Tuesday, October 1, 2019

New MUET 2021 Listening Paper 25% Personal Commentary

(DISCLAIMER: I do not represent MPM, all opinions are my personal commentary and are not influenced by any person specifically, I have included documents from MPM's official new test specs and official sample questions available from their own website (links given below) and have taken screenshots/pics and uploaded here because most teachers from rural areas have approached me and told me that they find it hard to download or access info online due to various existing issues including lack of accessibility to highspeed data. All my thoughts and notes here are meant to help both teachers and students so they may face the MUET examination  both current and future to their best potential. Kindly save me a good word, or none at all if you have nothing sweet to offer. Have a pleasant day!)

Hi all,

I'm writing here to update you and myself on the new CEFR aligned MUET Listening paper for 2021 (March will be the first ever live exam for this format). This blog post will be dedicated to Listening only, and I will try to do similar for the other three papers. Am currently attending the cascading at zone level and it has been eye-opening. Have to say that the new Listening paper is overall a thumbs up compared to current format, with of course minor suggestions for improvement, of which I will of course mention and MPM may improve on in the future, who knows.

FYI: Documents can be downloaded here:

The New Test Specs :

The Sample Questions:

I have uploaded the listening tape scripts for teachers and students who would like to try out the listening sample. You can click here for the listening tracks. The listening answers for the MPM sample are here.

Anyway, here is the screenshot from the official document which you can access from MPM's website.

So the new listening has 5 parts instead of 3, and the best news is that it is fully objective. Most of the questions are multiple choice questions (MCQs) with one set that is still an objective type item, but provides 5 possible answers with 2 distractors which is a version of the current Part 2 (Q8 & 9). This is by far better than the current one which we have complained for many years since its inception that it was overlapping with the testing of writing, and students had to divide their attention between listening and writing with correct grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, syntax and lexicon. In the end, students lost out which will not be the case in the new format so I am very happy with the changes. Kudos to the team who drew up this new paper.

It was good of the presenter to point out that the new listening is more organised and has a clearer progression from easy to hard with a vocab range of A2 - C1. (In case u didn't know, A1 is the lowest while C2 is the highest band, and MUET aims to discern students within the A2 - C1 range). To touch on the vocab aspect, it is good that there is a concerted effort to ensure that the texts used fit the vocab range that is to be tested and as mentioned, it goes from familiar contexts and high frequency words in Part 1 to more complex contexts with more low frequency words in Part 5. Also in the context of vocab, I do find the fact that Cambridge provides a free wordlist that is accessible to anyone with internet connection a good tool for teacher to refer to. You can access the wordlist by clicking on this link: CAMBRIDGE WORDLIST or typing

If you look at the sidebar, there are 2 important functions that are very cool. EVP Online lets you check individual English Vocab Profile at word level (Tq Ms Chong who taught us this in our previous MUET CEFR Cascading in 2016) and the coolest function the presenter introduced yesterday was the 'Text Inspector' which lets you copy and paste texts of 500 and below and it will analyse the content of the text and tell you the word types and tokens frequency counts. A word type is for example the word 'the' (counted as one type) while a token is how many times 'the' appears in the text. I think this is what he meant, will edit later if I got it wrong.

Anyway, I can foresee many teachers starting to think of interventions for vocab, and one of them is to drill kids with low frequency B2 and C1 words... haha.. no harm drilling but make sure it is authentic and purposeful, best done in a situational context. For example, don't make them memorise lists, but get them to use the vocab in the correct context. I think going by themes is a good way: Environment -> Pollution -> Words linked to describing pollution, etc. (Will blog about this in a future post)

Screenshot of the Text Inspector:

My 2 main grouses are: 1. length, 2. level for formality (more informal content).

1. 50 mins is way too long to strain the students' attention span. Haha. 3 parts would have been enough to gauge the level, but I suppose they wanted equal weighting in terms of marks and time (25% overall compared to the previous 15%, so time increased from 30 mins to 50 mins). I worry that the students doing the exam in poor listening conditions will be affected. Also since it is usually the last paper, in some places in Sabah, it clashes with the prayer time and will affect the quality of the sound, and cause unnecessary stress if the mosque loudspeaker is in direct competition with the exam speakers (rare cases but it does happen esp in Sabah!)

2. I still cannot get my head around the fact that the new format has included many informal texts/contexts when we have been championing MUET as a Uni entrance exam and therefore more formal. However, I do concur that they will need to be able to function linguistically in both formal and informal contexts in Uni, so I have to say that I will simply have to accept that it will be a more proficiency based exam rather than an academic one from 2021 onwards.

Again, these are just my observations. Congrats again MPM for aligning with CEFR. A good move. I hope that this alignment will lead to more systematic teaching and testing with the aim of benefiting all students and raising the standard of English across our nation. Bah, stay tuned for the other 3 papers.

Anyway, once you have done the 50 min listening sample test, you can check your answers here