Here's a recap of five essential facts to know about the TOEIC:
What is the TOEIC?
The TOEIC - Test of English for International Communication - tests your ability to understand work-related correspondence, instructions, and conversations, in spoken and written English.
This is why employers like that test. It demonstrates how well a candidate or employee can understand work instructions in English. A score above 785 is considered very good, but sometimes employers are not looking for a score that high, simply because different tasks involve different levels of proficiency in English. Some tasks may only require a fair level of English understanding. Someone who has put efforts into taking the test, has an advantage over someone who may speak better English, but doesn't have a TOEIC score to show it.
Where should I start?
ETS - Education Testing Service - the organization that makes the test, explains all the good things that come with taking the test and progressing over time, on its site, and in the in the Examinee handbook that you can download for free. This is a first-stop for anyone thinking of taking the test.
They also provide a detailed score overview, and a table called the the CAN DO table, which tells employers the strengths and weaknesses that come with a given score.
Also they have a correlation table which indicates how your score translate in terms of proficiency levels. There are three main levels (Basic, Independent, Proficient), and two intermediary levels (Basic Plus, and Independent Plus). An English user will be considered "Independent" according to TOEIC standards if he or she scores above 550.
The only thing the ETS will not tell you is the applicable fee to take the test, because it depends on which country you are taking the test in. It currently ranges from US$75 to US$85. To find out the actual fee in your country, you need to contact a local test center. ETS provides a directory to help you find the one closest to your place of residence.
What is the format of the TOEIC Test?
The test is standardised, meaning you’ll have to mark the most appropriate proposition in a multiple choice question with a pencil. Overall, the test lasts for two and a half hour, divided into two parts, one for Listening comprehension and another one for Reading comprehension. There's also a survey part but that doesn't count towards the overall score.
The Listening part comes first, and will test your ability to understand spoken English (in different accents) in a work-related context. This part takes more or less 45 minutes, with 100 questions to answers.
The Reading portion comes in second, and will check your comprehension of various work-related documents (emails, customer complaints, sales’ letters, etc). That part takes longer: 75 minutes with the same amount of questions (100).
See the problem here? There's more time for the Reading portion, which means the Listening part is going to require very high levels of concentration on the your part, simply because there won't be any replays. In other word, it's fast. That's why the Listening part usually involves more training.
I'm not saying the Reading Comprehension part doesn't require preparation. It does. While there are no essays to write for the test, some questions will test your grammar and vocabulary. In addition, some questions in the Reading portion will concern a chain of various business communications, which are connected (linked) together. This is meant to test your ability to find, compile, and understand information from different sources.
But, when you listen to quality spoken-English, you get listening practice, plus grammar practice, vocabulary practice, and memorizing practice, all in one. Whereas, when reading English, you get all that, but not the listening practice. I agree that listening and reading use different memory paths, but it's very difficult to learn a language, or any skill for that matter, just from books.
So unless you find out, after evaluating your level, that you're better at listening than reading, focusing on listening to quality spoken-English in the beginning, may allow you to improve (get better) faster and on more aspects of the test. We'll help you get started with that in this post.