Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) for non native English speakers

Posted on September 20, 2007  /  29 Comments

Mr. Donald Gaminitialke, who needs no introduction to Sri Lankan blogsphere, recently posted a comment about TOEIC in another blog.  TOEIC, is a test like TOEFL, he tells but more relevant for those who want to use English in their working environments. We are sure many Sri Lankan students want to prove their English knowledge to prospective employees. So we thought of introducing this to our readers with some additional information cut and pasted from Wikipedia.

The ETS (Educational Testing Service) in the USA developed the TOEIC test based on its precursor, the TOEFL test, following a request from Japan‘s Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic Organizations) in conjunction with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which is today’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The Asahi Shimbun interviewed Yasuo Kitaoka (北岡靖男) who was the central figure of the Japanese team that conceived the basic idea of the TOEIC test. In this sense the TOEIC test can be described as a US-Japanese crossbreed.


The TOEIC test is a two-hour multiple-choice test that consists of 200 questions divided into 100 questions each in listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Each candidate receives independent marks for written and oral comprehension on a scale from 5 to 495 points. The total score adds up to a scale from 10 and 990 points. The TOEIC certificate exists in five colours, corresponding to achieved results: orange (10-215), brown (220-465), green (470-725), blue (730-855) and gold (860-990).
There are an estimated 3 million test takers in 60 different countries per year, but most of those are Japanese and South Koreans. For that reason, the TOEIC test is virtually unknown outside Japan, South Korea and some of their neighbouring countries in East Asia. Its precursor, the TOEFL test, has more international recognition and prestige. However, things are gradually changing in Europe.

The questions attempt to reenact international business environments and contain vocabulary and usage that are not necessarily needed in everyday life. Even a native speaker will find it hard to get full marks unless they have a good educational background, which strongly suggests it is not a true test of English communicative competence.


There were criticisms that the Listening Section hires only North American (i.e. American and Canadian) English speakers despite its “International” appellation. In answer to this, the year 2006 saw a major renewal. The changes can be summarized as follows:
*  Overall, passages have become longer.
*  Part 1 has fewer questions involving photo descriptions.
*  The Listening Section hires not only North American English speakers but also British, Australian and New Zealand English speakers. The ratio is 25% each for American, Canadian, British and Aussie-Kiwi pronunciation 
*  Part 6 no longer contains the error spotting task, which has been criticized as unrealistic in a corporate environment. This part instead adopts the task wherein the test taker fills in the blanks in incomplete sentences.
*  Part 7 contains not only single passage questions but also double passage questions wherein the test taker has to read and compare the two related passages such as e-mail correspondence.
According to a survey conducted in 2006 by the Institute for International Business Communication (財団法人 国際ビジネスコミュニケーション協会, Daidanhōjin Kokusai bishinesu komyunikēshon Kyōkai?), 56.8% of the respondents who took both the older and the renewed versions of the TOEIC test in Japan find the latter version more difficult. The lower score the test taker achieves, the more marked this tendency becomes. As many as 85.6% of those who earned scores ranging from 10 to 395 points find the renewed TOEIC test more difficult, while 69.9% of those who earned 400 to 495 points think this way, so do 59.3% of those who earned 500 to 595 points. Among those who achieved 600 to 695 points 58.9% find so, 700 to 795 points 48.6%, 800 to 895 points 47.9%, and 900 to 990 points 39.8%.

TOEIC in Japan

The Institute for International Business Communication operates the TOEIC test in Japan, where a total of nearly 1.5 million people take the test per year. There are two ways to take the TOEIC test proper. One is called the TOEIC SP Test (Secure Program Test; 公開テスト, Kōkai tesuto), in which one can take the test either individually or in a group on specified dates at a test centre specified by the TOEIC Steering Committee. The other is the TOEIC IP Test (Institutional Program Test; 団体特別受験制度, Dantai Tokubetsu Shuken Seido), in which an organization (a corporate body or an educational institution) can choose the date and administer the test at their convenience in accordance with the TOEIC Steering Committee. The TOEIC SP Test was renewed on May 2006. The TOEIC IP Test, on the other hand, will be renewed in April 2007 in line with the TOEIC SP Test.
More and more companies use TOEIC scores for personnel assessment instead of the homegrown STEP Eiken test organized by the Society for Testing English Proficiency (STEP) (日本英語検定協会主催実用英語技能検定試験「英検」, Nippon Eigo Kentei Kyōkai Shusai Jitsuyō Eigo Ginōkentei Shiken “Eiken”). The TOEIC Speaking Test / Writing Test started on Sunday 21st January 2007 in addition to the TOEIC SP Test and the TOEIC IP Test.

TOEIC in South Korea

Towards the end of 2005, there was a shift in South Korea, regarded as the second biggest consumer of TOEIC , or rather the biggest in terms of per capita consumption, away from the test as a measure of English ability on the corporate level. As noted in The Chosun Ilbo (조선일보; 朝鮮日報; Korea Daily Reports) newspaper, a number of major coporations have either removed or reduced the required TOEIC score for employment. Citing an official from the Industrial Bank of Korea, “TOEIC isn’t an appropriate indicator of actual English skills.” The fact that the test is a series of multiple choice questions whose relative values are a secret, and that it neglects assessment of speaking and writing are often cited as criticisms by language teachers in South Korea. Also, another English proficiency test, TEPS, has been developed and is being adopted by many companies.
Counter arguments exist for these points. Firstly, individuals who have written the same version of the test multiple times–each time answering the same number of questions from different sections of the test–will say that no particular question is worth more points than any other, so it is wise to answer as many of the easy questions as possible before tackling the more difficult questions. Secondly, while the content of the test tends to revolve around office situations, such situations are the ones in which TOEIC test-takers will likely find themselves after sitting the test; the TOEIC Examinee Handbook also contains many examples of such questions, thus allowing prospective test-takers a satisfactory amount of information about the test beforehand. Also, TOEIC may not test actual speaking or writing production, but the fact that it tests listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and the underlying vocabulary and grammar structures inherent in these aspects of the English language lend strong support to TOEIC being a reliable measure of one’s general English proficiency. Indeed, it can be argued that the absence of a speaking section and a writing section eliminates the subjectivity that is almost inevitable with human examiners assessing voice recordings and written responses. But then the complexity of human communication can never be reduced to a mere multiple choice test.

TOEIC in Europe

In France, some Grandes écoles require a TOEIC score of at least 750 to award the diploma. This policy has been criticized, as it makes state-awarded diplomas dependent on a private institution–despite the fact that it was not the private institution that set the 750 mark but a recommendation from the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieurs indicating a B2+ level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. If the student can’t achieve a 750 mark, he is offered to validate his diploma by other means in most of the schools. Some schools delay the diploma for one year after the end of the studies in that case.
In Greece, TOEIC is accepted by ASEP, the organisation which is responsible for hiring new employees to work for the government.

TOEIC Bridge

ETS also administers a simplified version of the TOEIC test called TOEIC Bridge. The TOEIC Bridge test targets beginning and intermediate speakers and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, requiring about one hour of testing time.


  1. Can I take this test in Sri Lanka? Please rpovide more information.

  2. Yes you can take this examination in Sri Lanka. But you need to have a NIC and be a Sri Lanka National. If you are a foreign National living in Sri Lanka you will have to provide your visa status etc and I have to send these information to ETS and get the approval

    We will be having the next examination once I collect 25 students. NOw I have 15. All you have to do is come over to Ingrion institute of printing and register yourself and pay the examination fee (todays rate- LKR 3500)

    Address is Ingrin Institute of Priting No 290 D R Wijewardena Mawatha Colombo 10 telephone 242-1846
    Test will be held at our auditorium. 2 hours guide how to write and answer 30min short rest 2hrs test
    DHL will bring the test papers wait until you finish and they take it back to ETS.

    or come and meet me

    Donald Gaminitillake

  3. Yes you can take
    pls register with
    Ingrin Institute of printing
    290 D R Wijewardena mawatha col 10
    Come over and register you need LKR 3500
    we have 15 students registered once we reach 20+ we will hold the examination at our auditorium

    Donald Gaminitillake

  4. What does the test involve? Is it only a written test or is there also a oral test?

  5. A paper pencil a multiple choice assessment, The Toeic test uses audio, visual and written materials to evaluate languages skills in two critical areas

    section one
    Test takers listen to a variety of questions and short conversations recorded in English then answer questions based on what they heard
    Part 1 Photographs (20 questions)
    Paert 2 Questions and response (30 questions)
    Part3 short conversation (30 questions)
    part 4 short talks (20 questions)

    Section 2

    Test takers read a variety of materials and respond to question based on the content

    part5 incomplete sentances 40 questions
    Part 6 error recognition 20 questions
    part 7 reading comprehention 40 questions

    Toiec test gives an objective assessment of English proficiency
    offers a quantifiable stand of performance
    Highly reliable

    Reasonably priced ( special low rate for Sri Lanka Nationals )

    (After the exam if you want to sit again and go up the ladder you will be given guidance on areas that you are weak based on the test results — but a fees will be charged. These are secondary requirments)

    Is avaiable on demand ( blocks of 25++ students)
    Rapid test scoring – results within 14 days
    Recognized as a worldwide standard for English proficiency

    Donald Gaminitillake

  6. Donald,

    From that Rs. 3,500 how much commission you get?

  7. Why not ask the inland revenue to visit me.

    Check the cost of Toeic elsewhere first and come to me.

    Answer is “”ZERO””

    Donald Gaminitillake

  8. http://www.etscanada.ca/toeic/index.php

    Why you need TOEIC visit the above link


  9. We are having the test on the 29th Sept

    Any one who comes here and register before 1030am on thursday 27th
    Ingrin Institute of Priting and graphics
    290 D R Wijewardena Mawatha Colombo 10
    Phone 011-242-1846

    Donald Gaminitillake

  10. We are having the test on the 29th Sept

    Any one who comes here and register before 1030am on thursday 27th
    Ingrin Institute of Printing and graphics
    290 D R Wijewardena Mawatha Colombo 10
    Phone 011-242-1846

    Donald Gaminitillake

  11. 15 registered but only 10 turned up
    Test is in progess at Ingrin
    Next test will be in November 2007

    Once the results are out shall let you know

    Donald Gaminitillake

  12. I think this looks like a good opportunity for future rural BPOs. With the success of Mahavilachchiya BPO, we hope others will take the lead and start rural BPOs. With my experiences after visiting 100s of villages what I found was that lack of English knowledge is limiting the true potential of the village youth. There should be some way of getting the students up to an acceptable standard. Just passing OL with a decent pass wouldn’t help them in the job market. With most of the outsourcing work is expected from USA, it would be prudent to switch to American English now. British English (or English English) can retain its place for literary work, etc. as British English is highly regarded in this country. But for the business purposes we should take a sensible decision now.

  13. First do the test and then improve in the weak areas
    Next test will be in November but if you can register 15 students I can arrange the test on Demand.
    Need only 5 days to inform the NIC numbers to ETS and get the question papers sent to Ingrin via DHL
    ETS monitor the test.

    Donald Gaminitillake

  14. I think IELTS kicks TOEIC butt.

  15. I think IELTS kicks TOEIC butt.

    Ane paw. Whenever Donald starts a business, there is a ‘henehura’ to stop that.

  16. TOEIC is different, If you want to go to Canada, US, Korea, Japan , China you need TOIEC
    even if you are a waiter
    TOIEC opens a whole world for you.
    TOIEC is not a business for myself, It is a service given by self. The fee is for ETS US$32 per person plus Bank fees
    No worries

    Donald Gaminitillake

  17. TOEIC is for business communication perporses in english working enviroment.
    IELTS and TOEFL are designed for more academic perporses like entering Universities.

    I took all 3 tests within 3 month of time period.
    My results are

    TOEIC – 945 (overall) reading 460 listening 485
    TOEFL(paper based) – 597 (overall)
    IELTS – 7.5 (overall)

    It is good test to test your english specially in business enviroment.

  18. The results are out

    1.TOEIC – 950 (overall) reading 455 listening 495
    2.TOEIC – 765 (overall) reading 355 listening 410
    3.TOEIC – 610 (overall) reading 230 listening 380

    TOEIC – 260 (overall) reading 100 listening 160

    1 is just out of a/l unemployed

    surprise is the lowest — working in a leading bank!!!!!!

    Most complained that they could not keep phase with the speed
    Some could not fill the form without aid. specially writing the name
    They get stuck when they see DDMMYYYY
    This clearly show how slow we are and more to learn
    need to expose the youth to the international arena

    The results will be checked and guide them in weak areas to achieve better results

    Donald Gaminitillake

  19. gamini,
    Who took the toie exam ?
    Students or employees?

    getting 260 is realy I hard I guess. lol
    I thought anyone can get atleast 300 plus.

  20. Most of them were students at Ingrin
    one or two outsiders who are employed

    They are unable to keep phase with the speed

    I am getting the detail report week after next
    Once I get it shall post where our students went wrong

    Next batch please register soon


  21. I’m writing from Japan.

    Most of the Japanese companies evaluate a person’s English language skills by using TOEIC score whether or not it really reflects her real ability.
    So, I think it’s not a bad idea for giving Sri Lankans the opportunity to take the exam in Sri Lanka.

    I have no doubt that there is a commission for organizing the exam. It is natural!
    In Japan it costs around 6000 yen (approximately, 6000 rupees)
    to take the exam. As the average income here is so high comparing to Sri Lanka, they can take the exam easily. In my humble opinion, you should negotiate with ETS to make it less expensive to take the exam if you really want to gain its popularity in Sri Lanka.

    About the new format of the exam

    Current situation in Japan



  22. ETS has given the lowest $32
    Since the $ is going up and up every day in terms of LKR value the cost goes up ++ plus there is a Govt Tax of 15%
    Thanks for your comments on TOEIC in Japan
    Ingrin passes the total value to students without any added fees

    Donald Gaminitillake

  23. How do you prepare for the TOEIC test? `
    How do you know when you have a good chance of getting the score you need?
    How do you know your preparation material is good?

    But do you need to prepare? The answer is a very positive YES! Even if you think your level of English is good enough.

    We have seen so many very good English speakers get lower scores just because they did not prepare for the test. These students underestimated how long to spend answering questions or just concentrated too hard because they were nervous and spent a lot of energy and time understanding how to answer the questions.

    The TOIEC test certainly has come down in price, but to fail will mean that you have to sit it again. This costs not only time, but also more money.

    OK so why am I telling you all this? Naturally because after reading the comments, I would like to put a mention here of my website at http://www.onlineenglish900.com.

    Who am I? I am the manager of HamburgEnglish, a TOEIC test center in Germany. I am also an authorized TOEIC administrator with many years teaching experience in business English.

    I would welcome the students of this forum to the website to prepare. Yes OK it is not free, but at only 9 Euro for a 5 day quick-prep membership it is not expensive either and can mean the difference between getting the score you need or not!

    Also, if you write to me wishing a membership for more than one student, I will look at reducing the prices for you further.

    Happy training,


  24. Dear Mr. Gaminithilake,

    When will be the next test in 2012 and 2013?? How can I apply? Is there any website you recommend to study for the test preparation??


  25. Подскажите где можно нормольно заказать курсовую без кидалово.За ранее спасибо

  26. Dear Rushda,

    Please contact knowledge Merchandising on 0112 363834.



  27. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have
    found something which helped me. Cheers!

  28. I have done the Reading and listening exam on 17th of May (5 says ago) how long will take for the results and how could I get it

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