MUET: A (failed) Love Story

31 Dec by Picholas Phoa

MUET: A (failed) Love Story

If you have gone through the lists of university courses and their requirements, I am sure you have seen the abbreviation “MUET” mentioned several times. It is often thrown around when you discuss higher education. But what is MUET? Is it compulsory? Is my SPM result not enough?

Let’s dive into the world of MUET and learn more about it today with Vincent Tee. Vincent is a 24-year-old Johorean, recently graduated with USM medical degree, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Internal Medicine. He scored Band 6 (highest proficiency) in MUET in the year 2015, which is the top 3% in Malaysia!

Q: Hello Vincent, how are you today? Are you ready to share your experience with the MUET examination?

A: I’m good, thanks for asking. Yes, definitely.

Q: Great. So firstly, can you tell us what is MUET?

A: MUET stands for Malaysian University English Test, it is a language proficiency test for the English language administered and supervised by the Malaysian Examination Council (MEC). This test is compulsory for you to apply for your first degree programme at a local university.

In other words, it’s a general requirement for those who wanted to apply to a local university. For instance, medical schools in local universities require one to have at least Band 3 and above for MUET. The exam is typically done during your STPM, matriculation, foundation, or diploma.

Q: Can you share your experience with the MUET examination?

A: I took mine during my first semester in matriculation Kelantan (KMKt). After finishing my exam, I was very confident that I can secure at least a Band 5. Then, one of my friends asked me to register for another attempt in march. She was not satisfied with her performance and wanted someone to accompany her for a second attempt. I agreed to re-sit the paper (mainly because I had a major crush on her at that time).

Eventually, when the results were announced, I ended up getting Band 4, and I was 5 marks away from Band 5. I cried after receiving my results. I was determined to take the exam one more time with my friend.  I went to see my lecturer and borrowed all her MUET reference books. I start going through and spamming all the exercises.

I also referred to some online blogs on tips to score for MUET (which I previously didn’t). I analysed and came up with strategies to tackle each component (MUET is divided into 4 components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and their respective questions. Eventually, my hard work paid off, I scored Band 6 on my second attempt.

Q: That was a rollercoaster ride! I think that was a great description of the proverb “if at first, you don’t success, try, try, try again”. But what happened to your crush?

A: Let’s not talk about that.

Q:  Oh okay. What would you say is the key to your success in MUET?

A: Different people have a different approach to studying MUET. Here is mine:

1. Constant effort

Constant effort is the key. Preparing for an exam is like a marathon: you cannot sprint and full blast on the preparation, but being consistent will help you in the long run.

By this, I meant to say that learning a language is more than just reading textbooks. Language has to be spoken, read, listened to, and wrote frequently. I advise you to watch English TV series or podcasts for you to get used to listening to spoken English. Read online articles in English and try to understand the content the best that you could. Whereas for writing, you can start as simple as posting captions on social media using the English language. Allow yourself to make mistakes, accept feedback, and learn from them.

2. Practice, practice, practice

As I mentioned before, I kept on doing exercises from various MUET reference books. In my opinion, MUET is a very technical paper, therefore doing exercises can help you to familiarise the format and the common questions asked. Through this method, the MUET exam should be a breeze as you have already known the flow very well. It’s a matter of how well you devise your plan to prepare yourself for the exam.

For example, set your timer and try to complete the components within the time limit to simulate an examination environment. Time management is vital to ensure a more successful outcome. You need to be able to answer all questions, check, and re-check your answers again.

A common misconception is “I am an English speaker, therefore I can score well”. Well, yes you can score well, but it does not guarantee you a high score. In the end, MUET is a technical paper with specific formats that you have to follow. Practice helps but you have to practice with the right technique. It is like playing a game, you can play 1000 games continuously, but if you don’t have the right techniques you cannot improve. Learn the proper techniques and strategise before tackling the exam.

3. Set realistic goals

Set realistic goals for yourself. Ask yourself: what should I accomplish within this 1 hour? What should I finish by this week? Make sure it is realistic and something you can achieve. Don’t set your expectations too high, because it will only demotivate you if you fail to achieve. For me, I set the number of exercises to complete within a week. I also assess my answers and see whether I have improved from previous exercises.

As for the results, another common myth, especially among the aspiring medical students, is that you have to score at least Band 5 to enter medical school. The truth is, yes it will give you an advantage, but as long as you meet the requirement of minimum Band 3, don’t be discouraged to apply. However, if you wanted to score better in MUET, you can either appeal for your result (with a sum of fee), or retake the exam as I did.

Q: In your opinion, why do you think it is important to score well in MUET and to master the English language?

A: MUET is important as it is one of the requirements to apply for your first degree programme. All courses have their specific minimum requirement to achieve to secure a spot. For example, a law degree and TESL may require higher requirements (Band 4) since these courses require frequent utilisation of English in study and workplace, whereas the majority of other programmes require a minimum of Band 2 and Band 3.

Furthermore, English is important in terms of communication, not just with your circle of friends, lecturers, and employers as well. Poor English proficiency can lead to communication breakdown, misunderstanding, and bad impressions.

Besides, most university assignments, presentations, and job interviews are conducted in English. I have friends who are anxious every time they need to present in front of an audience because of their lack of confidence in English speaking. But fret not, it is never too late to learn English.

Q: That is very true. Any other advice from you?

A: Listen and respect your teachers. MUET classes may seem tedious and unnecessary when entering matriculation (or STPM/foundation/diploma), and you might think you can get away with doing Physics homework in class, but karma hits you hard, I learned my lesson!

Q: Thank you, Vincent.

A: You’re welcome!