TOEIC for whose benefits?

There is an increasing demand for TOEIC preparation courses. For those who have little idea about the TOEIC, it stands for Test of English for International Communication, which is the de facto test of the world to measure the English language comprehension of the general population. In my understanding, the majority of the TOEIC takers are adults and this is why the TOEIC is often considered to be the test for businesspeople.

TOEIC scores range from 0 to 990, and many Japanese corporations require certain scores as criterium for the job promotion. The first threshold is typically 470, which is a level of someone who is able to order food in a restaurant in an English speaking country. The next threshold is probably 600, which is the level of someone who can handle entry level business conversations.

Many of my students score 330 or so and this means they recognize spoken sentences that consist of five words like, "I speak English a little." As you can imagine, intelligent communication is limited at this stage.

A Tokyo corporation once hired me to train its employees for their TOEIC skills. They reluctantly took the course because they were to spend their professional time doing something unrelated to their work. The reality was that my students had no reason to speak English because their clients were all Japanese. I sometimes wonder if the company used the TOEIC as an excuse to reduce personnel costs. The company demands the test as a condition for job advancements, and does not pay higher salaries to those who fails to score well on the test. It is a deceitful tactic to keep workers at lower salaries.  - NS

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