Language tests postponement both a nuisance and opportunity

November 12, 2022 - 07:06

The announcement came as a surprise and a challenge for learners.

A student is guided through the administrative process in an IELTS examination. — Photo courtesy of British Council Vietnam

Nhật Hồng & Hoàng Việt

HÀ NỘI — The postponement of the popular English exam IELTS came as a surprise for many learners across the country. While the change affects schedules, some also see this as an opportunity for better preparation. 

Thanh Loan, a final-year student at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hà Nội, has been studying for the test as a requirement to graduate. 

The announcement came as a surprise and a challenge, she said. 

Loan told Việt Nam News: “The IELTS test postponement might take me longer to graduate. There could also be a long-term effect if testing organisations have to prolong this pause.

“The ideal time for learners to take the test is about one to two weeks after finishing the studying programme, as they could achieve the desired score during this window.”

Nhữ Hà Phương, the CEO and Founder of MES English Centre in Hải Phòng City added: “The postponement of the exam causes confusion for everyone.

“In the past two days, I have received a lot of phone calls and messages from parents and students, especially those who have planned to take the exam in November and December.”

The language certification has gained increasing popularity in Việt Nam, with many local higher education institutions accepting the test results as part of the admission process. 

Thùy Linh, an IELTS teacher in the capital city said: “I think those who are the most affected are Grade 12 students, who are preparing their application for universities or studying abroad.

“They are limited in terms of time, and would lose their opportunities if they did not submit their applications within the deadline.”

Load also said that the certification could increase the chance of obtaining scholarships, or admission to universities in this country and abroad. 

While it is not the decisive factor, those who are looking to study abroad, or in international universities, are required to take the test and include the results in their applications.

To apply for a working or student visa to the United Kingdom, for example, most Vietnamese nationals must prove their knowledge of English by having a valid IELTS certificate of at least the 4.0 score band or higher, or an equivalent level in another secure English language test (SELT).

Among those examinations, IELTS is the more popular choice due to its high accessibility and frequency. 

In several study groups on social media platforms, people have been looking at test schedules in neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Singapore, as the last resort.

Following IELTS, other language tests of Japanese, Korean and Chinese language have also been temporarily halted for inspection. 

For those who are not in a rush to take the test, they see this postponement as a good opportunity for better preparation. 

Loan, who has finished a four-month IELTS course at an English centre and is continuing to study herself, said: “People can take advantage of this pause to continue practising on the skills that they are weak at and studying more for the parts that they have not learned. 

“Most importantly, you need to stay calm to prepare for the next IELTS exams.”

She added that the inspection is to improve management and ensure that the foreign language aptitude tests follow current regulations, as well as the effective protection for test takers’ rights. 

Therefore, those studying for the IELTS certificate should not be too worried about the postponement. 

Hà Phương said: “Our [centre’s] teaching plans remain the same, as I believe this suspension is temporary, I think the exam will be reopened soon, and the British Council or IDP will add more exam dates to accommodate the needs of the candidates. 

“My advice to students is that you continue to practise, as usual, the delay is just for administrative paperwork.”

Quỳnh Anh, whose younger sister is studying for the IELTS examination to enter university, believed that the core of the test is not about high scores, as it is simply just another language aptitude test. 

She said: “Therefore what we can do is study hard and take the test with your own ability.”

Sharing the same perspective, Thùy Linh believed that the IELTS examinations will soon resume in Việt Nam, as the current demands are very high. 

According to Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyễn Hữu Độ, while the language certificate has helped people, businesses and recruiters to determine the language efficiency level, there are also issues to be addressed. 

Speaking to Sức khỏe & Đời sống (Health & Life) newspaper, he said: “The joint organisation of language tests to issue certificates in Việt Nam mostly follows the regulations of foreign partners, and has not sufficiently responded to the requirements and criteria in Việt Nam in terms of infrastructure, equipment, examination and supervision staff.

“It has resulted in the shortcomings that were reported in the press such as cheating by having another person take the exams, or fraud in applications and documents. 

“These shortcomings have led to bad reputation and affected the benefits of certificate holders, as well as legitimate organisations that hold the examination and issue the certificates.”

He added that it also causes confusion among the people in deciding which tests to take and at which organisations, tax loss, as well as a decrease in attraction and transparency in investments to the education sector in Việt Nam.

Deputy minister Độ said that the postponement of foreign language tests is due to several organisations having not completed their dossier as required by the Ministry of Education and Training, according to Decree No 86/2018/NĐ-CP, and Circular No 11/2022/TT-BGDĐT. 

For the examinations to resume, these agencies will need to finish their documents and submit them to the MoET. 

The education and training deputy minister said: “If the dossiers meet the requirement, the MoET will process in the shortest time possible in accordance with the current regulations.”

The processing time for review and approval, as stated in Decree No 86/2018/NĐ-CP, is 20 days.

Following the approval, the MoET will announce the information on its official portal for the public to know, choose the right organisations to take the test to obtain certificates, and participate in the supervision process. — VNS