[Campus Commentary]Too many books for one English test

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[Campus Commentary]Too many books for one English test

I just went through some confusing moments recently at a bookstore, “shopping” for books.
I had never thought of a bookstore as a place where one shopped. The word sounds inappropriate because I usually go knowing exactly what materials I want for my engineering studies or even for pleasure-reading. It’s usually the contents of books that people compare, not the colors or designs of book covers.
But to accurately describe what I was doing at the bookstore that day, the word shopping is needed.
My mission was to choose the best book to help me prepare for the Toeic. But standing in front of a gazillion different versions of test prep books with different covers, I was dumbfounded. I just needed a single workbook, but before me were books in diverse bright colors, textures and lengths, emblazoned with come-ons such as, “Study me and you’ll get a perfect score,” and “You can do it if you study this book.”
To me, they read more like, “Buy me; I am the book you want.”
Anyone who has ever visited the Toeic section of a bookstore would understand. Most of the time, the shelves are not big enough to hold all of the Toeic selections a bookstore wants to sell.
So the workbooks are spread on giant tables like displays of apparel on sale in department stores. So you find yourself digging through piles to find the right book.
Leafing through a few books ― one with a black cover, another yellow and another red ― I was surprised to find a lot of the contents overlapped with each other.
What is the point of buying several of them unless what you want is the satisfaction of owning books in various colors?
So my last choice was one with a white cover. It was the least expensive at 13,000 won ($14). Others with fancy designs easily cost more than 25,000 won.
As I walked home with the white book, I wondered how many of these books other students usually bought to prepare for the English test we consider so important getting a job. Although some may think it is a waste of money to purchase these, it can also be the only way to prepare for the test and raise our Toeic scores.
An interesting survey, however, came out earlier this month, showing that 77 percent of college students believed their English ability was hardly reflected in their Toeic scores.
The online education portal site Eduspa and the employment portal Job Study jointly conducted this survey. More than 400 students were asked whether they thought a person with high Toeic scores could speak and write English fluently. Only 23 percent said they thought so.
If it is true that receiving a high Toeic score is also crucial for an engineering major like me, I will have to get over my doubts about the colorful covers and buy more prep books to study.
Recently, the news carried a story that the Korean government had announced it is planning to come up with its own standardized English test to replace the Toeic or Toefl.
I hope this test will better reflect students’ English skills.
And when workbooks come out for this test, I hope we do not have to shop around.
We want a book to help us study English, period.

*The writer is studying mechanical engineering at Kyung Hee University.

by Lee Hee-kyung
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