Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (second from left) witnessing Cambridge English Language Assessment Research and International Development head Dr Hanan Khalifa (right) delivering the certificate of recognition to Malaysian Examinations Council chairman Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak. With them is Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin.

THE Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is a step closer to becoming an internationally-accepted English qualification for university entry, following the recognition of being aligned with the Common European Framework Reference (CEFR) by the Cambridge English Language Assessment (CELA), a department of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said with the alignment with CEFR, the Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) could push MUET into the international market as a product in the likes of TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

“MUET is the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when he was education minister, and it has been implemented for the past 20 years, used for university admissions in Malaysia,” said Mahdzir.

With this new development, he said, several countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, had shown interest in using MUET for their students.

MEC, in 2014, had collaborated with CELA to have MUET benchmarked against the European framework to determine if the test matched the standards outlined in CEFR.

Upon completing the study, CELA was engaged to help and advise the MUET Test Syllabus and Specification Aligning Committee to ensure that the English test matched the European framework and would be accepted internationally.

CELA Research and International Development head Dr Hanan Khalifa said there were five stages an examination needed to go through to align it with CEFR.

“We’ve already done the first and second stage for MUET last year, whereby the first was familiarisation of CEFR and the second was where we looked into how reading, listening, speaking and writing are defined in the test,” she said.

“We are working on standardisation, as well as training and benchmarking by the middle of the year. And then, standard setting and validation by year-end.”

On the challenges for MUET to gain recognition as a global qualification like IELTS and TOEFL, she said: “There really isn’t a process and there is no one to give you a stamp.

“For example, IELTS have been around since 1979. But, it gained recognition around the world year-on-year. So, it takes time before an examination is recognised internationally.”

On how best Malaysia could leverage interest from other countries to implement MUET as an entry test, she said: “First, you need to show that the test is of excellent quality. MEC is working on that and we are helping them out.

“And, I think you need to run a campaign with the objective of creating awareness of what MUET is and the process that it has gone through for validation and alignment.

“MUET, or any exam that is considered high stakes, would need to undergo continuous improvements. So, we cannot say we have revised it and stop there. It has to continuously improve.

“But, that does not mean changing it every year. Usually, the revision cycle is eight to 10 years. You need to make sure that year-on-year, the results are using criterion references, are fair, valid and reliable. That’s what MEC needs to show year-on-year for MUET.”

Geraldine Anne Nathan with her plaque and certificate for Best student MUET 2017.

Mahdzir and Hanan had earleir attended the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) best schools and best students award ceremony in Putrajaya.

At the event, MEC chairman Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak received the MUET recognition certificate from Hanan and was witnessed by Mahdzir.

Three STPM students were recognised as best performers in MUET last year.

Among them was Geraldine Anne Nathan, a science stream student who did her Form 6 at Kolej Tingkatan Enam Sri Istana in Klang, Selangor. She scored Band 6 in the MUET 2017 July session.

Making the effort to speak in English with friends and family, going through exam revision books and sample essays, and doing exercises were among her key preparations for MUET, she said.

“For me, the most challenging part of MUET is Section A of writing, where a graph is given to be analysed and elaborated on. When we did this section in class, I always had the tendency to give my own opinion in my own words rather than use the facts presented in the graph. So, I had a little trouble with that bit. Before the exam, I went through my MUET books just for that section alone,” she shared.

The other two recipients are top scorers Thillak Sekaran of Kolej Matrikulasi Melaka in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, for the MUET 2017 March session and Wayne Ho Xiun Liang of SMK Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Gapor in Kuching, Sarawak, for the MUET 2017 November session. Thillak and Ho were not able to attend the ceremony.

Each of the MUET top scorers received a certificate, plaque and RM1,000 from MEC.

There are four components in MUET —listening, speaking, reading and writing — with a total aggregate score of 300. The scores are graded in six bands, with Band 6 being the highest and Band 1 the lowest.

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