Test of English for International Communication
(TOEIC) measures the ability of non-native English-speaking examinees to use English
in everyday workplace activities.
The Educational Testing Service
(ETS) in the USA
developed the TOEIC test based on its academic ETS counterpart, the TOEFL
test, following a request from Japan
(Japan Federation of Economic Organizations
; 経団連) in conjunction with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry
; 通商産業省; 通産省), which is today's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
(METI; 経済産業省; 経産省). The Asahi Shimbun
national daily's evening edition
interviewed Yasuo Kitaoka
(北岡靖男 Kitaoka Yasuo
) who was the central figure of the Japanese team that conceived the basic idea of the TOEIC test. In this sense the TOEIC test can be described as a US-Japanese crossbreed. ETS's major competitor is Cambridge University, which administers the IELTS, FCE, and CAE.
The TOEIC test is a two-hour multiple-choice test
that consists of 200 questions divided into 100 questions each in listening comprehension
and reading comprehension
. Each candidate receives independent marks for written and oral
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 colours, corresponding to achieved results :
- orange (10-215)
- brown (220-465)
- green (470-725)
- blue (730-855)
- gold (860-990)
There are an estimated 3 million test takers in 60 different countries per year, but most of these are Japanese and South Koreans. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and, to a lesser extent the FCE/CAE, is widely accepted as a measure of English ability in other countries. ETS claims that the TOEIC measures the ability to function in an English-speaking workplace. Until recently, it only measured reading and listening skills (not speaking and writing) and, because of this deficiency, has long been criticized as an unreliable meter of general competence in English. A high score on the TOEIC test did not by any means provide a reliable indicator of functional English ability. Testimonies abound regarding Koreans and Japanese who scored high on the test, but who couldn't produce functional spoken English. Ostensibly, the popularity of the TOEIC is due to its former focus on grammar rules and reading, as these are the only English skills traditionally focused upon in the Korean and Japanese educational curricula. These curricula are notorious for producing a serious imbalance in language skills and there is a distinct deficiency in productive skills (speaking and writing) among Japanese and Koreans educated under that system. Its academic ETS counterpart - the TOEFL test, has more international recognition and prestige because it has a speaking and writing component. Cambridge University's IELTS (academic) is also widely used as a meter of academic preparedness, especially in commonwealth countries. (The IELTS general is widely used by commonwealth countries for immigration). In response to widespread criticism, ETS added a separate speaking and writing test in 2007, and made some changes to the reading and listening test that de-emphasized knowledge of grammatical rules. While the IELTS is generally accepted in Europe, the TOEIC is making some inroads. (See below: TOEIC in Europe)
The questions on the TOEIC attempt to reenact international business environments and contain vocabulary and usage that are not necessarily needed in everyday life. Even a native speaker will find it hard to get full marks unless they have a good educational background, which strongly suggests that the TOEIC may not necessarily be a 100% true test of English communicative competence.
In answer to criticisms that the Listening Section hires only American and Canadian English speakers despite its "International" appellation, the year 2006
saw a major renewal. The changes can be summarized as follows:
- Overall, passages have become longer.
- Part 1 has fewer questions involving photo descriptions.
- The Listening Section hires not only North American English speakers but also British, Australian and New Zealand English speakers. The ratio is 25% each for American, Canadian, British and Australian-New Zealand pronunciation
- Part 6 no longer contains the error spotting task, which has been criticized as unrealistic in a corporate environment. This part instead adopts the task wherein the test taker fills in the blanks in incomplete sentences.
- Part 7 contains not only single passage questions but also double passage questions wherein the test taker has to read and compare the two related passages such as e-mail correspondence.
According to a survey conducted in 2006 by , 56.8% of the respondents who took both the older and the renewed versions of the TOEIC test in Japan find the latter version more difficult. The lower 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 renewed TOEIC test more difficult, while 69.9% of those who earned 400 to 495 points think this way, so do 59.3% of those who earned 500 to 595 points. Among those who achieved 600 to 695 points 58.9% find so, 700 to 795 points 48.6%, 800 to 895 points 47.9%, and 900 to 990 points 39.8%.
TOEIC in Japan
The 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 proper. One is called the , 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 , in which an organization (a corporate body or an educational institution) can choose the date and administer the test at their convenience in accordance with the TOEIC Steering Committee. The TOEIC SP Test was renewed on May 2006
, the TOEIC IP Test in April 2007
in line with the SP Test. More and more companies use TOEIC scores for personnel assessment instead of the homegrown STEP Eiken
test organized by the . The TOEIC Speaking Test / Writing Test started on Sunday 21st January 2007
in addition to the TOEIC SP Test and the TOEIC IP Test
TOEIC in the Republic of Korea
Towards the end of 2005
, there was a shift in South Korea
, regarded as the second biggest consumer of TOEIC
, or rather the biggest in terms of per capita consumption, away from the test as a measure of English ability on the corporate level. 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." Another English proficiency test, TEPS
, has been developed and is being adopted by more and more Korean companies.
TOEIC can be taken starting from the age of 17.
TOEIC in Europe
, some Grandes écoles
require a TOEIC score of at least 750 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 750 mark but a recommendation from the Commission des Titres d'Ingénieurs indicating a B2+ level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
If the student cannot achieve a 750 mark, he/she is offered to validate his/her diploma by other means in most of the schools. Some institutions delay the diploma for one year after the end of the studies in that case.
In Greece, TOEIC is accepted by ASEP, the organisation which is responsible for hiring new employees to work for the government.
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.