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TOEIC Basics

If You Want a Great Job

How many of you would like to work in a native English speaking country, or for a multi-national corporation or national government agency, raise your mouse. If you raised your mouse, TOEIC, Test of English for International Communication may be a test you need to take.

TOEIC is an English test for people seeking employment in countries where English is the native language, or with companies or government agencies whose employees are likely to speak English in the course of their work. You may ask yourself, "is this the one English test I'll ever need to take if I need to speak English for a new job?" If life were that simple we would all be speaking one common language by now. To answer your question though, no, you might not have to take TOEIC. You might have to take a different test or you might not have to take any test at all. Every employer has their own requirements. However, TOEIC is one of the most often required English tests. Your best move is to find out from each company what test they want.

As you investigate the different English tests given worldwide you may wonder what are their differences. Some tests consist of more parts, and test for a higher level or more specialized knowledge of English. Other tests are less demanding, consisting of fewer parts, and test for a more basic understanding of English. You may discover there are some tests that seem very similar. This is because these tests are given by different companies. So, while it may seem confusing which test to take, your potential employer will inform you which one they want.

What to Expect from TOEIC

Let's say you've done your research and you have to take the TOEIC. Here's what to expect. TOEIC seeks to determine the test taker's ability to communicate in English in common working and workplace situations. There's no math or science; no specialized knowledge or vocabulary is required. You won't have to write any essays and you won't have to speak any English for the test. A piece of cake, right? Let's all go home. Not so fast! If the test were that easy it wouldn't be worth much. Employers depend on the effectiveness of TOEIC to screen employees for their English abilities, and TOEIC does this very well.

TOEIC consists of two sections, the first is "listening comprehension" and the second is "reading comprehension." Section 1 determines your ability to understand spoken English. In this section you will listen to an audiocassette. The tape will ask you questions or provide information for questions that will be printed in your test booklet. You have no control over how the tape plays. The tape will play at a set speed, and each part and each question will be asked only once, so stay alert and calm. There are four parts in this section. Each part is a different type of question. Use common test taking strategies to answer as best you can, but don't get hooked on any one question. It's essential that you keep up with the tape and deal with each question as it is asked. The first part in this section refers to photographs in your test booklet. You will "hear" four statements and be asked which statement best describes the picture in your test booklet. You then record your answer on your answer sheet. The second part is question-response. In this part you will hear an initial statement, followed by three responses. You must choose the appropriate response. Neither the first statement nor the following three responses will be written in your test booklet. In the third part you will hear short conversations. After hearing each conversation you will read, in your test booklet, one question about the conversation followed by four answers. You must choose the best answer to the question. In the final part of this section you will hear several short talks. After hearing each talk you will read two or more questions about the talk, each followed by four answers. Choose the best answer to each question. The listening comprehension section takes 45 minutes and consists of 100 questions.

The reading section of TOEIC consists of three parts with a total of 100 questions that you must answer within 75 minutes. In part one you will be given incomplete sentences. Each sentence will be followed by four words or phrases. You must select the word or phrase that best completes the sentence. Part two consists of sentences, each having four underlined words or phrases. You must identify, in each sentence, which one phrase or word is incorrect. The final part of this section is reading comprehension. You will be presented with different reading materials such as notices, articles, application forms and advertisements. One or more questions will follow each passage. You must answer each question based on the information stated or implied in the material that you have read.

In addition to the two test sections, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire about your work experience, education and language study. Your answers in this section do not affect your score and ETS says they are kept confidential.

What's My Reward?

Though TOEIC may seem a little easier than other tests, be assured it is no walk in the park. You should prepare thoroughly, to become completely comfortable with the type of questions asked and the types of answers from which to choose. You should take several practice tests to determine your strong and weak points and to understand how to allocate your time during the test. There are unlimited preparatory resources available to you. Many are provided free on the Internet, books are available at many bookstores and study classes are offered worldwide. Keep in mind, if you want a really good job you have to make a commitment. Sometimes it's a commitment of time and sometimes it's a commitment of money. TOEIC may not be for you, but if it is, prepare well for it and you will have a tremendous advantage for one of the most important things you'll ever do, finding a job.

Also see the Chinese version of this article: 多益測驗TOEIC

Written by Howard Weston (profile) who holds a B.A. in philosophy and is currently enrolled in a United States Masters program for international studies. He is a lecturer and instructor on several subjects and has lived in Africa, Latin America and Asia. He is currently studying Mandarin in Taiwan. Translated into Chinese by Teresa Tsai.
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