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Testing a Nation

The Social and Educational Impact of the College English Test in China

Series:

Mark Garner and Dayong Huang

Many countries have national policies in relation to English language teaching that are monitored through standardized tests, and students’ performance in these tests may have a significant impact on their career prospects. When such high stakes become attached to a language test, it begins to play a far greater role than originally intended.
A preeminent example is the College English Test (CET), taken biannually by upwards of ten million students in China, which makes it the world’s largest national English test. Its impact is evident in many areas of Chinese society. Specified grades on the CET are requirements for graduation from universities, many job applications and even some residence permits. Consolidated CET results are widely used for rating teachers for promotion and for competitively grading institutions, hence influencing strategic planning by universities, government departments and companies, particularly those engaged in publishing or bookselling. The CET has, furthermore, given rise to a highly organized cheating ‘industry’, which is the subject of frequent governmental disclaimers and warnings.
This book reports on an extensive study of the impact of the CET in China, both on the lives of students and teachers and on educational and governmental institutions. The authors also draw theoretical and practical implications from their study for educational planners in other countries.

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List of figures vii List of tables ix Acknowledgements xi Introduction 1 Chapter 1 The background to the CET 9 Chapter 2 Previous studies of test impact 29 Chapter 3 The design and conduct of the study 49 Chapter 4 Uses made of the CET results 61 Chapter 5 The impact of the CET on learning and teaching 87 Chapter 6 The impact of the CET on students’ ethical conduct: Cheating on the CET 113 vi Chapter 7 How fair is the CET? Perceptions of stakeholders 137 Chapter 8 Theorizing the impact of the CET 159 Conclusion 173 Appendices 175 Bibliography 211 Index 233

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