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Chinese test-takers' TOEFL scores rise, reflecting growing English proficiency

By ZHAO YIMENG | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-07-08 22:10

The performance of Chinese test-takers in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has improved in recent years, with the average score reaching 90 in 2022, compared to the global average of 88 in the same year, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Omar Chihane, General Manager of TOEFL, noted that as China engages in global economic exchanges and international collaboration, proficiency in English is becoming increasingly essential. He highlighted the continued demand for TOEFL in China and the resumption of test volumes following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Test-taker Sui Aiyuan, who scored 111 out of 120 on the exam last year, received offers from New York University (NYU) in the United States and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "When I applied for universities, my TOEFL score was the foundation and it built up my confidence," Sui said.

The 17-year-old chose the Media, Culture and Communication program at NYU's Steinhardt School and was awarded a scholarship of $56,600 per year for the next four years.

In 2023, TOEFL announced enhancements, including shortening the test duration from three hours to less than two hours and introducing a new "writing for an academic discussion" task. "Though the new task is hard to finish in a short time, the writing style is more related to daily life and will help me prepare for my overseas study," Sui said.

This was not Sui's first time taking the TOEFL test. Previously, she had the opportunity to attend a one-month summer school program at Northwestern University in the US with her test score. During the program, she conducted interviews in English with local residents and investigated the global phenomenon of Barbie culture as a reporter. She emphasized that English fluency helps her better pursue professional goals and adapt more quickly to local culture.

Rohit Sharma, Senior Vice-President of ETS's Global Higher Education and Work Skills, stated that ETS is rebranding to enable lifelong learners to be future-ready. The repositioning of the assessment company aims to help lifelong learners constantly "reskill" and "upskill" themselves to meet the needs of the rapidly changing world, driven by factors such as AI technology.

Sharma added that the high-quality assessments provided by ETS will extend from the education sector, such as TOEFL and GRE tests, to employment and the workplace. "There's evidence that many students, after receiving an international education and perhaps working for a few years, are returning to their home countries to contribute to their local economies," he said.

Sharma noted that the demand gap between talent and employers is challenging both in China and around the world. "If you talk to employers, they will say they cannot find people. And if you talk to students, they will say they cannot find jobs," he said.

He emphasized the need for employers to identify talent with the skills they need, while students should be taught how to articulate the strengths they have acquired both inside and outside the classroom. "We believe we can play a role in helping bridge that gap through our innovative products and high-quality assessments," Sharma said.

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