Department of Applied English, National Pingtung University.
Division of English Language Education, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University.
With the goal of enhancing the competitiveness of students in the workplace, nearly two-thirds of technical universities in Taiwan have adopted a variety of standardized English proficiency tests as exit requirements, including the widespread use of TOEIC. However, employers still name “insufficient English proficiency” as one of the primary employability gaps to be bridged by graduates (104 Job Bank, 2008, 2009). This study examines whether the use of TOEIC as an exit requirement for 4-year universities in Taiwan can be justified as ensuring higher rates of employability. It explores whether (1) preparing for TOEIC can enhance the level of student English proficiency necessary for the workplace, (2) TOEIC scores are positively related to job recruitment, and (3) the use of TOEIC as an exit requirement encourages courses to prepare students for both the test and the needs of the workplace. The official TOEIC test scores of 555 technical university students and questionnaire responses from 116 employed alumni, 100 employers, and 399 technical university students were analyzed. The findings indicate that the test use consequences could be interpreted both positively and negatively. The students were able to reach the cutoff scores, with mean scores of around 150 points higher, and demonstrated the ability to perform the English skills required for the workplace according to employed alumni and employers. Hence, the standardized exit scores were positively related to job recruitment. On the other hand, the exit requirement cutoff scores may not motivate high proficiency students, who are not sufficiently challenged. In addition, the material instructed in class focuses on test preparation and four-skills’ practice, without adequately engaging the students in activities to help them acquire skills such as oral communication that are often used at work.