You need to know this about TOEIC scores

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The TOEIC is the best-known test of business English skill in Thailand and is used by many companies.   Most companies that use the TOEIC Reading and Listening Test don’t use any other method to test the speaking and writing skill of their staff.  One reason is the producers of the TOEIC claim that it indirectly measures both speaking and writing ability.  And the other reason is, of course, it cost money to do additional tests. Well, after reading this you may want to re-think your testing system and your budget.

The truth is the TOEIC Reading and Listening Test is not a good indicator of business speaking and writing skill. But don’t just take my word for it!  Independent research has shown a low correlation between TOEIC scores and business English speaking and writing performance.

A 2012 study at Kanagawa University in Japan compared TOEIC scores of about 1,500 examinees to their scores on Cambridge business speaking and writing tests1.  The study found only a 58% correlation between TOEIC scores and business speaking scores, and a 55% correlation between TOEIC scores and business writing scores.

A very interesting fact from this study is that the higher the TOEIC score, the less likely it is to reflect actual speaking or writing ability.  This is because your reading and listening ability (which the TOEIC checks) can continually improve from daily exposure to English at work or at university.  But speaking and writing improve more slowly because these skills are used much less often. 

It is generally accepted that the level of speaking and writing skill required for effective professional communication is around B2 level on the CEFR scale2. This B2 level is equivalent to around 650 points on the TOEIC.

However, people who score 650 on the TOEIC do not usually score B2 on a business speaking and writing test.  In fact, among examinees in the Japanese study with TOEIC scores over 800 points, only 44% of them scored B2 in speaking, and only 29% scored B2 in writing.  Amazingly, even at a full TOEIC score of 990, the average writing score was still below B2. In other words, even very high scores on the TOEIC Reading and Listening Test do not ensure that an employee can communicate effectively and professionally on the job.

So, if your staff need to speak and write effectively on the job, and your company is investing in testing to ensure they have the necessary skills, then you should be using a speaking and writing test to reliably measure the skills you need. Quality language training providers can provide this service for you, often at very reasonable cost.

For more information about how to test the speaking and writing skills of your staff, please contact Pro Language.

1 The Cambridge BULATS (Business Language Testing Service) Speaking and Writing tests. 

2 The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) is an international standard of language proficiency which is widely used not only for English but also for other European languages.  There are 6 levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) and detailed “can-do” descriptors for each level.

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December 30, 2020

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