This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
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Online Thai language proficiency tests…
Testing your Thai language proficiency is a delicate process and most likely one would need to pay hefty fees to registered language institutes to get something really official going on. There are however, websites where you can get practice rounds! One of these will be covered in this little write-up of mine that Catherine asked me to do. Is it useful? Does it carry any value whatsoever? Are these tests a good way to actually measure ones proficiency? Read on and find out!
So here is the story; Catherine (WLT) asked me to review a particular website, and you know, she made a fair point. A lot of Farangs are able to converse at a pretty high level with Thais and a lot of those are in the precious Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook group. But how well would they perform on an actual proficiency test? I consider myself not too proficient in Thai. Sure, I can hold conversations pretty well, I can read a novel or two in one and a half hours, I understand a lot of spoken Thai, and maybe, just maybe, when speaking Thai I can fool someone if the conversation doesn’t drag out for too long. But I have no idea if I am really proficient in using the Thai language, or not. I’m sure there is a lot more to it, and we are going to find out just how well I rank on a Thai language test.
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Okay so first things first. The website I am going to use for the biggest part of this review can be found at TruePlookpanya. There are literally pages and pages of online tests that can be done. All tests are timed, and at the end of the ride a score is calculated based on how well you performed.
The nice thing is that most of these tests – if not all of them – are as Thai as humanly possible. They are made by Thais in Thailand and made for Thai people as per design. This high level of Thainess also means that a measly 55% score will be enough to, you know, pass the test. Yes, you read that right! I actually heard somewhere that most Thais would score 50%-60% on official language proficiency tests (so no mere website) at school, so that takes away a heavy burden from my (and your!) shoulders to do “well”!
So on to the actual testing: We’ll start off easy. I brushed off my shoulders, took a sip from a glass of water (early morning so beer was not an option) and started the first test: ข้อใดผิด.
Which of the following is wrong? Basically you are given two words and you have to find which of the two are spelled incorrectly. I had to go with my gut feeling with a lot of these questions, but in the end I scored 50%. I redid the test and let my wife do it as well. She also scored 50%… Is something wrong here? So I went and checked thai2english.com and carefully noted down the correct answers and redid it just to be sure. Again, 50%… Oh wait a second!! A timer is being set off as soon as you start, right? So probably I had to do this as fast as possible. I retried, doing the test again as fast as I could. I was literally sitting there, clicking the mouse like a trained monkey, only to end up with 50% yet again! What on earth…? Then it finally struck me. The first half of the questions asked which of the following were WRONG and in the second half it was reversed, asking which of the answers were CORRECT! Being too hasty from our end rated us each 50%. So I redid it and scored 100%! Bingo bango! But in my opinion you can’t just change the rules like that, even though one could argue that I should just learn to read better! On to the next test!
The second one was called: การรักษาวาจามารยาท. Now that sounds interesting! So here we go again. I am now warned though! I knew I had to read the questions carefully because they try to trick you just like they did back in high school (which seemed like an eternity ago). The questions for this test are a tad harder and I really had to read them carefully in order to fully understand what was going on.
I scored 100% but I have no idea how I managed to pull it off. I bet it has something to do with the fact that there were just five questions and I had to guess some of the questions to get the correct answers. This guessing game also reminds me of high school, where sometimes you guessed and got lucky and other times you hit the brick wall hard and had to redo the test. I felt less confident doing this test than the previous one even though I passed it in one go with maximum score, but to be frank, it was a 50/50 situation I think. Two of the five questions I didn’t really get at all and I just clicked the answer that looked the best in my eyes or made the most sense. Just like I did when I was a 15 year old doing a multiple choice test in the French language. And let me tell you, my French is rock-bottom. This guessing phenomenon will be happening a lot as we see later on… and not only the Farangs are participating in the guessing game. A lot of Thais had to guess for their answers as well! Makes one wonder…
This brings me to the following point. None of these tests are actually meaningful because just about everyone can gamble their way to certain glory. When I was doing these kind of tests at high school I could pass, sure, but this wouldn’t tell me or the teacher anything in regards of my actual proficiency level of the language being tested. Sometimes I didn’t even get the question and chose the correct answer because I guessed right. This is about as meaningful as a Thai saying that you are เก่งมาก for that matter. Still, I do think these tests have their place. I think these tests are useful to learn and practice Thai but they won’t tell you anything about your Thai language proficiency. At this point in time, I suggest that you use them for training only, not to measure your level.
Here is one more test I did:
You have to find the correct classifier for the noun that is being given. That sounds easy! Thank god I knew all these words and scored 100%. With this test I was pretty confident but all tests are for the ป2 level, which are kids play, obviously. I would really have to move to some of the harder tests to see how bad I actually am in this Thai language thing, so I decided to ไปตายเอาดาบหน้า for this one and clicked page five and chose a random test.
Oh boy, here we go with THPB511325 การเขียนเรียงความ!
This is where it’s at. Let’s do this! Well, as I opened up the test and read the first question I noticed right off the bat this was really a lot harder and you really need a good grasp of words used in the grammar aspect of Thai language learning. I also noticed that this test doesn’t measure your Thai language proficiency. It won’t show you how well you understand the Thai language or how well you are able to converse in the Thai language at all. Basically, it is all theory. Well here you have it; 60% is my score!
It really got me thinking though. How well would my wife do for this one? How well would a real Thai native score for this test? It was just five questions and my wife is quite the impatient type but five questions wouldn’t scare her off right? So I asked my wife and took other Thai people along with her into the deep dark depths of Online Thai Language Testing! In total I asked around 10 Thai people from different environments to do this test. I asked bargirls to university graduates. I think I got ‘em all covered! I also asked if they had to guess for some of the answers or not. Then I asked a couple of Farangs who I know are great performers when it comes to Thai Language. Because of the fact I don’t want to cause any fuzz and because I like the statistics more than the individual naming and shaming of persons, I kept the results anonymous. But let me tell you that all of the Farangs I asked did not disappoint!
Here the results from 10 Thai persons, all from totally different environments.
2 people got 100%
5 people got 80%
1 person got 60%
2 people got 40%
Most of the participants had to guess for some of the answers. I then passed the ball to a couple of Farangs to do the same. While it was a fun experiment I think in the grand scheme of things the data received is not that valuable and won’t provide valuable insight. A native speaker scoring 40% on a test and me as a total beginner scoring 60% really begs the question. I guess I was just better at the guessing game (if that makes any sense).
Okay, so after checking the website I took some time checking Google for more “Thai Language Proficiency Tests” and checked the links. The first link brought me to learnspeakingthailanguage.org and it had basic background information and a lot of dead links. Apparently one of the closest things to an official Thai language proficiency test has been created for Japanese people, so unless you are Japanese or any good at the Japanese language, this is not the right place to start. The second link brought me to Thai Visa, but ugh. After a short while of skimming through that I ended up in Google again where I found this one: Chulalongkorn University Proficiency Test of Thai as a Foreign Language.
This test is a paid version, and is probably a lot more official than the website I reviewed previously. It ends up at 3000 baht for the ENTIRE Thai proficiency test but I haven’t taken it. Yet. If someone has any experience or is willing to take it, go ahead and let us know how it went. I think it looks a bit more promising than the website I reviewed. I also found a link with details of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam. The data derives from 2009 though so I don’t know how actual it is. It even tells us about the dresscode though and how many but questions in how many minutes you have to answer. I think it is worth a read. Check it out: Anatomy of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam.
To conclude: So there are a lot of language tests online and it would be impossible to do them all for this review. But I urge you to go through these for fun and giggles, just to check how well you perform! You really have to get used to the weird way they ask questions, and for most people going from ป1 to ป3 shouldn’t be that big of a hassle. Remember, you just need 50% to pass the tests!
On the flipside: I don’t attach too much value to most of the scores because even native speakers needed to guess for some of the answers. You win some you lose some. Also, none of these tests actually measure how well one would perform in real life conversations, or how well you actually speak! I would recommend using these tests for fun and practice, but basically the scores carry as much value as a Thai who will tell you that you พูดไทยเก่งมาก. My advice is to use them for study but not for measuring your language skills.
Again, there are paid websites where you can pay some fees and get a test going, but I don’t know how much bang for the buck they are as I haven’t tested myself. Just to keep you going here, is a list of all the language proficiency test sites I found in a short time googling. Just go out there, test your might, and use your own powers for good! Good luck guys and gals!