STEP Eiken 4-kyu, 5-kyu Speaking Test from June 2016

Where are they going to find the interview testers???

I just read this press release/informational pamphlet on the STEP Eiken website (thanks for the tip, Mary!)

From June this year (ie the 2016-1 session of the STEP Eiken test) 5-kyu and 4-kyu will have a speaking test.

At first I was extremely surprised and wondered where they were going to find the interviewers to cope with these thousands of additional test, but then I read the content.

The new speaking tests will be online, can be done at any time, and will not affect whether students pass or fail the main STEP Eiken test. Instead students will receive an additional pass/fail certificate for the speaking test. I believe from the write-up that students will record their spoken answers and submit them via a website. Presumably Eiken will mark them using software, so it will be important to stick to the prescribed answer formats.

I’m guessing they will get those two annoying voice actors to do the audio (who is that woman, by the way? Sendai Cityย got her to do the new subway line safety announcements, so now I have to listen to her every day rather than just for a couple of months a year…).

This is the content of the 4-kyu test.

eiken 4 new speaking test

And here is the 5-kyu.

eiken 5 new speaking test

As you can see (click on the graphics to make them bigger or just look at the original eiken version), they are both kind of watered down versions of the 3-kyu speaking test. Don’t know how they are going to guarantee the reliability of the test if students can take it at home with their parents or at school with their teachers, but I guess the stakes aren’t very high here and that’s why they decided to have it run parallel to (instead of be a part of) the paper test.

It’s probably a positive development and hopefully will put more emphasis on speaking skills for junior high school students. I don’t like that students have to read to answer the questions. It would be better to have them exclusively based on pictures and audio like the Cambridge YLE tests, but such is eiken ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you think about the new speaking tests?

Sponsoring a Teacher Visa in Japan Part 2

Wait, that was it?

approved stamp

As Trevor rightly pointed out in Part 1, applying for a visa as an English teacher doesn’t really involve sponsorship, but I wanted to keep the title the same for the second post. More accurately we could describe the process as ‘supplying the necessary documents to prove a viable job offer to a teacher applying for a Specialist in Humanities visa’.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I went to the immigration office with our prospective new teacher (not necessary, we just wanted someone there from the school in case there were any problems with the paperwork). We took the following paperwork with us:

From the school:

  1. copy of the school’s tax return (as it is a personal business)
  2. copy of the pamphlet
  3. explanation of the school
  4. copy of the teacher’s contract
  5. <we missed something>

From the teacher:

  1. passport
  2. zairyu card
  3. photos
  4. revenue stamps
  5. application form
  6. resume

We went straight to reception and talked to a very pleasant lady who checked our documents and gave us a number. After about half an hour a case officer called us up. She was unsmiling and serious until she looked at our application, then she relaxed and started smiling. I took that as a good sign.

First of all she said we were applying very early (six weeks before our new teacher’s current visa runs out) to which we replied of course that we wanted to make sure we could deal with any problems in good time.

It turns out we had forgotten to fill in the 3rd-4th pages of the application form (the school has to fill this in and stamp it), and the case officer also wanted a copy of our teacher’s current employment certificate (jirei). We could send both documents by post within the following couple of weeks. Then she said we could go.

And that was it. Very painless, even with us having messed up the paperwork.

Last week our teacher emailed me saying the notification postcard had arrived, and the visa could be collected on the first working day of August. A huge relief and a big milestone for our school: first teacher visa enabled!

Please post any questions or anecdotes in the comments below.

27 Mar 2014, 4:15pm

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A huge thank you to the teachers and staff at LIA. Your enthusiasm, friendliness, and warm welcome made this week very easy for me.

Hope to see you again soon!

19 Feb 2014, 2:43pm


Good news and bad news

good news

Well, the good news is that I have control of this website back after the technical problems that took it down last week.

The bad news is that I am going on a trip next week and will be off-line for a couple of weeks.

Coverage will resume in mid-March. Hope to see you then ๐Ÿ™‚

Update Frequency Poll Results

poll results

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the update frequency poll this week. The results were fairly conclusive:

Every day 0 0%
Five times a week 0 0%
Three times a week 2 17%
Twice a week 4 33%
Once a week 2 17%
Other 4 33%

The ‘other’ responses were basically ‘whenever you like’, ‘weekly or fortnightly’, and ‘when you have something to say’ ๐Ÿ™‚

I am going to move to a twice a week schedule with the blog, attempting to write something meaningful on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Wish me luck!

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