As a non-native speaker of English, I find that there is very little TEFL information about it online. Being a fairly organized person I prefer knowing as much information in advance as possible, but it was tricky finding any personal experiences about TOEIC. Hence, I have decided to post this, since I have first-hand experience now, just in case there is someone in the same shoes out there.
In a nutshell – if you are a teacher in Thailand, whether qualified or not, and come from a country where the official language is NOT English, and want to work legally, you need to take the TOEIC test. Basically most institutions just want people from UK, US, Australia, NZ, Canada, South Africa, and sometimes Ireland. There’s some kind of issue with Ireland, and you can find a few funny stories on the internet.
My girlfriend and I have degrees from UK Universities, good UK work experience (non-teaching), and we did our CELTA’s in Thailand. Our English is pretty good, and sometimes we get compliments like “Oh, so you’re not English!?” – that always puts a smile on my face, especially when it comes from English people! We both found work through a relatively large agency. Two months in, we were asked to get our TOEIC scores, as it is a requirement to work here legally.
For all possible questions, answers, opinions, rumours, facts and so on about legal work requirements, you should firstly go through ajarn.com and ajarnforum.net to get an idea, and perhaps thai-visa.com – they’re all reliable and up-to-date. From what I read online foreign teachers only need to take the listening and reading parts of the test, so I didn’t bother investigating, and the foreign department at my agency confirmed that too.
How to book:
They run the Listening and Reading tests Monday to Saturday, however if you don’t have a Thai work permit you can only take it on Wednesdays at 1pm. We wanted to book our places before Christmas but they were closed right up to 5 January. So we rung up on the 6th and did the test on the 7th, which happened to be a Wednesday. You need to book a place by phone at least one day in advance, have your passport number handy and don’t be surprised if nobody picks up the phone. We tried calling at least 5 times on different days and times until we finally got to talk to someone. But maybe that’s just our luck.
How to find it:
The place is easy to find – walk for about 10min from Asok BTS / Sukhumvit MRT exit and you’ll see BB building on your right. The TOEIC offices are on the 19th floor, room 07. We got there just before 12 (they require you to come an hour early) and entered the registration room. It was tiny, but they have an incredibly organised queuing system. They have about 6 different queues and a few staff members co-ordinating the traffic between queues. They didn’t even ask if we had a reservation and directed us towards the first queue (even though the lady before us was asked that question). You register, get your photo taken, pay the 1500 baht fee and join the queue to your assigned testing room. And that’s where the fun begins. There is also a centre in Chiang Mai.
You can’t take anything into the testing room apart from what they describe as ‘money wallet’. The staff by the door could easily work at the airport: rubber gloves and metal detectors, scanning every single limb before they allow you to walk in. You can’t even take your home keys inside! All bags must be left on the shelves in the office and of course they ‘don’t accept any responsibility for items left unattended’ (as if you have a choice!). The only good thing is that they let all the examinees out at the same time, so I guess there’s less risk for anything going missing.
Length of the test:
If you think you’ll start the test as soon as you walk into the room, you’re wrong. There’s about 40min of completing the background questionnaire and listening to a recording with the description of the test parts before the test starts. But when it does, you don’t have much time to relax, and just go from one question to another. After about 20 minutes of listening questions your brain starts falling asleep, but if you start nodding off for just a moment you’ll miss an answer from the recording. Consequently, if you start thinking for a second, you miss the next question, as they are only read once.
It is split up into two parts – listening and reading, and these are again divided into smaller chunks with different exercises. On the CPA website it is clearly outlined what the test is like so give this a read http://cpathailand.co.th/?article=36 . It was pretty straightforward and if you had English at school or had an IELTS test, you should know what to expect. We haven’t prepared for the test at all, just read the handbook before the test. However, many people attend special TOEIC preparation classes, buy practice books, etc, you may not need any practice at all – it all depends on your level. A few questions in the reading section required more time as you had more complex exercises. From two given office emails, or an advert and a response to it, you had to figure out who were the people, what their jobs were, and so on – something you naturally deal with in an English speaking country. We’ve scored well, but it wasn’t the full score, as some questions had answers that were vague and were tricky to choose from. For example there was a photo of some boats on the shore, and available answers were ‘children diving in the ocean’, ‘boats being dragged somewhere’, and some other answers which were difficult to match to the photo. Some answers made us laugh – you hear a question “do you want to go for a drink?” and have to choose between answers “No, it is not spring”, “Food is not allowed”, “I’d love to”. But generally the test was quite logical and simple.
After the test you just go back to the reception room and collect your belongings. You can collect your results the next day or get them delivered at a charge of 50 baht. So to sum up, you come in at 12:00 and leave just after 16:00. It was fun to attend a test ourselves and get back into students’ shoes. Good luck!