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Gaining Real World Success with Standardized tests: Challenges and Approaches

Grant Trew

This presentation will look at two of the major standardized tests used to assess English ability in Vietnam; the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) and the Cambridge ESOL exams. These sessions will examine the nature of the challenges posed by these tests, and provide some practical approaches to help overcome these.   Part 1 The Cambridge ESOL and the TOEIC are the two most widely used English exams worldwide. However, unlike the Cambridge Exams, in Vietnam the TOEIC does not currently feature Speaking or Writing components, and therefore it is often incorrectly assumed that it does not require knowledge of productive skills.

This session will clearly demonstrate that both testing systems require test takers to have an awareness of how English is actually spoken in the real world. The presenter will go through actual examples of each test to clarify exactly what is being tested, and how. Participants will gain an understanding of the linguistic and strategic skills necessary to choose the correct answers on the tests. It will also be made clear how the tasks featured on the tests mirror the skills used in real world communication.   Part 2 Developing Practical Skills for the TOEIC and other tests Building upon the understanding of the challenges gained in Part 1 of this talk, the presenter will look at ways to develop these areas.

This session will explain why traditional approaches to test preparation often show very limited improvement, and present as an alternative, an interactive and communicative approach to test preparation. The presenter will demonstrate a number of activities that have proven effective, both in significantly increasing test scores, and also in developing practical real world conversational ability. Throughout the session attention will be paid to the issue of teaching large mixed ability/lower level classes