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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

New MUET 2021 Reading 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!)

Here are my personal comments on the new Reading paper. Again I have to say that I am in complete agreement with the alignment of CEFR because it is a more systematic approach and a more effective and reliable gauge of a student's proficiency. Of course I am still irked with the fact that the texts start at a much too low level but do see the need for it now (read: begrudgingly LOL)

FYI: Documents can be downloaded here.

The New Test Specs : http://portal.mpm.edu.my/documents/10156/3fd4da51-7768-4be2-ace5-5021ed73d9ad

The Sample Questions: http://portal.mpm.edu.my/documents/10156/8fbcb4bc-8f7a-4670-8b3a-f47781839974


Part 1: Multiple Matching  (A2 level text)
For starters, the T/F/Not Stated questions have been ditched much to the pleasure of most teachers and students in Malaysia. This is a good move because it reduces ambiguity but at the same time I find that the new text that replaces it is not academic enough. You must be thinking that I'm such a stickler to high academic level English which is not exactly the case. I supposed it stems from my assumption that I expect the MUET exam to cater for B1 to C1 level but I now realise that what the presenter said rings true. He stated that the lower level text serves 2 purposes which are
1. the variety helps sustain the interest of students
2. it focuses on the testing of the language skills in a systematic graded manner from familiar to complex, basic to proficient.
He stressed that a test is not meant to confuse students, it is guided and the level increases in difficulty in order to discern the high bands from the higher bands. This is true, as how else would we differentiate Band 4.5 from Band 5+. (In case you didn't know, the new MUET has 9 bands similar to IELTS which I have blogged about previously, do check my archive).

Part 2 & 3: Multiple Choice
Quite straight forward. B1 level text.

Part 4: Multiple Choice
Two thematically linked texts, the first text has 2 questions, 2nd text has 2 questions and the final two questions requires the students to compare and contrast the two texts and select the best answer. Quite challenging, but again, I do not exactly agree on the text type as previously blogged. A review of movies is hardly academic on the surface, but I do see now that it has its merit. And university students do not necessarily pursue courses with dry content, it could easily be theater-based, or anthropology-based, sociology etc... you get the picture. Note that I do not agree with MPM's answer for No.15.

Part 5: Gapped Text
Basically, 6 sentences have been removed from a text of 500-600 words. There is one extra sentence added as a distractor.
This is new to MUET but has already been used as a test type in the new CEFR aligned PT3 English. This is a HOTS item as it requires students to analyse the structure of the text and try to analyse thesis statements, topic sentences, elaboration, exemplification, concluding and so on. It is good that by the time students from the current 2019 PT3 attempt the MUET exam, they will be well versed with this test type. Even in teaching PT3, this reading comprehension questioning type is the most challenging as it requires HOTS and ability to analyse the structure of the text.
Basically, the speakers mentioned that to teach this section, you need to teach students the flow of the writing, aiming on cohesion. Coherence is important, some clues from cohesive devices in some cases. But I would surely advise teaching them anaphoric and cataphoric referencing. This is especially evident in Sample question 21: the link between 'shouldn't be used' in G with the next sentence (cataphoric ref) 'The reason why not is..'

Part 6 & 7: Similar to current MUET format.
No major changes.

Anyway, once you have done the 90 min reading sample test, you can check your answers here.

Right, so this is the new format and it is overall a good paper. The present one is too tedious and maybe monotonous with only an occasional narrative so we should welcome new changes for this Reading paper. Hopefully, all will be well by the time 2021 March rolls around.

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