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Trial starts for potential new English test for national achievement exam

Students at Tsunoga Junior High School wait for the start of a preliminary trial of a four-part English test, in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, on May 1, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology began on May 1 a preliminary trial of a four-part English test it intends to add to the national achievement exam in fiscal 2019.

    Approximately 40 third-year students at Tsunoga Junior High School in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, tackled questions related to reading, writing, listening and speaking, on day one of the trial.

    Other junior high schools will also take part in the experiment, which is scheduled to run until May 31 at 136 schools across Japan. About 20,000 students are expected to participate in total.

    The reading, writing and listening paper test is 45 minutes long. The speaking component takes about 15 minutes, and consists of questions previously recorded on a USB memory stick being replayed on a computer, after which students say their answers into a microphone.

    A private company marks the speaking-related questions based on guidelines laid down by the education ministry. One of the objectives of the trial is to check if there are any issues concerning the audio equipment or any variations in the marking as a future reference for real tests.

    In March 2017, it was decided at an education ministry expert conference that English will be added to the national achievement exam, based on the government's policy to focus on improving students' English communication skills. Starting in the 2019 academic year, the English test will be given about once every three years, just as the science test.

    It is expected that the reading, writing and listening part will take place on the same day as the Japanese language and mathematics tests, while the speaking component will be held on a separate day.

    (Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department)

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