At 4 am, Saigon students queue up to register for English exam

By Manh Tung, Nguyen Quy   December 4, 2018 | 05:13 pm PT
At 4 am, Saigon students queue up to register for English exam
A Facebook photo shows Saigon students queue from 4 a.m. last Sunday to register for the TOEIC exam. Photo by Tran Duy My Linh
Saigon students are queuing up before daybreak to register for the TOEIC language exam, fearing upcoming format changes.

After announcements that the format of the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) will be renewed from February next year, hundreds of students have been waking up early and lining up in front of the IIG Vietnam office in District 3 from 4 a.m. onwards over the past few days to register for the exam.

Currently, IIG Vietnam is the only official representative of the U.S.-based Educational Testing Service, which has been authorized to organize the TOEIC exam in the country.

Images and videos have gone viral on social media, showing scores of exam-takers standing in line from 4 a.m. during the weekends awaiting their turn to register for the TOEIC test and the crowds were still going strong until Monday.

Candidates fill up the stair of the IMG Vietnams office in District 3. Photo courtesy of Facebook Nguyen Duc

Candidates fill up the stair of the IMG Vietnam's office in District 3 waiting to take the exam. Photo by Nguyen Duc on Facebook

Explaining the reason for the early exam registration, many students said that they were worried about the updates as they were familiar with the current test structure.

"I have spent more than six months brushing up on the current TOEIC format with the hope to achieving a 450/990 score that is enough for me to be qualified for university graduation, but the upcoming changes could wash away my hopes, said a female candidate who asked to remain anonymous.

Doan Hong Nam, head of IIG Vietnam, said: "Candidates should prepare for the test carefully and practice English skills fluently to gain high marks and avoid wasting time."

He also advised students not to hurriedly take the exam without acquiring the knowledge and proficiency needed.

IIG Vietnam has also warned that many universities and colleges that have organized the TOEIC exams on their own and granted certificates for internal use is also a seriously violation of the copyright for the internationally-recognized TOEIC exam.

Those graduates using ‘fake’ TOEIC certificate to apply for job will be blacklisted by companies and banned from attending the TOEIC test in the coming years, it warned.

The TOEIC is an internationally recognized English language test, which measures candidates’ English proficiency in reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. It is widely used by Vietnamese companies to assess job applications. The TOEIC certificate is only valid for two years.

Vietnam ranks 41st among 88 countries and territories in the world and seventh among 19 Asian countries in English proficiency, according to the latest annual English Proficiency Index released last month by the Swiss Education First (EF), a global language training company.

From 2012 to 2014, the country was classed among a group of countries with "low level" English skills, but has moved up to a "moderate level" since.

Experts have attributed this to the increased access to resources such as cable TV, the Internet and movies in English with subtitles. More students are taking expensive courses at language schools where they learn in an English-speaking environment, they say.

"Vietnam has been afflicted with ‘English fever’ for quite some time," said Mark Ashwill, an American educator who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over a decade, "with parents of means sending their young children to English centers in the hopes that a knowledge of English will give them a leg up academically and, in the future, professionally."

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