In 2005, as the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (or ECPE) test celebrated more than five decades of service, the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute announced that it would be making a number of changes to the Speaking section of the exam. Designed in response to careful research and study, these changes – which came into effect in 2009 – are important considerations for first-time and repeat test takers alike. This change impacts both the exam’s tasks and its evaluation.
First and foremost, the new ECPE speaking test will require candidates to participate in what the UM-ELI calls a “semi-structured, multistage task involving two candidates and two examiners.” In practice this means that, following a detailed introductory conversation in which test takers are expected to actively engage each other and the examiners, applicants will be asked to complete a series of multi-part tasks which progress though the selection of four available decision making options and their consequences. As an example, consider a scenarios in which applicants are asked to select one person for a job from a short list of four. After reaching individual conclusions, they should be able to explain and justifying their choice to their partner. If they disagree, they should then work to reach a consensus by using persuasive skills. Finally, having primarily addressed one another through this process, they should present their choice to the examiners.
While there are no right or wrong answers, remember that the exam is designed to assess the use of formal English, so if possible applicants should emphasize both fluency and accuracy throughout. Moreover, each candidate’s abilities will be evaluated independently by the two examiners so it is important that each candidate contributes equally throughout the speaking activity. In making their evaluations, the examiners will receive use a five-band measure designed to assess all aspects of active English communication.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to stay in the United States a little longer than you planned, and you didn’t bring any more money from home to support yourself while you’re living the good life overseas. You could write home and ask for a check, but that could take forever! First, you’d have to wait for the check to come in the mail, then you’d have to wait for your bank to collect the funds from your home bank, which normally takes much longer than it would to release a check. You could have your funds from home stuck in limbo for several weeks! It’s much better to send funds internationally with a wire transfer!
An international wire transfer, or bank funds transfer, is a way to move money without using a check or cash. It’s pretty useful for fabulous ESL students because it allows you to transfer funds quickly from a bank in your home country to a bank in the United States (if that’s where you are studying) – which is one key advantage to opening a bank account in the US. There is never a funds hold placed on a wire because your bank in the United States is actually receiving the funds directly from the overseas account. So how would you go about transferring funds with an international wire transfer? Glad you asked!
To receive a wire, you’ll need three pieces of information. The first thing you’ll need is your account number. This is not the same thing as your debit card number. This number tells the bank back home where your money is. You will also need your routing number, which tells the bank back home where your American bank account is located within the framework of the American Bank. You also will need your swift code, which will tell your bank back home where your account is within the American banking system. It’s similar to an IBAN number, which does much the same thing for European financial institutions.
English is fast becoming the world’s common language but as the 21st century marches on its growth comes not from population growth but from cultural expansion. In fact, worldwide more people speak English as second language than there are people in the seven core countries who recognize English as an official language.*
This fact is made abundantly clear in South Korea, where English does not perform any official function as a language but does hold a special cultural and social importance greater than any of foreign language in the country. Although closer culturally and geographically to both China and Japan (who themselves possess the second and third largest economies in the world), English is the only one of the three that is part of compulsory curriculum used nationwide.
Because of this special connection, English proficiency is almost directly associated with academic, professional, and even social success. The role of the TOEIC in South Korea can therefore not be understated. Because of the paramount importance South Koreans place of English, a high TOEIC score has long been a major factor both in the in hiring process for professional jobs and also for college admissions. In 2007, more than half of people who took the TOEIC were from South Korea. The spillover effects are immense. Because of the competitive nature of the labor market and college admissions, many students see the importance placed on English proficiency as an opportunity to distinguish themselves and a sprawling industry of there are many private institutions that teach TOEIC preparatory classes have sprung up throughout the nation.
Although the TOEIC is primarily targeted at working professionals, other, similar programs also dot the landscape. In fact, while public school education begins to offer English classes in the third grade, private English-only prekindergarten classes are widely seen as an important stepping stone to success – much like English itself is seen as stepping stone to South Korea’s economic success.
* Those countries are the United Kingdom, Ireland, The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.