September 10, 2004 – CAT training

Today I went to NOVA’s Shinjuku head office for CAT training. CAT is NOVA’s level check system. I assume that CAT stands for something like “conversation ability test”, but with this company it could be anything.

NOVA divides students into different levels of ability, with 7 being the lowest level and 2 being the highest. There is no level 1 for some reason. Nobody really knows why, but the most common reason I have heard is that level 1 is equivalent to a native English speaker. Also, there are three divisions in level 7; 7C, 7B and 7A.

CAT is used when a new student joins NOVA, or when an existing student has been recommended for a level up. The training is used to make sure that level classification is consistent across different NOVA branches. During training we listen to examples of students of different abilities, and follow through the level assessment decision tree.

The system is actually pretty interesting. For a new student, you start with a brief conversation. Based on how they do, the next steps are some tasks using English and a situational role play. After the tasks and role play, the decision tree will tell the instructor which level the student belongs in.

My favourite role play situation is for level 5 – the student is on vacation and their luggage did not arrive. The instructor plays the airline staff. To successfully complete the situation, the student must inquire what happened to their luggage, when their luggage will arrive, and if the airline can do anything to help them in the meantime. I enjoy being the unhelpful airline employee.

There was a test at the end of training, which I think I might have failed. For some reason, every teacher from Kawasaki NOVA who has taken the test recently has failed. I am not sure if this says something about the training or my branch. (Probably the branch!!)

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