Vol. 8. No. 3 R-6 December 2004
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Oxford preparation Course for the TOEIC test

Student's Book
Oxford: Oxford UP (2002)
Pp. 224
ISBN 0-19-4563517-7 (paper)

Oxford preparation Course for the TOEIC test. Teacher's Book
Oxford: Oxford UP (2002)
Pp. 112
ISBN 0-19-453521-7 (paper)

Oxford preparation Course for the TOEIC test. Text Cassettes
Oxford: Oxford UP (2002)
3 cassettes
ISBN 0-19-453521-7

The paper-based Oxford preparation course for the TOEIC test, as the name suggests, is designed to be used in a classroom setting.

In 1979, the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) was developed by the Educational Testing Service, makers of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEIC is designed to test the language proficiency of beginning to advanced speakers of Business English for prospective or existing employers in governmental organizations or business. Apart from grammar, it evaluates primarily listening and reading comprehension skills; speaking and writing are tested only indirectly. About 3 million people take this internationally recognized test each year.[1]

The Student's Book is made up of two entire TOEIC practice tests, consisting of two hundred questions each. Students are encouraged to use the first test to become familiar in general with the TOEIC exam and question types. It is followed by sections divided into seven chapters organized thematically: office and personnel, entertaining and dining out, general business and finance, housing and property, travel, technical areas, and health and everyday English. After practicing a variety of skills and strategies, the second practice test should be taken under the actual time conditions allotted for each section of the exam. Also included are sample answer sheets, a grammar glossary and a conversion table for assessing the total estimated practice test score. [-1-]

Information on "strategies " with examples is briefly given in light purple boxes, which are integrated throughout chapters 1-7. For example, "Be aware of similar sounds. The TOEIC test often uses similar sounding words to confuse you" (p. 64). Not all of the information in these boxes, however, can be considered test-taking strategies, useful or even completely accurate.[2] One such superfluous example is: "Listen for who questions that identify a person or an occupation" (p. 66). Anyone who does not understand basic interrogatives such as who, has no business taking the TOEIC exam. Yes, the test is for all levels, but surely this "strategy" box as well as a number of others could have been omitted. Other important information needed to increase one's score is found in a light peach box (the difference between written and spoken English, two major measuring systems, some grammar items, and general test notes). From time to time references to the grammar glossary appear in a green arrow. Despite my reservations concerning some of the content of the strategy boxes, the colorful layout containing high-quality pictures, some of which in color, will certainly help retain the students interest and motivate them to continue on with the book. It is a stark contrast to some of the other drab TOIEC preparation materials on the market, such as the TOEIC Official Test-Preparation Guide by the Educational Testing Service (2001). The paper quality of the Oxford preparation course is also superior to that of the TOEIC Official Test-Preparation Guide.

The Teacher's Book includes a three-page introduction to the various sections, typical TOEIC traps, and strategies for preparing students for the test. In addition, answer keys with substantial commentary, an answer sheet, and a conversion table round off the book. Instructors are encouraged to supplement lessons on reoccurring grammar problems with their own materials, as students should keep track of the types of errors they make. It would have been a welcome addition to the teacher's book to cross-reference the terms in the grammar glossary with a list of helpful list of resources apart from general OUP materials[3] including web sites and other suggested readings on the topic of exam preparation or test taking in general. Since the TOEIC tests everyone from secretaries to corporate executives, I would have also appreciated ideas on how to use the text at varying levels of skill.

The listening comprehension is available on three cassette tapes or three audio CDs (ISBN: 0-19-453519-3). I had access to the cassette tapes which were up to the high Oxford standard in quality and clarity. The directions for each exercise, the numbers of the questions, and the letters of the various choices in each question are given by the same voice in order not to confuse listeners. The answers to the various exercises alternate between different male and female speakers, which helps to familiarize learners with the voices of various speakers of American English.

Instructors who adopt the Oxford preparation course for the TOEIC test for use in the classroom can certainly overcome the few limitations discussed in this review. This text fills a gap in the TOEIC test preparation materials currently on the market, which are mainly geared toward individual learning and include the answers to the questions at the back of the book. The attractive layout and sensible structure of the student's book foster learning. Thus, I can highly recommend it for students at the intermediate/ intermediate-high level and beyond. For other people less proficient in English, The Oxford preparation course for the TOEIC test would require too much supplementation on the instructor's part, especially in the area of grammar and vocabulary acquisition.


[1] http://www.ets.org/toeic/

[2] See Kevin Miller's analysis on errors, http://www2.shikoku-u.ac.jp/english-dept/oxfordreview.html

[3] See http://www.oup.com/elt/global/isbn/7881/, click on "Other Recommended Titles."

Sabrina Voelz
Universitaet Lueneburg

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