The Test of English for International Communications (TOEIC) will have its first major revision since the English proficiency test for non-native speakers was launched in 1979.
"The idea behind the changes is to make the test “more authentic” and meet the needs of the times and the situation regarding how English is actually being used at work,” said Kazumi Yamamoto, an IIBC, Japanese administrator of TOEIC, which is a product of the U.S.-based English Testing Service, spokeswoman.
The revision will be implemented with testing on the 28th of May and will surely make studying English a lot harder for people. The said changes will be instituted next year for group participants who take the exam on a corporate basis.
"For the past 25 years, we have seen such changes as the emergence of e-mail as a major communication means, while reading and analyzing long passages in English is growing increasingly more common in the business field,” she said.
The TOEIC is consists of listening and reading section to evaluate English proficiency. The major revision will include the use of four accents such as American, British, Canadian and Australian in the listening section and each conversation will be longer. Error recognition questions will be replaced by fill-in-the blanks based on long passages in the reading section. Examinees will be required to answer questions by reading two interrelated passages instead of a single passage. The total of 200 questions and the duration of two hours remain and the scores range from 10 to 990.
It is also reported that in late 2006 writing and speaking components will be added as part of the TOEIC.
Many workers in Japan will be affected by the revision of TOEIC. Some companies, organizations, and educational institutions use the test not only to assess their English proficiency but also to determine promotions and overseas assignments.
“Globalization is inevitably increasing employees' chances of communicating in English at work,” said Yurika Motoyoshi, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman.
Toyota is continuously increasing its production and overseas networks, thus English training is very important for the workers. Likewise it requires administrative and engineering personnel to have a TOEIC score of at least 600 to be promoted to the equivalent of section chief.
"As we shift production overseas, an increasing number of manufacturing workers in Japan are being dispatched abroad to support overseas production, to convey not only technical skills but also Toyota's philosophy, to local employees,” Motoyoshi said.
Added to that, to evaluate English proficiency of the production workers, Toyota introduced the TOEIC Bridge. TOIEC Bridge is the English test for beginners whose scores range from 20 to 180.
On the other hand, Matshushita Electric Industrial Co. raised the score requirement for employee wishing to be promoted to above the section chief level from 450 to 550, while a score of 650 is required for those aspiring to get overseas assignments effective last April.
"The good thing about TOEIC is that we can objectively assess the workers' ability to use English in terms of scores," said Hiroaki Nishimura of the firm's global human resources team.
"I think 730 is the ideal score level for business in general and we wanted to raise the minimum standard even if only slightly," he said.
He also added that the electronics giant intends to raise the mandatory level in the future.
Nishimura welcomes the revision of TOEIC because it will enable them to evaluate accurately the English proficiency of its employees. Lack of important English skills means less job opportunities in the workplace.
People trying gain English skills are advised to take the TOEIC before it would get harder.