary

Table 1 depicts some of the errors in vocabulary made by the participants.

Table 1

Errors in Vocabulary

Incorrect Vocabulary

Correct Vocabulary

Schooling and colleging

Schooling and college studies

‘I get so engrossed in my thinkings

I get so engrossed in my thoughts…

our clients need to shed off money for us.’

our clients need to shell out money for us.’

‘Then you have to manipulate yourself…’

Then you have to adapt yourself…

‘My training was longed for 8 months.’

My training was prolonged for 8 months.

‘Men, when they get angry, just start blasting on you.’

‘Men, when they get angry, they vent it out by shouting…’

‘Somebody would have done MBA and would have entered bank.’

Somebody would have done MBA and would have joined a bank.


Several respondents used ‘very much’ instead of ‘really’ and ‘much’ in sentences like ‘I am very much interested…’ and ‘We felt very much disappointed after getting a response like that’. It was also seen that some respondents introduced themselves in a manner which showed strong mother-tongue influence, for example ‘Myself Arvind Kumar Singh’.

4.2 Pronunciation

The respondents displayed many errors in their pronunciation. This again reflects a strong influence of their mother tongue. Some of the errors are listed below in Table 2.

Table 2

Pronunciation errors


Respondent’s pronunciation

Received Pronunciation



/ əl′i:t/




Entrance exam




/ ɔpɔ:rʧϋnitiz/



/ hɛ́r/



/ dɪ:zɪʒənz/



/ ski:lz/



/ speɪʃɪali:/



/ ri:ʤʌn/

/ rízən/








/ kærɪar/

/ kərɪ́r/


A common tendency to pronounce ‘Opportunity’ as / ɔpɔ:rʧϋniti/ was noted. Several participants used /ʤ/ instead of /z/. Many mispronounced words with the vowel /ə/.

4.3 Prepositions

In their Spoken English the participants showed errors in the use of prepositions. Table 3 shows errors in the insertion of unnecessary prepositions in Spoken English. Table 4 displays the wrong use of prepositions in speech.

Table 3

Insertion of unnecessary prepositions in speech

Insertion of Preposition



‘…I joined with Standard Chartered…’

…I joined Standard Chartered…

‘I report in to the group manager.’

I report to the group manager.

‘I directly joined into my MBA program

I directly joined the MBA program

confiding over things’

confiding things

‘Even after joining for the job…

…even after joining the job

‘…mingling up with people’

…mingling with people…


Table 4

Wrong use of prepositions in speech

Wrong use of a Preposition



‘My parents were not very keen in my following that.’

My parents were not very keen about my following that.

‘I was not very much keen with software jobs.’

I was not very keen about software jobs.

‘I want to become Head of the Department to one of the organizations.’

I want to become the Head of the Department in one of the organizations.

‘…makes me get involved into various sectors.’

…makes me get involved in various sectors.

‘Recession is on its peak.

Recession is at its peak


4.4 Tenses

Some of the participants made use of wrong tenses in their speech. Table 5 displays some instances when they made such errors.

Table 5

Errors in the use of Tenses in speech



‘I done my primary education…’

I did my primary education…

‘At our time we didn’t had that.

At our time we didn’t have that.


4.5 Articles

In their Spoken English the participants showed omission of articles as well as addition of unnecessary articles in their sentences. The examples of omission of articles are given in Table 6 below. Table 7 shows the unnecessary addition of articles while Table 8 displays the wrong use of articles in speech.

Table 6

Omission of articles in Speech

Omission of articles



‘…meet the top guys at job.

…meet the top guys at the job.

As professional

As a professional…

‘ …you get worried all time.

 …you get worried all the time.

‘ After that I didn’t get job.

After that I didn’t get a job

‘Here I got job’

Here I got a job

‘My father got job here…’

My father got a job here

‘…from other parts of country

…from others parts of the country.

‘…such large pool of knowledge.’

…such a large pool of knowledge.

‘Some of the senior most people in organization are women’

Some of the senior most people in the organization are women


Table 7

Addition of unnecessary articles in Speech

Addition of articles



‘…that way it has been the challenging for me the role…’

…that way the role has been challenging for me

You are the one of the persons…’

you are one of the persons…

‘…while I was doing the B.Com…’

While I was doing B.Com

‘men and a women both do hard work’

men and women both do hard work

Its a helpful a lot’

It is very helpful.

The more the senior they are the more humble…

The more senior they are the more humble…


Table 8

Insertion of wrong article in Speech

Insertion of Wrong Article



‘Education always plays the important role in your life.’

Education always plays an important role in your life.


4.6 Subject-Verb Agreement

Table 9 displays errors in their speech which show a disagreement between the subject and the corresponding verb.

Table 9

Errors in subject-verb agreement



 ‘Lot of politeness are expected from the clients.’

Lot of politeness is expected from the clients.

‘ So many difference are there…’

So many differences are there…

Women brings a lot substance to the workplace.’

Women bring a lot substance to the workplace.

‘…so PR activity also differ from industry to industry.’

…so PR activity also differs from industry to industry.

‘…thereis a few changes.’

…there are a few changes.

‘I don’t think emotions helps anywhere in the organization.’

I don’t think emotions help anywhere in the organization.

‘As far as studies is related…’

As far as studies are related…

‘Projects and all was done…’

Projects weredone…


4.7 Word Order

A few respondents used words in a confusing and sometimes meaningless manner. Table 10 shows some examples of wrong word order.

Table 10

Wrong word order used in speech



‘ …your work of style…’ 

your style of work

‘ that is the creativity more I feel…’

 I feel this is real creativity…

‘…everything keeping in mind we used to do the advertisements.’

We used to do the advertisements keeping all this in mind…


4.8 Collocation

The participants used some deviant collocations such as the following.

‘…humanly feasible…’ instead of ‘humanly possible.’

‘Many take a back step…’ instead of ‘many take a back seat…’

4.9 Repetitions

Some respondents showed a tendency to use certain words repeatedly during the conversation, even though these words served no purpose to the discourse. They would also use words such as ‘like’, ‘thing’, ‘fine’, and ‘umm…’as fillers when they failed to find the appropriate words. Some examples are given below.


Basically, of course in these days smart work is essential to manipulate things according to your requirements basically…’

You get a lot of freedom basically…there is…when you…basically the main purpose of our job is dealing with clients.

2.  And all:   

‘Companies coming for interviews and all…’

‘I gave my MBA entrance exams and all.’

‘…to get into job and all.

‘ His classes, though he was very good and all

‘That is a flaw in my education which I did in Gulf and all.’

3.  Probably:

‘We probably could take a lot of decisions at our end toprobably, you know, counter that act.

‘…which probably has actually been shelved and we probablyare recruiting…’

4.  You know:

He used to give us, you know, how to write letters and how to, you know, do communication.

4.10 Use of ‘to’

I can explain you

I can explain it to you…

How to , you know, do communication,

How to communicate

I need to listen them very patiently.

I need to listen to them very patiently.

…which I have accustomed now.

…which I am accustomed to now.

She has to listen all that.

She has to listen to all that.

If there is an action, you’d definitely react it.

If there is an action, you’d definitely react to it.


5. Conclusion

The purpose of this analysis was to show that there is much room for improvement in the Spoken English skills of MBA graduates since some of them from the best Indian B- schools have been found to make several grammatical and syntactical errors. Business schools do not think it necessary to focus on the grammar and vocabulary, as they expect students to have that mastery over the language. Besides this, the packed schedule of the MBA leaves no room for developing their language skills. The respondents reiterated these facts in their interviews as well.Their inability to communicate effectively will also impact the smooth functioning of the organization. Proactive measures need to be taken to develop the Business English skills of these graduates otherwise it will hamper their professional growth.


Graddol, D. (2009) English next. India: The British Council.

MeritTrac-MBAUniverse.com (2012). Only 21% of MBAs employable in 2011-12. (Report). Retrieved on September 27, 2012 from http://www.mbauniverse.com


* Article first published in FORTELL, JANUARY 2014

roselizfrancis@gmail.com | Roseliz Francis is a Research and Teaching Assistant at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. She is pursuing her PhD in ELT. Her areas of interest include Business English, Language Pathology and Educational Technology. 



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