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An English Test, and a Warning

An explanation of the Test of English for International Communication. The Educational Testing Service says TOEIC takers are being targeted by an e-mail scam. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

This week on our program, we answer a question from Japan. A listener named Maki would like to know if the test known as the TOEIC is popular in the United States. TOEIC is the Test of English for International Communication. It measures the ability of people to communicate in the workplace using everyday English.

The Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, develops and administers the TOEIC. It says more than nine thousand organizations use the test in more than ninety countries.

Each year the TOEIC is taken in the United States about twenty thousand times. So how popular does that make it? Well, consider that last year the test was given more than five million times worldwide.

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Non-native English speakers take the test to demonstrate their English skills when seeking a new job or a promotion. Some organizations use the TOEIC to measure progress in English training programs and as a placement test. The cost of the test is set locally in each country.

The TOEIC is really two tests. People can take one or both of them. One is a paper-and-pencil test. It measures listening and reading skills. The other test is given on a computer. It measures speaking and writing skills.

Eleven questions on the computer test require speaking. For example, the test taker is asked to read out loud or describe a picture. Eight other questions require written answers, including an opinion essay.

We visited the ETS Web site for more information about the TOEIC. But one of the first things we saw was a warning about a "phishing scam." A phishing scam is a kind of crime that uses e-mail to trick people into providing financial or other personal information. In this case the e-mails claim to be from the Educational Testing Service.

Spokeswoman Christine Betaneli advises people taking the TOEIC to be suspicious of any e-mails claiming to be from ETS. They should be especially suspicious of messages that ask for information that they have already provided for the test.

The spokeswoman says if you get an e-mail you are not sure about, forward it or send a separate message to

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can learn more about English language tests from our Foreign Student Series at You can also find transcripts, podcasts and captioned videos of our reports, and post comments and questions. I'm Bob Doughty.