English Exam Overviews: The MELAB

MELAB_logoEven if its acronym does not reveal its roots, the MELAB’s name – the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery – is proof enough that the exam, like the ECCE and ECPE, originated at the University of Michigan. While the exam is aimed at a broader range of skill levels than either, it nevertheless offers several unique features to its target audience: students interested in English-language higher education.

What is the MELAB and what makes it unique?
Though now administered by Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment, the exam – like its brethren – maintains its connection to its American origins by emphasizing the American conventions of spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. Moreover, almost unique among language exams, the MELAB is comprised of three parts that are mandatory and one that is optional. That is to say that while the writing, listening, and “grammar, cloze, vocabulary and reading comprehension” (GCVR) sections are required of all test-takers, candidates sit for the optional speaking test only if they so desire. As a result, the MELAB attempts to meet the varying needs of academic students.

How is the MELAB scored?
While both the listening, and “grammar, close, vocabulary and reading comprehension” (GCVR) sections are graded by way of multiple-choice questions, both the writing and (optional) speaking section are evaluated by trained examiners according to a pre-determined set of criteria. Part of the speaking test’s score is determined by the interviewer who administered the one-on-one speaking component.

Where can I take the exam and how do I register?
The MELAB is administered under tightly controlled security procedures in order to prevent fraud and otherwise preserver the integrity of the exam. As a result, test-takers must complete and submit a MELAB Official Identification Form prior to their test date. Moreover, as the speaking test is not offered at every test center but may not be taken separately, if you need to take the speaking component of the exam be sure to check that your test center offers it before registering. For more information about these and other details, see our MELAB exam overview.

English Exam Overviews: The TOEIC

toeic_logo_thumb_200While it is often confused with the similar-sounding TOEFL, the TOEIC is an English proficiency exam designed to meet the needs English students of a different sort. Indeed, unlike its sound-alike cousin, the Test of English for International Communication is, at its heart, designed not for students but for working professionals.

What is the TOEIC and what makes it unique?
The fact that the TOEIC is designed “to determine who can communicate effectively in English across borders and cultures with coworkers and clients” is not the only thing that makes the TOEIC unique. Indeed, though the TOEIC – like most other English proficiency assessments – also measures the ability of test takers to read, write, speak, and listen to English, the TOEIC accomplishes this feat using not one test but two. While most test takers do take both the “Listening and Reading” exam as well as the “Speaking and Writing” exam, it is not mandatory and individual organizations set their own standards. Because listening and reading are both passive tasks, the Listening and Reading test is comprised of multiple-choice questions. Because, on the other hand, speaking and writing are both active tasks, the newer Speaking and Writing exam is a computer-based test that assesses a candidate’s abilities using free response questions. Continue reading “English Exam Overviews: The TOEIC”

Which English Exam is Right for You

student with big pencil122460598English may have originated in England but its impact can be felt well beyond that European island. Today the language of Shakespeare is spoken natively by more than 500 million people in countries as far from the British Isles as Australia, Canada, and South Africa and as a second language in places as diverse as São Paulo and Seoul by fully another half a billion more. If you are interested in studying English, you are not alone.

Still more people – some estimates place the exact figure at fully a quarter of the world’s population – use English occasionally for business or pleasure. Indeed, boardrooms from Belgium to Burundi are dominated not by French or Swahili but by English making English proficiency a highly-demanded professional skill. In addition to the direct business advantages such proficiency imparts, many of the world’s best colleges and universities are located in English-speaking countries and, to be eligible to attend them, international students must demonstrate their English proficiency by completing an English exam. As a result, at the dawn of the 21st century English exams have become a big business around the world.

Making sense of the various English exam options, however, can be confusing to say the least. Between the TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, and MELAB – just to name a few – the sheer variety of English language exams on the market can be bewildering to the uninitiated. Making sense of this alphabet soup, however, is exactly our goal. In the coming weeks our multi-part series on English language exams will give aspiring students the inside track on which exam is right for them and why. Along the way we will, of course, discuss the big names we have already mentioned as well as some of the lesser-known exams that may better suit the unique needs of would-be test takers. After all, as is befitting its prominent place in international affairs, people need to prove their English proficiency for many reasons and, as we will see, there is an English exam out there to meet almost any need.