TOEIC Exam – Different Purpose, Different Approach

toeic exam purpose

What’s your purpose of TOEIC Exam?

Understanding why you are taking the TOEIC exam might be just as important as understanding the English language, in order to attain your desired score on the exam. Depending on your cause, you may have entirely different ways to tackle the exam. This article will help you understand what purposes you should to consider and what your best options are when preparing to take the TOEIC exam for a certain cause.


Why should you take the TOEIC Exam?

The TOEIC exam allows you to understand your level of proficiency for the English language. It is therefore a reflection of your skill, and not a matter of passing or failing. This is why studying for a TOEIC exam is going to be different from studying for a school exam, where your aim might be to simply pass the course subject. Although it is true that a higher score is always better, the purpose of the TOEIC is to be representative of your English proficiency. Having a purpose in mind may help you determine what score you want to achieve, in order to avoid unnecessary work or setting the bar too high. There are four common reasons why people may take the TOEIC exam. Reading this article may help you decide if taking the TOEIC exam is the right choice for you.


Applying for a Job or Internship

Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first; most people will take the TOEIC exam to apply for a job or internship at an (international) company. The TOEIC itself is specialised for this category as well: the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) was designed first and foremost for its use in international business contexts. It was created in 1977 to aid international organisations, in particular those located in Japan, by helping them define a standard that was able to guarantee the effective use of English in the workplace. However don’t underestimate the importance of TOEIC in the domestic workplace, even when you are applying for a local company or branch. Although highly dependant on the organisation you are applying to, many (domestic) companies are adopting the English language as their standard working language or at least a minimum requirement in order to be accepted. In most cases, companies that require you to take the TOEIC exam will indicate this on their job opening under the applicant requirements. They will usually also indicate a minimum score that needs to be achieved in order to be eligible as applicant for that particular position. According to ETS, the organisation behind the TOEIC, a proficiency level of B2 is a frequent requirement among international businesses. To attain this level of proficiency, a minimum score of 785 points on the Listening and Reading exam, and 310 points on the Speaking and Writing Exam need to be attained. In case you already know where you will be applying for a job or internship, familiarise yourself with the industry of your prospective company, and understand which situations may occur in daily business (e.g. consultancy, project development, or human resources). If you are applying to many organisations at once, it may be wise to add a TOEIC exam score to your standard CV or resumé. You will read more about this later in the article.


Applying for Higher Education (University/College)

Although technically speaking TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) is the preferred proficiency testing method for universities, it is not uncommon for universities to also accept the TOEIC, or even request a TOEIC exam specifically. This is generally up to the university, but it is common practice in the European Union to accept the TOEIC as well as the TOEFL. In this case, it is up to you to decide which exam is more preferable. Generally, the TOEFL is designed for educational institutions and features more practical English topics suitable to students and university life than the TOEIC. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, TOEIC was designed specifically for professional use. Depending on the study programme you are applying to, it may actually be useful to take the TOEIC over the TOEFL, if the university for which you are applying accepts it. For example, a business management study may benefit from a TOEIC exam. On the other end of the spectrum, a language and literature study may benefit from TOEFL. Unlike applying for a company where a TOEIC/TOEFL exam may or may not be required or requested, universities generally do have more specific (and stricter) requirements. They also often mention required minimum scores or proficiency levels that are required upon entry. A baseline that ETS mentions is, like the company application case, a B2 level of proficiency. Depending on your university however, this may be higher or lower. In case the university’s requirements are unclear, it is recommended you check with your prospective university what they require or accept. In case of doubt, contact the university in question.


To Keep Learning of English

The neat thing about TOEIC is that it gives you an indication of where you are in your English learning journey. You can use TOEIC not just to achieve a high score, but also as an indicator of your proficiency status quo. You may find that taking the TOEIC exam can be used as a guideline for future learning. Using the TOEIC for this purpose, you will not need to aim for any specific score (as you would with a company or university application). In fact, keeping preparation to a minimum may be useful in being able to achieve a result accurate to your current level of proficiency. Especially in such a situation, it becomes more important to study for the exam, rather than for the content. TOEIC has a very specific structure that requires some preparation to understand, and is beneficial to understand in addition to general knowledge of the English language. In fact, this is generally a wise thing to do as some who may have scored lower scores than expected often were not prepared for the type of exam that TOEIC is. Understanding the TOEIC exam structure requires practice: start by taking as many practice exams as possible. Note which phrases or situations are commonly discussed in the TOEIC, and for an accurate representation of your current state of proficiency you may or may not want to add extra study hours to learn the language.


Professional Benefits of TOEIC Exam

Taking the TOEIC exam may also have some professional benefits outside of immediate job applications. As mentioned previously, you may wish to put a TOEIC score or proficiency level on your CV or resumé, especially if you are applying at multiple organisations at once or creating a long term career path. For this purpose, you may want to achieve as high of a score as you possibly can. Again, the previously mentioned B2 level of proficiency is a good aim to have, however anything higher than an A-level proficiency may be useful to mention on your CV. If your proficiency level is perhaps not high enough to warrant the ever scarce and valuable space on your CV, you can still indicate some level of proficiency on your CV by using a scale (e.g. one to five stars) as a rudimentary indication of your proficiency. Be aware however that using unofficial methods such as these hold no real merit and are invaluable without further clarification or proof of proficiency (such as a TOEIC score). For the purpose of long-term career or CV/resumé use (and not for immediate application purposes), it is also important to consider the expiry date of the TOEIC exam score. Officially, the TOEIC exam score is no longer recognised after two years after the exam was taken. After this, you will need to retake the TOEIC for a new official score.


In short:

  • Take the right exam for the right purpose (TOEIC vs. TOEFL)
  • Study appropriately to achieve a desired score (e.g. minimum requirements)
  • Understand that the TOEIC is an indicator of current proficiency
  • Understand the structure of the TOEIC exam
  • Remember that the TOEIC exam score is only valid for two years



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