Chinese teachers are calling for education reforms after two incidents in which Chinese students’ international test scores were rejected.
On September 19, test results of 357 Chinese students writing the Upper Level Secondary School Admission Test were rejected. Similarly, Chinese students writing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in August and September were informed last month by the British Council that their scores would be “withheld indefinitely”.
Reports have shown that Chinese students taking these, and other tests like it, consistently score extremely high, with some students even attaining perfect scores.
Although the Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB) and the British Council are reluctant to release specific details for the refusal to accept the test scores, Chinese tutoring experts suspect the decision is a result of the common Chinese practice of rote memorization of test answers in advance.
Yanding US-China Education founder, Gao Yanding, said Chinese students normally prepare for tests by memorizing answers shared online by students who have already taken the test.
“In Western countries, such practice is seen as strongly breaching test rules and challenging the integrity of tests, because it’s unfair to those who don’t have related resources,” Gao said. “But in China, nobody thinks it’s illegal or immoral because Chinese students also deploy this approach to prepare for gaokao, or the national college entrance exams.”
Hu Min, the president of an English-language tutorial agency in China, said that Chinese students memorize test answers to gain a competitive advantage when applying to prestigious schools abroad: “…some tutorial classes in China, in order to gain publicity and profit, help students to spot test questions,” said Hu.
David Payne, Vice-President and COO of the American based Educational Testing Service’s Higher Education Division, admits the company is well aware of the practice of Chinese students to share exam questions.
Ma Xiaoming, director of Beijing Language and Culture University’s Pre-departure Training Department, said the incidents should serve as a wake-up call. “They should prepare international tests in a correct way – sharpening their language and learning skills, rather than spotting or memorizing questions,” said Ma.
Gao also warned of the downsides of a Chinese student who is able to successfully gain admittance to an international school using these techniques. “If they pass the tests and gain admission to their dream schools using such improper approaches, they won’t be able to survive if they are academically incapable,” he said.
An estimated three percent of Chinese foreign exchange students enrolled at US schools – or about 8,000 – were dismissed from their studies last year, according to a report released in June by WholeRen Education.