On March 11th, 2015 MOET approved using VSTEP format as Vietnamese Standardized Test of English Proficiency. According to this decision, since May 2015, VSTEP has been officially organized to evaluate English proficiency from level 3 to 5 in the 6-level foreign language proficiency framework for Vietnamese. To test English Proficiency, VSTEP includes 4 parts equivalent to 4 skills: listening (35 questions in 40 minutes) reading (40 questions in 60 minutes), writing (2 tasks in 60 minutes) and speaking (3 parts in 12 minutes). Although it has been applied and held 6 times a year for more than one year, VSTEP has not gained much popularity among college students.
In order to investigate the popularity of VSTEP, interview sessions and a combination of online along with offline survey have been conducted. Basing on answers of 223 students who filled in the online research form, there are two result groups. The first group includes the majority of students having no ideas about what VSTEP is and the other is a group of students who have known little or just heard of the exam. As a result, VSTEP still remains unknown among students.
Students Interview Session
Take Nam, a student from Electric Power University – one of 21.1 % Hanoi students having already known VSTEP, as an example. When being asked for VSTEP – related information, he still wondered hazily about “what the exam format is, how it is assessed, and whether it can assess test-takers’ competence”. Even though VSTEP is officially organised in ULIS-VNU, a large number of students from surrounding universities like Vietnam University of Commerce or Electric Power University are not aware of VSTEP in details.
However, one addressed simple question is how many of these learners are aware of the whole exam’s specification or they just know its name like what Chi, a student of Vietnam University of Commerce, answered in the interview.
As Ms. Nguyen Thi Quynh Yen – Vice-Director of Center for Language Testing and Assessment mentioned, the reason hindering the popularity of VSTEP is that each school has different policies in the English standardized outcome. Besides, other standardized exams like TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS have gained their reputation for many years; hence, VSTEP, as a new exam, cannot gain its popularity quickly.
Vice-director Interview Session
According to Ms. Yen, there are some current measures being put into action to promote VSTEP. This test has been advertised via Facebook, posters, leaflets and banners to the colleges, universities and partners who need information about that kind of assessment. Moreover, meeting sessions between ULIS and partners are also ideal places to introduce and foster the popularity of VSTEP. Furthermore, the center has already advertised for VSTEP via VNU’s official website and also designed a website for VSTEP itself (http://vstep.vnu.edu.vn/) to help students access more effortlessly to the test information and answer all related questions about the test. In short – term plan, the official center in VNU and others will still focus on these methods to promote for VSTEP. “In the near future, VNU plan to come to other universities in Hanoi and in the North of Vietnam to introduce VSTEP with the hope that VSTEP will be more popular to students in other universities.” said Ms. Yen.
It could be witnessed that the current recognition of VSTEP continues being fostered by diverse ways in spite of manifold challenges. With the effort of ULIS in general and Center for Language Testing and Assessment in particular, VSTEP has high hopes on being known widely among Vietnamese in the forthcoming period of time.
By Thanh Trang – Van Thanh – Thao Anh – Thi Phuong – Thi Oanh