On Friday in 19 test centers in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai,
Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Chengdu almost 500 Chinese
students will sit the country's first ever online Test of English
as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
The TOEFL Internet-based test (TOEFL iBT), lasting for four
hours from 4:00 p.m. to-day, will assess the listening, speaking,
reading and writing skills of exam takers, said Paul Ramsey, senior
vice president in charge of the global business of the Educational
Testing Service (ETS) of the United States.
It's the first time the TOEFL iBT has been used on the Chinese
mainland and replaces the paper-based TOEFL exam which has been
used in China for 25 years.
"The technology used in TOEFL iBT enables test items to be
delivered over the Internet simultaneously across all time zones
thus increasing our already high security," said Ramsey. "It also
ensures unbiased testing by recording responses electronically and
sending them to a network of ETS people markers who objectively
score the responses for maximum reliability," he added.
"Compared with the previous paper and computer-based formats
across the world the current TOEFL iBT focuses on speaking which is
generally considered the Achilles heel of Chinese students," said
Li Ding, a teacher at China's biggest English training institute
the New Oriental School. "And the new test no longer has
grammatical questions which Chinese students are usually strong
The content of the exam also includes the kind of English used
in higher education such as lectures, discussions, reading
assignments and term papers, said Maurice Cogan Hauck, assessment
director of the ETS.
"In addition to the changes in content many of us are not
familiar with the long exam time and the method of online testing,"
said Liu Li, a college student from Beijing due to take the
"The flexibility of Internet-based testing will help expand
Chinese students' access to the world renowned ETS assessment test
centers across China," said Dai Jiagan, President of China's
National Education Examination Authority (NEEA).
TOEFL iBT may be helpful to Chinese students because the test
will provide information about the performance of those sitting it
and diagnostic feedback which helps identify learning needs, said
professor Zhou Yanhui with South China Agricultural University.
On March 8, 2006 the ETS and NEEA signed a seven-year contract
at the ETS headquarters in New Jersey, appointing NEEA as the
exclusive provider of operational test services for the
Internet-based TOEFL and GRE exams in China.
Since it was first introduced in North America in September
2005, the ETS TOEFL iBT has been launched across the world. To date
ETS has completed 14 TOEFL iBT test administrations in the
countries where the exam has been launched. More than 33,000
students have taken the exam and approximately 48,000 have
registered to sit it, explained Ramsey.
In China, NEEA will arrange 17 other TOEFL iBTs before the end
of December for nearly 10,000 students and around 30-40 such exams
next year, said Dai Jiagan. Previously China arranged about five
paper-based tests each year.
TOEFL has been written, developed and administered since 1964 by
ETS, a private, non-profit organization based in Princeton, New
Jersey that was founded in 1947. The TOEFL test measures the
ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand
North American English.
To date more than 6,000 colleges and universities in 110
countries rely on TOEFL test scores to measure the English-language
skills of their students.
According to the NEEA, in recent years around 70,000 Chinese
college students per year have taken TOEFL to get access to
postgraduate programs at U.S. universities which accounts for about
one tenth of the world's total.
(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2006)