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8 private English tests accepted for future university admission system

Questions from a trial of an English test, set to be introduced as part of a new standardized university entrance exam, are seen, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on March 14, 2018. (Mainichi)

The National Center for University Entrance Examinations announced on March 26 that it will recognize eight privately run English tests under a new standardized university admission exam system set to be introduced in the 2020 academic year.

The eight tests are the Cambridge English exam series, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), the Global Test of English Communication (GTEC), the Test of English for Academic Purposes (TEAP), the Test of English for Academic Purposes Computer Based Test (TEAP CBT), Eiken, or the Test in Practical English Proficiency, and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The privately run English tests are designed to assess takers' reading, listening, writing and speaking ability.

However, only three of these exams will be available for test takers across the entire country in academic 2020, and test fees vary between 5,800 yen (about $55) and 25,380 yen (roughly $240), leaving various challenges such as securing equal opportunities for the examinees in the future.

Under the standardized admission exam system, test takers will be able to choose English exams from the list of eight, and then sit them between April and December. They are allowed to take the test up to two times. The National Center will manage the results. The test results will be assessed using the six-grade Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. In addition to the test scores, the CEFR evaluations will be forwarded to the candidates' preferred universities.

Between November and December 2017, the National Center invited private exam operators to apply to have their test recognized under the new standardized system. It received applications from seven organizations, involving nine different English exams.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and an expert National Center panel evaluated the applications and certified eight exams. The "Linguaskill" test, offered by Cambridge Assessment English, was rejected on the grounds that it has "no track record in Japan."

By bringing in these eight tests, the National Center is aiming to "evaluate reading, listening, writing and speaking skills in one go."

The Eiken test, under which only candidates who pass the first "reading, listening and writing" component are allowed to take the "speaking" test at a later date, was not recognized by the National Center in its current form. However, its new computer-based testing format, set to be launched in the 2018 academic year and which covers all four language components in one sitting, has been recognized.

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