Case study

The use of TOEIC® and TOEFL®iBT tests at Notre Dame de Chartres High School

Situated in the heart of the city, Notre Dame de Chartres High School stands as a testament to the pursuit of linguistic excellence. Numerous newspaper articles have highlighted the success rates in both TOEIC® and TOEFL®iBT tests taken by Notre Dame de Chartres students.  This institution has earned a certification for its international outlook (label “Ouverture international”). Hence, students from middle school to post-baccalaureate levels, including BTS programs, are encouraged to take renowned certifications such as TOEIC® and TOEFL® iBT  in order to pursue studies and careers in France or internationally.

Two exceptional teachers join forces to teach the TOEFL iBT and TOEIC tests

Professor Saloua Fazai is the driving force behind the English language programs for first-year and final-year students, and she has introduced a heightened focus on English proficiency, particularly for European classes (a selective program designed for middle-school and high school students to master certain European languages).

Her objective is to further reinforce the value of English language education in the curriculum. To achieve this goal, her students have been diligently prepared for the TOEFL iBT test for the past eight years, showcasing Professor Fazai’s commitment to providing a comprehensive English proficiency program for the students at Notre Dame de Chartres High School.

Professor Misun Park is a passionate educator engaged in higher education for the BTS (Advanced Technician’s Certificate). She is passionate about her role in objectively assessing students' English levels and providing targeted support. The TOEIC test is not compulsory for her students, but Professor Park chooses to teach it so that students can understand the importance of professional English and be prepared to take the TOEIC Listening and Reading test in their future schools.

Mrs. Park candidly admits that eight years ago, understanding the usefulness of the TOEIC was challenging and students didn’t  always see the need to attend these training programs. Students who came from a technical background (Baccalauréat Professionel) seemed to see little use for the English language, but now, they have come to appreciate just how integral it can be to a successful career.

Increasing interest for TOEFL and TOEIC tests

The academic landscape has evolved in the past few years and the students’ interest for the tests has followed suit.

The primary emphasis started with TOEIC test preparation, with registered students steadily increasing year on year. This year, for instance, the entire class has participated in the TOEIC training programs. Students have understood the importance of these tests in securing better jobs and professional prospects in the future.

Ms. Fazai declares: “Students applying on the Parcoursup platform for instance, will find that the TOEIC Listening and Reading test is an admission criterion for many elite business schools and universities.

Currently all the results she receives are at a C1 level, a noteworthy achievement that underscores the success of the English language programs at Notre Dame de Chartres high school.

More recently, the school has acknowledged the increasing significance of the TOEFL iBT test as well. The number of students registered in the TOEFL programs has tripled,  with the majority of students taking the test being most interested in the allure of international academic exchange programs.  

“They do this because they are personally motivated, enjoy a challenge and wish to acquire vocabulary from the professional and academic spheres”, adds Ms. Fazai.

Some students take both tests!

At the start of each academic year, students are presented with both testing options, allowing them to tailor their language proficiency journey based on their individual choices. The school organizes intensive TOEIC and TOEFL training programs during the holidays for interested students. Students appreciate the internal training programs organized by their own teachers. They feel more confident and at ease, being able to create their own learning path and learning at their own pace.

With aspirations to pursue studies in prestigious institutions, many students recognize the necessity of the TOEIC and the TOEFL iBT tests, thus explaining the growing number of students willing to take the two tests. They do this because they are personally motivated, enjoy a challenge, and wish to acquire vocabulary from the professional and academic spheres.

Mrs. Fazai and Park, professors at Notre Dame High School

Methodology and Resources in the training programs

In order to prepare her students to succeed in all the four sections of the TOEFL iBT test, Professor Fazai first does a needs analysis of the students. She tries to understand which skill is easily perfectible and which skill is more of a challenge. With this targeted methodology, she can incorporate the appropriate resources to help her students.

Ms. Fazai mainly uses the Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT Test book in her training program and she is convinced that the book is an excellent resource, serving not only for in-class training but also for homework assignments dedicated to TOEFL preparation.

Ms. Park highlights her methodology for honing language skills required for success in the TOEIC test. This includes explaining the exam format and purpose, providing samples for written comprehension, and tailoring training based on individual strengths and weaknesses. Her TOEIC training curriculum incorporates a substantial business English vocabulary foundation, complemented by examples of practice tests of varying durations.

Towards the end of the training program, students undertake at least four two-hour tests, developing not only language skills but also crucial time management abilities. Moreover, the school's status as a designated examination center for TOEIC provides reassurance to both students and parents who can thus avoid the stress of travelling to a different location to take the test.

Skills needed beyond test preparation

Both teachers agree that students need to develop additional skills such as note-taking and time management, in order to succed on the TOEIC or TOEFL iBT tests. Teachers explain to their students why note-taking for the TOEFL iBT test is effective. The primary challenge identified is timing, with students occasionally struggling to complete all questions within the allocated time. This becomes a focal point for improvement, emphasizing the need for coaching and motivation, especially for students who may encounter frustration after the initial mock tests. The teachers also encourage students to think beyond mere language proficiency and to recognize transversal competencies such as concentration and analysis.

The teachers also encourage students to think beyond mere language proficiency and to recognize transversal competencies such as concentration and analysis.

The two professors also add: “After they have taken the tests, we organize a graduation ceremony in order to congratulate the students, who feel valued and proud of the work they have undertaken in class and the final results of their TOEIC and TOEFL tests.”

Institutional challenges and advice to overcome them

Like many of their colleagues, Ms. Park and Ms. Fazai have encountered many challenges in the smooth functioning of their language training programs and convincing their institutions to launch more English language projects. Challenges in resource availability, including dedicated training rooms, time slots, and computers, can hamper the rhythm of the training programs. Both teachers have to pay attention to organizational obstacles like scheduling exams and accommodating student availability.

For their fellow colleagues facing similar institutional challenges, Ms. Park and Ms. Fazai encourage them to stay focused on their teaching plans and to map out all the activities they wish to pursue in the academic year. Teachers should offer statistics and documented results in order to showcase why the school should allot more hours for such linguistic projects. It is important to show student satisfaction which is  a key argument to help persuade schools to engage in more language activities.

The collaboration between Ms. Fazai and Ms. Park exemplifies a holistic approach to English language education, preparing students not only for exams but for success on the international stage. Through their efforts, Notre Dame de Chartres High School stands as a beacon of linguistic excellence, molding students for success in a globalized world.