Before applying for a place in university, it is important for prospective students to have the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) qualification.
Administered by the Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) three times a year, MUET is a test of English language proficiency, particularly for public tertiary institutions.
A prerequisite for those who wish to pursue their first degree, MUET results help determine the suitability of pre-university or diploma students for the programmes they are applying for.
MEC chief executive Mohd Fauzi Mohd Kassim said MUET helps institutions make better decisions about the readiness of prospective students for academic coursework, and about their ability to use and understand English in different contexts in higher education.
“MUET can also be used to measure the English proficiency of prospective employees in the workplace,” he said.
For university hopefuls, it is best to not underestimate the difficulty of some of the MUET exam papers. This is because there is quite a huge gap between the level of proficiency needed at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia level and the proficiency required at the MUET level.
MUET was first made a requirement for admission into all public universities in 2001.
In 2014, the government announced that all prospective students of public universities and private colleges/universities must achieve a minimum MUET band requirement upon entering and graduating according to their chosen courses.
“The MUET syllabus was done by experts of the English language and academicians who know what language skills students should possess before entering a specific course. It has undergone changes in its syllabus twice since it was introduced,” said Mohd Fauzi, adding that expert studies have shown that MUET is on par with other international English proficiency tests.
In fact, the MUET syllabus and test specifications aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) will be used starting from Session 1 of MUET in 2021.
“MUET results are valid for five years. Candidates can repeat the test as many times as they want, until they are satisfied with their results,” he added.
While MUET has been accepted for admissions into several universities in Singapore, there are efforts to take MUET into other countries like Indonesia.
“As our homegrown product, we want to empower MUET to a global scale, and at the same time make MUET the preferred English proficiency test for international students who intend to pursue their studies in Malaysia,” he said.
The key thing for candidates to digest about the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is that it is different from secondary school-level English examination papers as it tests whether a candidate’s English language proficiency is adequate for university studies.
Penang Matriculation College English language lecturer Mawarni Mustafa explains that the aim of MUET is to determine how well candidates can function in the language, at what level and for what purpose.
To do so, candidates will be tested on both the receptive and productive skills of the language — listening, reading, speaking and writing.
As such, she said, candidates should focus on improving all of their four skills of the language and understand the format of the four MUET papers.
“My advice to students as well as independent candidates is to get a hold of any current MUET textbook in the market and study the parts where they provide explanation on the question formats. That should give them ample knowledge on format. How well they perform in the test is mostly determined by how competent they are at using the language for listening, reading, speaking and writing,” she said.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
Listening and reading are often the most challenging for students sitting for MUET, said SMK Sri Serdang MUET teacher Dr Potchelvi Govindasamy.
“For the listening paper, students need to listen attentively and try to locate the main ideas from their listening text in order to answer questions. For the reading paper, students need to be knowledgeable about many areas, including technology, social issues, environment, medical discoveries and agriculture.
“Basically, students need to keep abreast with what’s happening in this world,” she said.
Her colleague, Lau Suok Leng, noted that the writing paper could be difficult for students who are less proficient and lack general knowledge.
“The ungrammatical sentences aside, they would merely state the points in general without elaborating. The lack of clarity makes their essays less informative and not conclusive.
“All these are graded for their task fulfilment and language usage. In order to perform better in writing, students need to read extensively. The newspaper is the best avenue to improve their knowledge,” she said.
Mawarni highlighted one common mistake students make in the writing section is not understanding the requirements of the essay question well.
“When that happens, there is the tendency not to fulfil all the requirements of the question. There is the risk of going off-tangent when they write the essay. This can cost them dearly as the essay part carries a significant portion of the marks,” she said.
SMK Bedong MUET teacher Suhana Abdul Jamal said that to boost the students’ confidence in speaking, she holds singing competitions, poetry recital and sharing sessions during class.
“All these help as many of them are not willing to speak in English. After a few activities, they will warm up to the idea of speaking in public and this helps them to do well in the speaking section of the paper,” she said.
Suhana agrees that students would do well to read a lot if they want to score in Muet.
“Common mistakes include using the wrong tenses, spelling and word choices. Recently, I have had candidates who use the social media style of writing in their essays, for example, writing “u” instead of “you”.
“During the speaking test, candidates often fail to score because they do not stick to what was given and discuss other things. Many candidates also have a hard time trying to come up with the right words to use when presenting their views. Again, one’s proficiency level is crucial to perform well in MUET,” she said.
On top of paying attention in MUET classes for those in Form Six, Muizzudin Mazly, 21, believes the best way to prepare for MUET is practice.
“For those who are about to take their MUET exams, go throught the past exam papers. Read as many English books as you can, either fiction or non-fiction, to increase your vocabulary. Practise speaking English with friends to boost your confidence in speaking or writing in English,” said the computer science student at Universiti Teknologi MARA, who obtained Band 4 for MUET.
Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) school-leaver Jagjeevan SIngh, 19, said MUET candidates need to step up their proficiency in speaking, writing, listening and reading skills.
“MUET sets a higher bar. For me, reading is the most challenging part of MUET. But it carries a higher percentage score. I overcome it by doing exercises and reading English language books,” said the MUET Band 4 university hopeful.
Jagjeevan shared there are many ways to score in MUET.
“In my opinion, to do well, you must first speak, write, listen and read regularly in English. A student must constantly practise all four components of the test for a better score,” he said.
MUET Band 5 achiever Farah Maria Mohamed Napi, 19, said looking up listening exercises on the Internet to practise was among the initiatives she took considering she did not have formal MUET classes during her foundation studies at UiTM Dengkil campus.
“As for the other parts of MUET, I relied on the MUET exercise book. I did the exercises and referred to the answers for comparison,” said the Universiti Malaya Media Studies undergraduate.
Asked what she found “most challenging”, Farah Maria highlighted writing and speaking.
“I was not familiar with the essays we were supposed to write. Speaking scared me as I was afraid I would not have enough valid points. I just did more exercises for writing and speaking and timed myself to make sure I took the right amount of time for the actual test,” she said.
Amal Sorkapli, 20, an independent MUET candidate who scored Band 4, said watching “a lot of videos on how English-speaking people speak” helps tremendously.
“Test-wise, the reading section is be the most difficult — not in terms of how hard it was but how tricky it was. Most of the answer options were also painfully similar, so you had to read and understand them well. I think the most common mistake MUET candidates make during the exam is that they don’t read the texts thoroughly. The texts for MUET are not to be scanned but read properly and thoroughly,” said the Bachelor of Arts (English) student.
On tips, Amal said students must “practise, practise and prastice”.
“Practice goes a long way,” she added.