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”

TOEIC in Korea

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.