Sunday, July 28, 2019

New MUET Test Specifications effective 2021

Hi all, so the much awaited changes are now out and I have perused the changes with multiple ooohs and aaahs. Some in pleasant agreement and some in shock as my heart stopped for a moment but I hope you will forgive me for I am merely human and entitled to my own opinions.

To begin with, most of the changes are well justified and that MPM has done a good job in listening to our rants in the past and taken action to rectify the shortcomings of the current testing format especially for the Listening 800/1 paper that tested writing more than listening. For this I commend them.

However, as mentioned that I am just a simple teacher with a personal opinion, I would like to state my sadness that the new format has lost its 'academic English' focus and has instead morphed into a regular language proficiency test. Quite a number of the academic English elements have been removed and replaced with testing the more informal aspects of the language such as responding to letters and emails. This is not to say it is a bad thing, just that the original MUET test was intended to prep students for the rigours of University level English for specific purposes, rather than just a basic assessment of a person's competency of the target language. Anyway, who am I to go against the tide of change? We shall put aside the sighs and droopy shoulders and learn to embrace the changes, come what may. The change is coming and by 2020 we will be training the new F6 intake for the 2021 1st MUET exam following the CEFR aligned specifications.

Before you begin, you may want to peruse the super long blueprint.. but I really respect the people involved in drawing it up. At least we have a roadmap to success in terms of upgrading the standard of English in Malaysia on par with the European framework.

For those who have access to internet and data, the new specs and sample questions can be found in this link put up by MPM -----> HERE

The page looks like this:

The New Test Specs :

The Sample Questions:

Below is my personal commentary, please do not hold it against me. All of the screenshots are from the official document, I am just uploading here in case some people have trouble downloading directly from the site.

It is interesting to note that all papers hv equal weighting now.. with 25% for each. Listening is longer now while writing has been shortened. I am a little confused as to why we need such a complicated banding system when we have been expecting the 6 bands to reflect C2, C1, B2, B1, A2 and A1. Now with 9 bands ranging from 1.0 to 5+ is quite similar to IELTS 9 bands. I would assume that this was done intentionally to streamline with international testing standards as MUET was just launched in Indonesia recently. It is not a big problem, it has been broken down very clearly and all we have to do is follow the aggregate scores as in the table above. I think is it really good to be able to tell exactly what level of proficiency the student is after taking this test, but I do question how the new test specification differs from a regular proficiency test rather than one supposedly targeting entry into Malaysian Universities.

The structure of the Listening test above is very agreeable. I like that the duration is longer an it is purely objective questions. The content, well you will have to see the sample questions for yourself and develop your own opinion.

As for the reading paper, I am quite aghast at the loss of the True/False/Not State type of questions as I consider those quite challenging and unique to MUET. I do know many teachers and students are happy to see it thrown out. I'm not sure I like the fact that the sample tests includes 2 different movie reviews of La La Land as to me this does not seem academic enough. I do understand their rationale that the uni students will need to be able to function in formal and informal situations and hence the variety, but it will take me a little more time to get my head around this type of questions for MUET level. My two cents ok, don't shoot me.

I am glad the speaking test remains about the same, but the instructions are clearer and less wordy, and Task B is less rigid in terms of more time to prep (3 mins) and they can speak between 8 and 12 mins. No complaints here.

Right, for writing, I am torn between happy to see report go because it was seriously causing high proficiency students to be shortchanged simply because they are either unaware or not used to the extremely rigid report writing format and marking scheme. Many students have failed to get high bands just because they did not know such a format existed which did not reflect their true proficiency level. Conversely, I am quite upset to see the level of questioning for Q1 which is now a 100 word response to a letter or an email. Oh what a downgrade. The plus factor is that the weaker students will at least be able to respond to this question and get some marks, so I do believe that all is not lost. It still causes me heartache because all the materials and worksheets I have made this last 11 years I can now burn in mid 2020. What makes me sadder is that the quality of this MUET examination has been compromised from that of a uni prep exam to that of a basic proficiency test for all and sundry. Ok, maybe I am reading too much into this and being too melodramatic. We will lift our chins up and trudge forward, come what may.

And a final comment is that the academic essay is only 250 words. Having taught students to write academic essays of 350 words... this is surely going to be a challenge. 1 hour 15 mins for this paper. 25%. I guess the weighting is well thought out. Again, my overall feeling is that I am quite defeated and deflated. I will just have to pump myself up and man up to the challenges ahead.

On a final note, tq to MPM and all writers/contributors to the new test specs. I know you are moving us towards CEFR and it is no easy feat. Let us hope we can continue to raise the standard of English is our beloved Malaysia. Together we are stronger.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Grammar Masterclass with Mdm Audrey Koh-Wiles

Ok.. so the fundamental building blocks of English language learning is grammar but our education system in Malaysia has practically ignored the need for explicit teaching and learning of grammar.

Enter Mdm. Audrey and her crazily easy Grammar Formulas that make the teaching and learning, ie the theory and practical application of them as easy as ABC. I have played around with recording audio for PowerPoint and am now polishing my skill using a screen recorder to do future videos.

Anyway, if you want to keep updated, pls revisit this blogpost and I will keep updating the links for my 3 minute Grammar Tips videos for your self-study.

Season 1 Episode 1 :  Table of Tenses
Season 1 Episode 2 :  Present Tense Formula

Watch out for Season 1 Episode 3!!!!