James McCrostie delves deep into TOEIC Japan

We have covered James McCrostie’s work elsewhere on these pages, in his excellent reporting on the Berlitz strike  for the Japanese Times. This piece on TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), published in the same newspaper, in August 2009, is even better. It is a brilliant example of persistence and investigation, something so often missing from modern journalism (churnalism).  The article continues a theme outlined in our report on Cambridge Assessments, where we asked where the huge “surpluses” from these non-profit making examinations go. James’s article begins to answer these questions with respect to the organisation responsible for “championing” TOEIC” in Japan, IIBC.

Readers with a faint heart should be warned beforehand that 100 million yen is the equivalent of about 1 million US dollars.



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6 responses to “James McCrostie delves deep into TOEIC Japan

  1. Readers must not forget that a lot of “non profit” comes from students taking the TOEIC test before they actually have a chance of getting the score they need. This then means that students have to take the test a second if not a third time! Students can increase their chances and avoid sitting the TOEIC test again and again simply by preparing properly and recognizing when preparation alone is not enough.

    There are three types of student; those that have a level of English well above the TOEIC level they are trying to achieve (and get the score they need), those that have a level of English at the TOEIC test level they are trying to achieve (and in many cases do not succeed simply because they do not prepare properly.) and those that have an English level far below the level they are trying to achieve (again not achieving success because they do not recognize the need to improve English skills or try to use a preparation tool offering “blind repetitive training” ) This means that 60% of students that sit the TOEIC test have a high chance of not getting the TOEIC score level they need!

    Preparation is important! At http://www.onlineenglish900.com students will see an estimate of their TOEIC score level, they will see how much training they need to complete, they will also see where they need to improve.

    OnlineEnglish900.com includes everything a student needs to prepare for the TOEIC test correctly (OnlineEnglish900 is written by an Official TOEIC Test Center) Students also have the opportunity to see when they need to improve their English language core skills and can additionally complete thousands of focused training exercises designed to improve a person’s English proficiency. (OnlineEnglish900 is written by a school and teachers active every day teaching international business English in companies.

    Students do not have to take the TOEIC test again and again to get the score they need!

    Authorized TOEIC Test Administrator.
    Senior business English Trainer.

  2. marxistelf

    Very cheeky Robert, using our blog for blatent advertising. However, you have earned your right by raising an important point.

    Students taking the TOEIC should prepare for it. The problem is that this is the very contradiction of a proficiency test in English. TOEIC should be a test in English not”a test in taking a TOEIC “.

    The very fact that a whole industry exists for this (prepare for a proficiency exam) is nothing to applaud. Of course, ETS the owners of the test originally defended their test against claims that you could or should prepare. They argued that you had to raise your level of English not your level of TOEIC peparation. Now of course they are involved in the preparation industry themelves (complete scandal). See http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/30/us/testing-giant-exceeds-roots-drawing-business-rivals-ire.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Organizations/E/Educational%20Testing%20Service&pagewanted=1

    We don’t know what quality Robert’s company really offer but we do know that they are part of one huge gravy train.

    We suggest students:
    1. Ask themselves if they really need an English Certificate.
    2. If they do, which one? Different employers/ countries favour one type over the others.
    3. Whether learning English or trying to pass an exam, get yourself a good qualified teacher.

  3. SM Jenkins

    I’m sure that McCrostie is a nice enough guy and all but he doesn’t know how to go for the jugular.

    He failed to follow up on the most recent TOEIC news. The 92-year-old chairman resigned, leaving the son his girlfriend in charge.

    This prodigal son then had to deal with Ministry of Trade “guidance” to reduce the obscene profits being generated by cutting test fees (by 630 yen).

    While the guidance is only a non-binding suggestion I’m sure the TOEIC’s non-profit board couldn’t help but remember what recently happened to the Japanese Kanji Test non-profit when they ignored similar government guidance. They had their offices raided, account books seized, and the father and son chair and vice-chair arrested and charged with embezzlement.

    Cutting the test fee was a necessary step to avoid a government investigation of the accounts.

    It’s all good though. The TOEIC non-profit also just signed a deal with a company to sell official TOEIC study preparation Nintendo DS software. A deal that should bring in tens of millions of yen.

  4. Hi again,

    I have always been a little cheeky because I believe those that do not try do not achieve however, when I ask I always try to follow theme and offer input 🙂 Saying “thank you” is always something else I do.

    But back to the theme: Let me tell you first a little about my “gravy train” I know I will never be a large corporation and I don’t want to be. At the same time, I am an individual and care about people all over the world and when meeting lets say; something I feel I can improve, I do so to the best of my ability. Over 50 years I have accumulated a very large amount of experience and this I love to return to people. I live my life following “old sayings” for within these you can find truths untold. My seniors always used to tell me “if you are going to do something, do it properly”.

    For sure, there are many things in this world that are not perfect and the testing of English language proficiency is one of them. But all tests have flaws, no matter what they are for. I see the TOEIC test as having a position in industry that needs to be filled. I see the TOEIC test as offering in this position a good however not perfect solution, but then on the other hand, as already said, no testing system is perfect.

    The main reason for the imperfections in language testing systems is because the tested level or proficiency of a person will always depend on the application and there are millions of different applications. The more specific the test to the application, the more accurate the results.

    In my years I have seen very proficient engineers and businessmen/women 110% proficient English-language-wise in their work position/application, then sit the TOEIC, Cambridge and other tests because the company has decided to instigate a language proficiency project.

    These 110% proficient persons upon sitting a language test have then scored very low! Why? Because almost all language tests measure a broad language spectrum e.g. General English proficiency, Business English proficiency, Technical English proficiency. It would not be financially feasible for a company to produce millions of very specific tests for separate business areas and even if someone did, it would be a nightmare to control and administer on a worldwide basis. As your readers may now understand; financial and practical feasibility has a large affect upon testing systems and a general encompassment of skills means a wider audience for the testing system.

    In my opinion, the available tests all serve a purpose and all have different characteristics and accuracies. It is in reality for the user of the available testing system to decide whether the results are suitable for their application. If the results are not specific to the application and the general encompassment of the test is not suitable or not producing the needed results, then it is not something that should be defined as being an inaccurate testing system.

    However; as you mentioned, following behind these testing systems is the international market potential for preparation and this is definitely a disaster as it draws upon and feeds from the misunderstanding of people like a cancer growing within!

    Thousands of people are now trying, again as you say; to pass a test rather than improve their English skills and the education industry is being damaged by this cancer. It is absolutely ridiculous to expect that the repetitive completion of questions is the ideal solution to the improvement of English however; even this point has its smoke screen offering protection to those that claim otherwise. Why? Because any contact with a language will produce improvement and this is why so many claim that the repetitive completion of questions has allowed them to improve their English or in the case of the preparation resource supplier, will allow someone to improve their English. Neither statement is incorrect only not so ideal!

    Additionally, many preparation resources are written by people using third party information and/or people with absolutely no contact with the TOEIC test. They include many claims and exercises, offering seemingly useful advice which in my eyes is often only for the sake of marketing. Many preparation resources do not clearly separate the difference between preparation and learning and many include little thought about training technique.

    A typical example of bad advice I past saw in a TOEIC preparation book under TOEIC secrets stated; “you can answer some questions in the TOEIC test incorrectly and it will not affect your score!” – I read this and thought – Is this supposed to be useful? – How can this advice, although sounding like the best information one could hear, be useful to a student population already failing to get the level they need due to overconfidence? A revelation, something secret, another TOEIC secret to magically get you through the test … sorry but NO! Simply marketing!

    With my website at http://www.onlineenglish900.com (smile) I have set about to rip apart the preparation industry. I separated preparation and training as it should be. I am a TOEIC test administration and operate a TOEIC test center. I have done this for many years and additionally have a very long and competent history in the testing industry both for general and specific testing systems. I am also a qualified business English trainer and have a background operating my own UK based companies in the national and international marketplace. My engineering skills allowed me to place all my knowledge, past, present and future into online training resources. I have the background and experience needed and am in daily contact with the TOEIC test.

    OnlineEnglish900 offers is a practical solution for online preparation, preparation and advice coming “so to say” direct from the test sitting room and from the comments and experiences of students sitting the TOEIC test. The exercises are 100% specific to the TOEIC test and the preparation technique comes from many years as an experienced trainer. OnlineEnglish900 offers no revelations, no secrets and no advice for the sake of marketing. As I stated in my last post, there are different types of student and OnlineEnglish offers support to all student types. For this reason the website also includes business English exercises and unique training exercises; such as the exercise generator, to ensure that people can improve their English through traditional training.

    There are no claims at OnlineEnglish900 just for the sake of marketing. This is why students with us, as long as they themselves want and try, improve and succeed. Tests are not the problem. The problem is the understanding!

    As for the profits and other things that go on in testing organizations; well this is a fight for others not me (smile)

    Thank you again for posting my comments.


  5. Pingback: TOEIC and IIBC Update « Marxist TEFL Group

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