Students went to nearly 200 testing sites across Tokyo on November 27 to take the first English speaking test, part of the entrance exam for metropolitan high schools.
The purpose of the test, administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, is to measure English speaking proficiency and lead to better instruction.
The speaking test consisted of eight questions, including reading aloud English sentences and expressing opinions on familiar topics.
Test takers listened to audio through earphones, looked at illustrations and spoke into a microphone to answer questions. Their voice was recorded on a tablet device.
The examination was jointly conducted by Benesse Corporation, a leading correspondent education company appointed by the board.
The students’ recorded voices will be sent to the Philippines, where staff at a Benassi affiliate will grade them in pairs.
The results will be converted to a score of 20, which is included in the total score of 1,020 in the spring entrance exams for Tokyo Metropolitan High Schools.
76,000 students, 95 per cent of third-year students in the capital’s public junior high schools, applied to sit the exam.
69,000 students took the exam at 197 locations in Tokyo, including metropolitan high schools.
The speaking test was conducted by dividing the students into two groups at the same venue. The first group answered the questions on the test, and a little later, the second group answered the same questions.
Despite doubts about whether the exam could be conducted smoothly, the board of education said after the exam that “no major issues have been confirmed”.
The board said it had confirmed some issues, however, including temporary difficulty connecting to telephone lines to receive notices of absence, and multiple students arriving late due to going to the wrong place.
After the exam, a comment was posted on social media in which a student, an examinee, claimed to have heard voices of students answering questions in a nearby classroom.
However, the Board of Education said that no such reports have been received.
Academics of test theory have questioned the fairness of the method of scoring nearly 80,000 answers, along with the validity of how absentee scores are determined.
For those who missed the test, their scores were calculated by averaging the speaking test results of students who obtained the same level of English score as the absentee on the achievement test.
(This article was written by Yuka Honda and Soichi Tsuchide.)