TOEIC Suspended in the UK After Scam

The UK government has suspended all TOEIC testing in the UK after a TV investigation showed how the system was riddled with fraud with fake sitters taking the test on behalf of English language students.

The investigation by Panorama (a respected BBC investigative program) uncovered how immigrants to the UK were able to buy a pass in the TOEIC test which they could then use to get a visa to stay in the UK.

One immigration company in London – Student way Education – charged £500 ($786 USD, €622) for a guaranteed pass promised even if the applicant spoke no English at all.

The director of the school, Varinder Bajarh said, “Someone else will sit the exam for you. But you will have to have your photo taken there to prove you were present.”

The “immigrant” (actually an undercover reporter) was then sent to Eden College International which was a government registered and approved test center for TOEIC and also accredited by the British Council among others.

Once the exam started an expert English speaker took the place of the “immigrant” and answered the written and oral parts of the exam. Finally the “immigrant” returned to the terminal to have their photo taken to “prove” it was they who had taken the exam.

Later the “immigrant” took the multiple-choice part of the test. When they did this an invigilator simply read out the correct answers for them, completing the 2-hour test in just a few minutes.

A few days later the “immigrant” received a certificate from TOEIC with an excellent pass.

After the scandal was exposed on the BBC, the UK government stopped all TOEIC with immediate effect whilst it looks into the way in which these (and other) tests are run and how immigrants should have their English language skills assessed for their visas.

The Players

Studentway Education – accused of involvement in the scam. Their website claims they are “a reputed and esteemed highly ranked consultancy firm located in London” but it also contains a great deal of poor English. They still advertise their involvement in IELTS but not TOEIC.

Eden College International – they strenuously deny any involvement in the scam. They still advertise their involvement in IELTS but not TOEIC.

TOEIC is run by ETS who set the exam but who do not provide invigilators. On their website they simply say, “The UK Home Office has requested ETS to suspend TOEIC® and TOEFL® testing temporarily in the UK related to immigration purposes.” They offer a refund for anyone who has the test booked.

Panorama – an investigative program on the BBC in the UK.

Useful Links

TOEIC – an introduction to the exam

IELTS – a similar exam; there was a major scandal in Australia along similar lines some years ago

IELTS Scores withheld in China – another case of misconduct

Posted in Blog, Qualifications for Students.

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