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Working Hard To Improve English Proficiency

Last update: 27/03/2013
By Hazlinda Hamzah

This is the final part of two articles on the Malaysian University English Test or 'Muet'.

KUALA LUMPUR, March (Bernama) -- The Malaysian University English Test (Muet) comprises four parts -- listening, writing, reading and interaction (speaking).

In the listening test, candidates listen to pre-recorded passages being read out in the clear voices of talented local people.

Each passage is read twice, and candidates are given a total of 30 minutes to complete this test. Three passages are prepared for this purpose, and candidates have to focus on listening to them carefully, in order to answer the 20 compulsory questions based on them.

"We always remind candidates to listen carefully and prepare draft answers immediately. They should not wait for the playback to end before attempting to answer the question booklet.

"The instructions given must be adhered to strictly," said Mazlina Mohamad Ariff, the officer in charge of Muet at the Malaysian Examination Council (MPM).

Mazlina went on to explain that the listening test is carried out together with two other tests, namely reading and essay-writing.

Questions are in both multiple-choice and subjective formats. One such example is where a candidate has to fill in the blanks with one of several given words.


To test their writing skills, Muet candidates are asked to compose two essays -- one containing data and the other an opinion piece on a given topic. They are given 90 minutes to attempt and complete the two essays.

"We look at the accuracy of facts in the written piece and the style adopted by the candidates. It is true that there are many approaches to the writing of an essay, but sufficient elaboration on the given points and the interpretation of information based on the specific guidelines provided is crucial.

"This will help the candidate fulfill the required task and achieve the necessary grade to graduate later," said another officer from the Council.

In the November 2012 test papers, the first essay tested report-writing skills, while the second required candidates to voice their stands on a given topic.

"Candidates must take a clear stand on the given topic, whether they choose to agree, disagree or be in partial agreement with the topic.

"We also look at grammar and spelling errors seriously. Besides that, we lay emphasis on the length of the essays handed in, as they must adhere to the instructions given at the beginning of each question," the second officer, who declined to be named, added.


Six passages, comprising excerpts adapted from foreign books and internationally renowned magazines, are included in this 90 minute section.

There are 45 multiple-choice questions with either three or four alternative answers.

The reading material chosen includes adaptations from the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, and a book entitled 'This Will Change Everything' by John Brockman.

The officers from the Council advise candidates to attempt the reading of the passages in the order in which they appear, as the level of difficulty increases in that order.

They were also advised to allocate 10 minutes to each passage.

This paper is attempted after the 30-minute listening test and makes up 40 per cent of the total marks required for Muet.

Each correct answer in this paper is given three marks.


The speaking test or paper 2 of Muet is administered separately, on a a different say, in various centres of choice nationwide, such as schools, universities or college halls.

The section contributes 30 per cent to the total marks for this English test.

As part of the speaking test, candidates are given two booklets with specific instructions to fulfill two related tasks - A and B.

Four candidates are grouped together, and they talk about a topic assigned to them separately. Then they discuss the facts presented earlier, before making a collective decision on which argument is the strongest, most suitable and beneficial.

The decision is made at the end of more than 20 minutes of deliberation within the group.

Each candidate speaks for only two minutes to fulfill task A, and the examiner evaluates all four candidates, based on the content, as well as the use of language in speech.

"The purpose here is to assess how well these candidates can speak. A Band Three can be given for speech without structure, while Band Four is obtained by candidates who can deliver their speeches well. And it must have structure too," Mazlina said.

In task B, candidates have another two and a half minutes or 150 seconds to speak, and this time, anyone can start first.

The speaking section makes up 15 per cent of the total marks, and lays equal emphasis on both content and language.

The English language is being adopted steadily and gradually in Malaysia, and its proficiency among graduates is said to be improving, compared to some years back, although the confidence to speak English among these young graduates needs to be boosted further.

In order to raise the level of spoken English in the country, especially among young graduates, more can be done by fellow Malaysians, such as encouraging the use of English in public speech for both leisure and business purposes.

This can happen only if all concerned parties put their hearts and souls into improving their English proficiency within and outside Malaysia.