Have you ever heard about ‘TOEIC’ test ?
In this article I will explain what is TOEIC all about and how it is used in Japan.
What is TOEIC test ?
TOEIC ( Test of English for International Communication ) is a one of major English ability tests held in some Asian countries (mainly in Japan).
Before covid pandemic, more than 2.5 million people took TOEIC test each year. After covid the number has considerably decreased, but still more than 1.5 million have taken TOEIC in 2020.
TOEIC offers a varieties of English ability tests including S&W(speaking and writing), but L&R (listening and reading) score is most commonly used for measuring students’ general English abilities.
What kind of people are taking TOEIC test ?
Though varieties of people take TOEIC test, majority of them are undergraduates on job hunting and business people of younger generation.
Especially in Japan, large number of major companies adapt TOEIC score for selecting their undergraduate candidates, which causes students to study for and take TOEIC test even more enthusiastically.
Why TOEIC test has become so major in Japan ?
There are several reasons why TOEIC test has become so popular in Japan.
TOEIC offers very simple style of 4-alternatives questions in L&R test.
Examinees can answer every question by just selecting ‘a’ ’b’ ’c’ or ’d’ in their sheets.
This reduces the pains of examinees. They don’t have to make up any English sentence nor speak a single word. All they have to do is just choosing the ‘right’ alternatives.
Instead, they have to answer 100 questions for each section (listening and reading). The total sums up to 200, which contains significant amount of listening and reading material.
Examinees are required to answer them in 120 minutes.
The organizer of TOEIC explains that this volume of questions and limitation of time make up for the shortcomings of the alternatives-question style of TOEIC test.
You can see the test examples in following TOEIC official page(↓).
Another characteristic of TOEIC test is it offers only one type of test for all levels of examinees in each exam.
All levels of examinees are required to answer the same questions both in listening and reading test.
This enables examinees to compete with each other regardless of their English level.
And the test result is offered by TOEIC score (10 to 990 scaled), which is delivered by statistical processing of raw score.
The organizer of TOEIC explains that this offers comparability of each test results in time sequence, which may help examinees to comprehend their progress of study.
These characteristics are favored in Japan and some other Asian countries.
Is TOEIC test really reliable?
Most controversial point of TOEIC is its reliability.
As mentioned, TOEIC(L&R) test only offers 4-alternatives questions, which never require examinees to make any Enlish sentence nor to speak a single word.
And TOEIC materials are mostly based on business situation.
It rarely picks up academic topics (like science, literature, music, art…etc) nor daily casual conversations.
In fact not a few English teachers in Japan are skeptical about the reliability of TOEIC as a scale for measuring ‘true’ English ability of examinees.
Some high scorers (over 900 TOEIC score) are said to be unable to make even a simple daily conversation, nor to understand elementary slang words.
At least we must be aware of the fact that no test offers perfect scale.