English "for business or workplace" purposes brings to mind a world of cubicles, suits, and meetings of the board. And certainly TOEIC testing is prevalent in such environments.
However, I've been noticing a pattern in recent ETS news releases. Increasingly sporting events, cultural festivals, and other activities focused on large-scale public amusement are also using the TOEIC tests.
And perhaps more unexpectedly, the event sponsors are using TOEIC not with employees (who as tourism professionals have likely been already tested individually at the hiring stage) but to screen potential volunteers.
A few of the recent and upcoming activities using the tests for large-scale assessment of volunteers include—
It makes sense. You can imagine the flood of applications that come in for the chance to volunteer at an exciting event like these. And English is one of the most crucial skills these volunteers will need. Even if the event itself is being conducted in another language, if attendees are pouring in from worldwide, English provides the best chance of being understood when no native tongue is held in common.
Screening with TOEIC, event sponsors can be confident that volunteers are capable of understanding and communicating about whatever unexpected crisis may occur, from an athlete's misplaced badge to a lost child or medical emergency.
Because TOEIC tests are focused on everyday international English comprehension, they are more appropriate for these events than the typical English test focused on academic skills and contexts. TOEIC tests' readily interpretable Can-Do tables also allow event officials to not only screen out potential volunteers who do not have enough English to participate at all, but also to assign those volunteers who are accepted to the positions most appropriate for their individual English levels.
Yes, TOEIC tests assess "workplace English." But the English they assess is also what is needed to ensure people seeking fun and leisure avoid the hassles of a communication breakdown.
—Lia Nigro, TOEIC USA Team