Thursday, December 15, 2005

TOEIC test to include listing and speaking sections

Looks like the TOEIC test is going to get listening and speaking sections. It will be interesting to see how they pull that off. The test has been taking a beating in the press recently, especially in Korea, but the numbers of test takers there has surpassed those for Japan.


tetsuo said...

Nice to meet you! My name is Tetsuo. Now I am a senoir at a university. I also have heard the news. however, it is good news, because TOEIC will be obviously more diffcult and practical than it used to be. And I think TOEIC may as well contain speaking test, for English should be used in our life. Otherwise, studying the language is of no use!

Daniel said...

Thanks for the comment. It is great to get a message from a person still at university.

I agree that it is good news. Test takers will get more of an opportunity to show their stuff with more language skills being evaluated. That has to be a great feature for people like me who do well with speaking and writing exams, but perform poorly on mark-sheet tests. Hopefully there will be other "trickle-down" effects, like provide further evidence to curriculum makers that expression skills are also important.

There are problematic issues that remain with the test. First, ETS has made connections between certain scores on the old exam and levels of speaking skills. If a test taker gets a certain score, that means that the person has a certain speaking skills. A quote from an article, "TOEIC TEST: 2003 Data and Analysis," available on the TOEIC web site says, "Although speaking ability is not equivalent to that of a native speaker, the individual has a strong grasp of vocabulary...and the abiltiy to use the language relatively fluently."

My prediction is similar to yours, that the test will be more difficult for learners as a result of these new evaluations, even though is should not be. My problem is with how speaking skills were interpreted before the new test. Did companies think they were getting something that they weren't? My guess is that even though a person may score well on the mark-sheet sections, they may not score well on the new sections, and that will show that interpretations of test scores were inappropriate.

Your comment also expressed the opinion that TOEIC might as well have a speaking test, "for English should be used in our life." As much as I admire the sentiment as an English teacher, the logic doesn't follow. No test is real life, and real life isn't a test. Life and language are infinitely more complex. This or any other test measures what they do, no more or less.

Finally, my understanding of the comment, according to the last sentence, is that unless a learner is studying a language to be able to speak, then the language is useless. I disagree, as language learning requirements at American universities that I know of are not included so that learners can develop communication skills in a second (or third...) langauge. They are included so that students can improve their understanding of the English language, which will make them better communicators in English. That is why many programs limit languages that can be taken as required classes to those which have influenced English (French, German, Spanish, Latin, Greek...) This is a perfectly legitimate "use" for studying language.