Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sipping English Exam Soup I

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An alphabet soup of exams to test your English proficiency exists. We explain the acronyms and the gist of each test to dispel any confusion.

In this post, we will discuss those exams geared more for attending a US university in particular or US English in general. In our second post we will cover the exams with a focus on British English.

TOEFL: (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) - The TOEFL exam is the granddaddy of all the US-based English exams. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) declares boldy on its website that the TOEFL is "most widely accepted English-language test in the world."

There are two TOEFLs: paper-based (PBT) and Internet-based (iBT). The TOEFL PBT tests reading, listening and writing skills in English, but you will need the TSE® (Test of Spoken English™) for your speaking ability. The iBT has the two advantages: 1) it covers all four disciplines incuding speaking English in one sitting and 2) given it is taken on the Internet, wherever in the world you are with a Net connection you can take the exam. By visiting their site, you can download an e-book with test tips and even take a practice exam.

TOEIC -(Test of English for International CommunicationTM) - The sister of TOEFL, may be less known, but 4.5 million annually take the exam measuring your business skills in English. We have previously discussed the importance of Business English in the global economy (1,2). Speaking, writing, reading and listening to English are tested.

MELAB - (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery) - The renown University of Michigan stirs the bowl of English exam alphabet soup by offering its MELAB to evaluate "advanced-level English language competence of adult nonnative speakers of English." The MELAB also tests the four main components of mastery of the English language in three parts: a composition, a listening test, and a written test containing grammar, cloze, vocabulary, and reading comprehension problems and an optional speaking test. As of November 2008, according to their website, the test has been designed with more questions.


If you are in Buenos Aires and want English lessons personally designed to fit your needs including test prepartion or other English Language Services, please call Professor Winn at 1160 461 342 or send an email to

Anyone interested in translations (Spanish, French, and Portuguese > English) may send an email to for a prompt evaluation.

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