Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“Don’t make a mockery of MUET” Part 2

MUET measures language ability
WE refer to the letter “Don’t make a mockery of MUET” by Mr Henry Soon in StarEducate (Dec 18, 2011).

The Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is an English language proficiency test designed to measure the English language ability of students wishing to pursue first degree studies in local institutions of higher learning.

With MUET, English is taught in Form Six or pre-university level to equip students with the appropriate level of proficiency in English to enable them to perform effectively in their academic pursuits at tertiary level.

The Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) fully agrees with Mr Soon’s opinion that decisions on educational matters should be in the best interests of students. MUET will be conducted three times a year as of this year in March, July and November.

The policy came into being after numerous requests from students who had intentions of sitting for the MUET and after an in-depth study of its implications.

At present, candidates who take the mid-year MUET face problems in their appeals for intake into institutions of higher learning.

The closing date for such appeals is in late June whilst the results for the mid-year exams are released in July. With MUET being offered thrice a year, candidates who take the MUET in March are able to obtain their results prior to the closing date for appeals.

At present too, MUET dates clash with the examination schedules, new student intake and semester holidays of various institutions of higher learning. Hence, providing an additional test will offer better alternatives to students from these institutions to select the MUET session that best suits their needs.

Offering MUET three times a year too, does allow more opportunities for candidates to improve their MUET score. They do not need to wait six months before taking the next MUET.

This benefits school candidates, private candidates, and also university students who require a stipulated minimum MUET band to qualify for entrance or graduate from university.

Private candidates who work in the private or public sector too have a better choice of MUET sessions as some take the paper for promotional purposes.

Contrary to Mr Soon’s claim, the decision to include an additional MUET session in our yearly schedule was never made for “financial gains”. The additional session in fact will put more demands on MEC’s operational, administrative and financial resources, but having the best interests of our clients in mind, we believe that the benefits to our clients and nation far outweigh the additional costs incurred.


In an era where institutions of higher learning are opening up opportunities for flexible entry and exit points for tertiary education, the additional MUET session will provide flexibility and enhance student mobility in line with national and international development.

On the issue of school candidates sitting for MUET in March, students not being keen to stay engaged in MUET lessons after taking the MUET early and MUET teachers being the butt of jokes and resentment due to the flexible MUET dates, this is a school administrative matter.

It is stipulated clearly in a circular to schools and also in the MUET Test Specifications (page 9) that “the MUET programme should involve 240 hours of teaching time spanning three school terms. Instruction should be carried out for eight periods a week at 40 minutes per period.”

If schools do not comply with this and students feel they are prepared to take the test earlier, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the MEC.

We are, however, confident that school administrators and MUET teachers will have the necessary expertise and creativity to manage the teaching-learning process in their schools. Instead of viewing the additional MUET session as a burden, we believe schools will make use of the flexibility offered for the benefit of their students.

With regards to the issue of students scoring Band Five, like Mr soon rightfully stated, they are students from “the better MUET classes.” With stringent marking and a standardised set of scoring criteria, only the proficient can attain Band Five. So far, and again contrary to Mr Soon’s claim of a “grade inflation”, national records show that only one percent out of 85,000 candidates have managed to obtain Band 5.

Students who apply to universities in the United Kingdom, United States or Singapore are required to sit for the IELTS, TOEFL or qualifying tests because that is the entrance requirement of such institutions.

Question One of the MUET writing paper has been changed from summary writing to report writing as this skill is more reflective of academic writing in universities, that is writing reports that incorporate the skills of analysing and synthesising ideas based on data given.

Candidates are not required to carry out any calculations. The example of a piece of writing given on “modern advertising” is not based on any previous MUET question or script.


On the issue of teachers not having enough time to teach grammar and vocabulary and the MUET Test Specifications not addressing the students’ poor grasp of grammar and vocabulary, please refer again to the recommended number of hours of teaching time as stated in the Test Specifications.

MUET teachers are selected to be examiners based on their qualifications in English or TESL. However, there are some MUET teachers who do not want to be examiners, hence to get a larger pool of examiners, MEC has to appoint teachers who teach Forms Four or Five.

MUET teachers have done well and are very committed in preparing their students for the MUET and examiners too have responsibly marked the scripts. Examiners for Speaking and Writing have to sit for a proficiency test and are given training on marking besides attending marking coordination meetings.

It should be pointed out that MUET is a criterion-referenced test, i.e. there is a set of established criteria or standard of performance for each band.

If a candidate has met the criteria set for a high band, there are no reservations in awarding the candidate the mark or band he or she deserves.

The issue of “grade inflation” (or ‘deflation’ in this case) does not arise in MUET – candidates get what they deserve according to a set of established criteria.

MUET fees have to be raised from RM60 to RM100 due to the rising costs of administering the test. MEC, in fact has been bearing the extra costs incurred which are not covered by the previous fee of RM60.

The council carried out a comprehensive study taking into consideration the views of students, teachers, lecturers, examiners, institutions of higher learning and state education departments before reviewing and implementing the MUET Specifications, administrative procedures and costing.

Finally, we would like to assure Mr Soon and the public that as an examination body, MEC has always strived for continual improvement.

We adhere to internationally established practices of assessment in ensuring the validity and reliability of the MUET which includes among others, training of examiners, close analysis of test performance, benchmarking with and correlational studies against international tests, and constant communications with our stakeholders, including feedback from students, teachers, examiners, universities and experts in the field.

Our close monitoring of the MUET shows that it is a reliable measure of candidates’ proficiency in English in relation to their readiness for tertiary education.


Via e-mail

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