About 500 students across the Chinese mainland will appear for the
first Internet-based Test of English as a
Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) exam today.
The online exam, with a newly-added speaking section and first
initiated in the United States last September, is to replace the written
TOEFL test that was introduced to China 25 years ago.
The exam will initially be held at 15 centres in six cities: Beijing,
Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Chengdu, offering 500 seats.
By the year-end, 10,000 people will have a
chance to take the test at 19 centres in the six cities, according
to the US-based Educational Testing Service (ETS).
"With the Internet-based delivery platform, both the number of test
centres and the frequency of tests will increase significantly compared to
five paper-based TOEFL tests offered annually," said Paul Ramsey, senior
vice-president of ETS' international development department.
The 18 tests this year could increase to as many as 40 next year, he
ETS figures show that the Chinese now account for about 10 per cent of
its global TOEFL examinees -- the most in the world -- and the number is
Last year, about 90,000 Chinese students took the test, according to
China's National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA), which helps ETS
administer it in China.
Ramsey explained that the technology used in iBT permits test items to
be delivered to ETS from sites worldwide, thus increasing the already-high
"It also ensures unbiased testing by recording responses in the
speaking section electronically and sending them to a network of ETS human
raters, who objectively score the responses for maximum reliability," he
So, how tough is the new test? Students believe it will be more
challenging because of the new speaking section.
"Speaking is generally considered the Achilles' heel of Chinese
students," said Li Ding, a TOEFL teacher with New Oriental School, China's
biggest English-training institute.
He said many of his students rushed to take the last several written
TOEFL exams to avoid the new one.