Cheating is reported to be rampant in the annual College English Test Band 4 and Band 6 (CET-4 and CET-6) exams. This year's tests were held nationwide last week.
More than 100 students were caught cheating in Beijing, along with many more in other areas.
Novel high-tech devices such as tiny wireless earphones were used by students. Organized groups also helped students to cheat.
This examination has given birth to a highly profitable industry in recent years.
Many guidebooks have been published to help students get higher scores and pass this test. Regular training classes have been organized by universities to give students tips on how to get good results.
Some people have even organized groups to help students cheat in the exam. They sell students cheating devices and provide them with standardized answers to the exam questions.
When it was launched in 1987, the test was intended to stimulate university students' enthusiasm for learning English.
The test results are pegged to a student's degree certificate and diploma by many universities.
Furthermore, many employers consider a CET-4 or CET-6 certificate to be an indication of a graduate's English proficiency.
The irony is that many students consider gaining the certificate to be more important than their actual proficiency in using the language.
So do those who are involved in helping them to pass the exam or get higher scores.
Instead of helping them improve their English proficiency, these guidebooks and training classes merely teach these students how to pass the exam.
Those who have compiled the books and organize this training do not care about the students' English proficiency. All they care about is making a fast buck.
Another major problem is whether such a standardized exam can really reflect students' English proficiency.
A professor from Tsinghua University said that most students who have CET-6 results still find it difficult to read, speak and write proficiently in English. Many get good results not because they have a very good command of the English language, but rather because they have learnt how to deal with the exam.
Some critics have even attacked the way the exam is designed, saying it has nothing to do with language learning and is merely a test for the sake of it.
If that is the case, it is questionable whether this exam can function as a benchmark of students' skills and as a means to encourage them to further their studies.
If it cannot, it either needs to be abolished or reformed.
(China Daily 06/21/2006 page4)