HOW sharp are you with basic English comprehension skills?
Imagine you are sitting in a busy room facing a three-hour exam on listening, reading and writing knowing that if you fail you may have to leave home. That’s the scenario facing foreign workers who want to stay in Australia.
Six Chinese slaughtermen at Warrnambool’s Midfield abattoir who failed the test are facing deportation, but questions have been asked about the suitability of the tough language testing standards for manual skills applicants.
The Standard obtained a sample of test questions used in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and put it to a sample audience of born Aussies to guage the reaction. Their decription of the questions ranged from “complicated”, “interesting” and “difficult” to “I can’t do that”.
Many questions included multiple choices to test comprehension of texts. For example, there’s a detailed description of robots in a newspaper printing centre followed by a list of possible headings for paragraph blocks
Another scenario is an essay about extraction and using coal being bad for the environment. One question is “current research aims to increase the energy-producing efficiency of coal by; A: burning it at a lower temperature; B: developing new gasification techniques; C: extracting CO2 from it; D: recycling greenhouse gases.”
Another question looks at an advertisement on a product recall on spicy chicken curry. The student is asked to analyse the words to find the fault, batch number, refund amount, contact person and reward offered.
The speaking component includes general questions about home, family, work or interests, as well as discussing abstract ideas.