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The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is "an English language test designed specifically to measure the everyday English skills of people working in an international environment."
There are different forms of the exam: The TOEIC Listening & Reading Test consists of two equally graded tests of comprehension assessment activities totaling a possible 990 score; the newer TOEIC Speaking & Writing Test comprises tests of pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, overall coherence, and structure (organization of sentences) totaling a possible 400 score.
- 1 TOEIC Listening & Reading Test
- 2 TOEIC Speaking & Writing Test
- 3 Institutional TOEIC Test
- 4 History
- 5 New TOEIC tests
- 6 TOEIC in Japan
- 7 TOEIC in South Korea
- 8 TOEIC in Europe
- 9 TOEIC in the United Kingdom
- 10 TOEIC in the United States
- 11 TOEIC Bridge Test
- 12 TOEIC Bridge in Chile
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
TOEIC Listening & Reading Test
The TOEIC Listening & Reading Test is a two-hour multiple-choice test consisting of 200 questions evenly divided into listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Each candidate receives independent scores for listening and reading comprehension on a scale from 5 to 495 points. The total score adds up to a scale from 10 to 990 points. The TOEIC certificate exists in five colors, corresponding to achieved results:
- orange (10–215)
- brown (220–465)
- green (470–725)
- blue (730–850)
- gold (855–990)
TOEIC Speaking & Writing Test
The TOEIC Speaking & Writing Test was introduced in 2006. Test takers receive separate scores for each of the two tests, or can take the Speaking test without taking the Writing test. The Speaking test assesses pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and fluency, while the Writing test examines vocabulary, grammar, and overall coherence and organization. The tests are designed to reflect actual English usage in the workplace, though they do not require any knowledge of specialized business terms. The TOEIC Speaking Test takes approximately 20 minutes to complete; the TOEIC writing test lasts approximately 60 minutes. Each test has a score range between 0-200, with test takers grouped into eight proficiency levels.
Institutional TOEIC Test
In addition to the official TOEIC tests, there are also versions that individual businesses and educational institutions can purchase for internal use. These "Institutional" TOEIC tests can be administered at the organization's own choice of location and time to their employees or students.
The US-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) developed the TOEIC test to measure achievement in using English in a business setting. Yasuo Kitaoka was the central figure of the Japanese team that conceived the basic idea of the TOEIC test.
According to an Aug. 11, 2009 Japan Times article, "In the 1970s, Kitaoka began negotiating with ETS to create a new test of English communication for use in Japan. ETS responded that it required a nonprofit organization to work with as their partner. Kitaoka tried to enlist the help of the Ministry of Education, but their bureaucrats did not see the need for a new test to compete with the STEP Eiken, an English test already backed by the ministry. To overcome this opposition, Kitaoka received help from his friend, Yaeji Watanabe. Watanabe's influence as a retired high-ranking bureaucrat from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (renamed the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, or METI) proved crucial to TOEIC's establishment.
Watanabe had remained in contact with his old ministry while working on the board of directors for the World Economic Information Services (WEIS) and as chairman of the Japan-China Economic Association, both public-interest corporations operating under MITI. Watanabe declined an interview request, but his memoirs describe how he overcame Ministry of Education opposition to the TOEIC by taking cover "behind the ministry of trade shield." Watanabe convinced his old ministry it should play the lead role in establishing a new English test, and formed a TOEIC Steering Committee under the WEIS umbrella. Members of the committee included other retired MITI bureaucrats and influential business leaders.
Government support secured, ETS began developing the test in 1977. In 1979, English learners in Japan filled in the first of many TOEIC multiple-choice answer forms."
New TOEIC tests
A new version of the TOEIC Listening & Reading test was released in 2006. The changes can be summarized as follows:
- Overall, passages are longer.
- Part 1 has fewer questions involving photograph descriptions.
- The Listening Section hires speakers of English from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and North America, and uses an equal distribution of the dialects. However all the voice actors for the speaking test have lived in the United States for an extended period.
- Part 6 no longer contains an error-spotting task, criticized as unrealistic in a corporate environment, instead adopting the use of a task wherein the test taker fills in blanks in incomplete sentences.
- Part 7 contains not only single-passage questions but also double-passage questions wherein the test taker reads and compares the two related passages, such as an e-mail correspondence.
According to a survey conducted in 2006 by the Institute for International Business Communication (財団法人 国際ビジネスコミュニケーション協会 Zaidanhōjin Kokusai Bijinesu Komyunikēshon Kyōkai?), 56.8% of the respondents who took both the older and the revised versions of the TOEIC test in Japan find the latter version more difficult. The lower the score the test taker achieves, the more marked this tendency becomes. As many as 85.6% of those who earned scores ranging from 10 to 395 points find the revised TOEIC test more difficult, while 69.9% of those who earned 400 to 495 points think this way, as do 59.3% of those who earned 500 to 595 points. Among those who achieved 600 to 695 points 58.9% agree with these findings. 700 to 795 points 48.6%, 800 to 895 points 47.9%, and 900 to 990 points 39.8%.
2006 also saw the addition of TOEIC Speaking & Writing tests. In 2007 there were additional changes to the TOEIC Reading & Listening test that decreased emphasis on knowledge of grammatical rules.
TOEIC in Japan
The Institute for International Business Communication (財団法人 国際ビジネスコミュニケーション協会 Zaidanhōjin Kokusai Bijinesu Komyunikēshon Kyōkai?) operates the TOEIC test in Japan, where a total of nearly 1.5 million people take the test per year. There are two ways to take the TOEIC test properly. One is called the TOEIC SP Test (Secure Program Test; 公開テスト Kōkai Tesuto?), in which one can take the test either individually or in a group on specified dates at a test centre specified by the TOEIC Steering Committee. The other is the TOEIC Institutional Program (IP) Test (団体特別受験制度 Dantai Tokubetsu Juken Seido?), in which an organization can choose the date and administer the test at its convenience in accordance with the TOEIC Steering Committee. The TOEIC SP Test was renewed on May 2006, followed by the TOEIC IP Test in April 2007 in line so that it would be with the SP Test. More and more companies use TOEIC scores for personnel assessment instead of the homegrown STEP Eiken test organized by the Society for Testing English Proficiency (STEP) (日本英語検定協会主催実用英語技能検定試験「英検」 Nihon Eigo Kentei Kyōkai Shusai Jitsuyō Eigo Ginō Kentei Shiken "Eiken"?). The TOEIC Speaking Test/Writing Test started on January 21, 2007 in addition to the TOEIC SP Test and the TOEIC IP Test.
The Institute for International Business Communication (IIBC), the non-profit organization that administers the TOEIC in Japan, was the subject of a scandal in 2009.
In May and June 2009, articles in the Japanese weekly magazine FRIDAY accused the IIBC’s 92 year-old Chairman Yaeji Watanabe of nepotism when he appointed the son of his girlfriend to the position of Chairman of the IIBC Board of Directors. To force the appointment, half of the volunteers serving on the Board were forced out by Watanabe. The magazine article also questioned why Watanabe only showed up for work about one day a week.
In his defense, Watanabe claimed that he held a ceremonial title and was Chairman in name only. As a result Watanabe claimed that he had little to do with the decision to appoint the son of his girlfriend to the position. The magazine article concluded by asking why someone who is Chairman only in name and only working one day a week should receive an annual salary in excess of 25 million yen.
In August 2009, the online version of the English-language newspaper The Japan Times published a two-part series examining the TOEIC’s origins and early history as well as the use of test-taker fees by the IIBC on the internet. The August 18th article examined the questionable uses of test-fees, including, a fivefold increase in utility expenses in one year, 13 million spent annually on research about adapting to Chinese culture, sponsorship of poetry readings by the Chinese Poetry Recitation Association, and membership fees to join the Beautiful Aging Association, for which Watanabe also happened to be Chairman.
The article also questioned the relationship between the IIBC and its for-profit partner International Communications School with which it shared office space. International Communications School is responsible for selling the TOEIC Institutional Program Test given by companies and schools, and also publishes IIBC approved TOEIC preparation textbooks and administers the TOEIC Japanese language Web site. Also, one of International Communications School's subsidiaries is E-Communications, which administers the TOEIC’s online application system and provides online TOEIC study materials.
In 2009, Watanabe suddenly resigned from the IIBC, leaving the son of his girlfriend in charge of the non-profit. Watanabe received a 25 million yen retirement payment.
The IIBC lowered the price of the TOEIC Secure Program Test from 6,615 yen to 5,985 yen starting with the September 13, 2009 test. The price had to be lowered due to pressure from the Ministry of Trade, which instructed the IIBC to reduce the profits being generated by the test.
In July 2010, the Tokyo Tax Bureau announced that International Communications School, IIBC's for-profit partner, hid 100 million yen in income and had to pay 30 million yen in back taxes and fines.
TOEIC in South Korea
Toward the end of 2005, there was a shift in South Korea, regarded as the second biggest consumer of TOEIC per capita. As noted in The Chosun Ilbo (조선일보; 朝鮮日報; Korea Daily Reports) national daily , a number of major corporations have either removed or reduced the required TOEIC score for employment. An official from the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK; Kiup Bank; 기업은행; 中小企業銀行) says, "TOEIC isn't an appropriate indicator of actual English skills." However, a person's TOEIC score is still a major factor in hiring persons for most professional jobs in South Korea. Starting in 2011, Korean universities will no longer be allowed to use TOEIC and TOEFL scores as part of the admission process. However, many Universities in Korea still requiring a minimum score of 900. This is apparently to discourage private English education (there are many private institutions that teach TOEIC-based classes). Another English proficiency test, TEPS (developed by Seoul National University, Chosun Ilbo), has been developed and may replace the status of TOEIC.
TOEIC in Europe
In France, some Grandes écoles require a TOEIC score of at least 785 to award the diploma. This policy has been criticized, as it makes state-awarded diplomas dependent on a private institution—despite the fact that it was not the private institution that set the 785 mark but a recommendation from the Commission des titres d'ingénieur indicating a B2+ level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. If the student cannot achieve a 785 mark, he/she is offered to validate his/her diploma by other means in most of the schools. Some institutions delay the diploma for 1 year after the end of the studies in that case.
In Italy, TOEIC is often used by universities as an exam to pass degree level qualifications. All universities require that students pass an English examination to be allowed to partake in degree courses and to receive diplomas. A TOEIC score of 450 is usually required to complete 3 years of study and a score of 600 is usually required to obtain the diploma. Many universities allow alternative qualifications to the TOEIC, such as the Cambridge certificate and TOEFL tests. Most universities do not offer either language preparation or language tests, requiring students to seek external preparation and examination for a requirement enforced by the department of education for all degrees.
TOEIC in the United Kingdom
The TOEIC was one test used to apply for a visa to study in the UK. However a 2014 undercover investigation by the BBC program Panorama appeared to expose systematic cheating & fraud by an independent organization administering the TOEIC, which led to the Home Office suspending acceptance of all ETS English exams. Eventually, on 5th April 2014, ETS has decided not to renew its licence as a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT), which means that all its English language tests are no longer honoured for purposes of being issued a UK visa.
TOEIC in the United States
Both the TOEIC Listening & Reading and the TOEIC Speaking & Writing tests are now available in the United States. While the TOEIC Listening & Reading test has been available for decades, the TOEIC Speaking & Writing test was introduced in the United States only in 2009. Registration for the TOEIC Speaking & Writing test is handled by the English4Success division of the nonprofit organization Amideast.
TOEIC Bridge Test
ETS also administers a simplified version of the TOEIC test called TOEIC Bridge. The TOEIC Bridge test targets beginning and intermediate speakers and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, requiring about one hour of testing time.
TOEIC Bridge in Chile
The TOEIC Bridge was used in Chile as part of the 2010 SIMCE test.
- McCrostie, James, "TOEIC no turkey at 30", Japan Times, August 11, 2009.
- McCrostie, James, "TOEIC: Where does the money go?", Japan Times, August 18, 2009.
- Japan Times, 2009.
- BBC - Student visa system fraud exposed in BBC investigation