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Testing a Nation

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


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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Note: All interview schedules and questionnaires are English translations of the original Mandarin Chinese. Appendix 1: The CET-4 test paper, December 2011 (pages 176–179) 176 Appendix Appendix 177 178 Appendix Appendix 179 180 Appendix Appendix 2: Participants: Master’s students Interviewee Code Gender Undergraduate majors 1 SM1 M Computer 2 SM2 F Economics 3 SM3 F Finance 4 SM4 M Law 5 SM5 M Economics 6 SM6 F Accountancy 7 SM7 M Finance 8 SM8 M Economics Appendix 181 Appendix 3: Participants: Senior undergraduates N o. In fo rm an t c od e T im e o f in te rv ie w U ni ve rs ity co de G en de r M aj or s C ET re su lts N M ET sc or e 1 SG1 Main study CG F Management CET-4 100/150 2 SG2 Main study CG M Management CET-4:450 90 3 SG3 Main study CG F Management CET-4:520 CET-6:480 110 4 SG4 Main study CG M Automobile CET-4:410 40 5 SG5 Main study CG M Human resources CET-4:440 6 SG6 Main study CG M Automobile CET-4:488 7 SG7 Main study CG M Automobile CET-4:380 NP 8 SG8 Main study CG F Accountancy CET-4 CET-6:480 9 SG9 Main study CG F Management CET-4:350 NP 10 SF1 Main study FY M ATC CET:350 80 11 SF2 Main study FY M Aviation Engineering CET-4:432 12 SF3 Main study FY M Aviation Engineering CET-4:460...

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