College students face tougher English tests

Updated: 2013-09-15 23:51

By Jin Zhu and Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

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Students should pay more attention to using English, and not just consider it as an exam subject, amid changes to the National College English Test, education professionals said.

Undergraduates may face tougher exams before obtaining certificates from the National College English Test, a prerequisite for those entering the job market or applying for higher education.

"Students will have to improve their language ability," said Zhao Jiankun, a teacher from New Oriental Education and Technology Group, one of the leading test preparation companies in China.

His remarks follow an announcement by the National College English Test committee in August stating that it will replace sentence construction in favor of translating paragraphs in its December tests.

The tests will ask students to translate a passage with 140 to 200 Chinese characters into English within 30 minutes. The texts will deal with Chinese history, culture, economy, and social development, it said.

Meanwhile, changes for the dictation and reading tests will place more emphasis on vocabulary and comprehensive ability, Zhao said.

Hu Yonghua, an English teacher with Capital Normal University, said the new National College English Test is more practical and more difficult.

"Compared with subjective questions, objective ones are easier to be solved, because students just need to choose, rather than organize and create an answer themselves," she said.

"Under such circumstances, English teachers may have to give students more on translation work."

The National College English Test, which began in the 1980s, is a biannual test that determines the English proficiency of undergraduate students.

A total of 9.38 million students sat the tests in December 2012, according to the Ministry of Education.

Some universities will not allow students to graduate without obtaining the certificate, and it is a prerequisite for those entering the job market.

Meanwhile, a number of students have been blocked from post-graduate studies because of poor English test results.

Han Chao, a student from Xi'an Technological University who failed the College English Test 6 in June said he will sit a new CET 6 in December.

"I have failed the CET 6 several times," he said, complaining that students of his major seldom use English in their work. "But a CET 6 certificate is helpful in looking for a job, so I have to continue taking the exam until I pass."

The senior, who majors in information management systems, said he was not worried about changes to the exam.

"If your English is good enough, you won't worry about changes in the exam," Han said, laughing.

"But for students who are bad at English, like me, we have to work harder."

Zhao said the test has gotten progressively harder over the years.

But students must decide what level is best for them, he said.

Teacher Hu agreed, saying that students can take specific English tests in accordance with their needs.

"For instance, students who would like to study abroad can take IELTS or TOEFL, and those who want to be translators can take corresponding tests to acquire translation qualifications," she said.