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Mishandling of national English test chafes netizens

(Xinhua)

15:39, June 19, 2012

NANCHANG, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The mismanagement of the listening section of China's biannual College English Test left more than 2,000 students stuck in exam rooms for four hours after their exams finished last Saturday at a college in east China's Jiangxi province.

Users of Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like microblogging service, broke the news, saying instructors at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in the city of Jingdezhen mistakenly played the listening section for the College English Test Band Six (CET-6), which was scheduled to be broadcast at 3 p.m. for those sitting the CET-6, to those taking the College English Test Band Four (CET-4) at 9 a.m.

In order to prevent the CET-6 test questions from being disclosed, school authorities asked more than 2,000 CET-4 examinees to remain in the exam rooms until the listening section of the CET-6 exam finished.

The institute put up an announcement on its official website Sunday. It said that five faculty members, including the chief examiner of the exam site, received degrees of punishment ranging from demotion to removal.

"The serious incident was caused by 'loose management' and relevant faculty members' 'negligence,'" according to the announcement.

"The mishandling was blamed on an exam paper handler who mistakenly regarded the Arabic number "Six" in the "Band Six" as the month of "June" when he fetched the tapes for the CET-4 examinees in the institute on Saturday morning," Zeng Desheng, the publicity official for the institute, told Xinhua on Monday.

The situation escalated after thousands of Internet users took to the Internet to vent their frustration by forwarding and commenting on the news, even though school authorities said they organized teachers to calm the students by offering them free lunch.

"I have never heard of such an incident. It's incredible," "pingpingnancy" wrote on Sina Weibo.

"It's unreasonable to make students stay in exam rooms for such a long time, as it was the school's fault," Sina Weibo user "kuailedelanmao" wrote.

"This was the second time that I sat the CET-4. I was fully prepared this time, but the incident totally disrupted my train of thought," a CET-4 examinee "guo'er" from the institute's Ceramic Design Department told Xinhua, opting to give her Sina Weibo username rather than her name.

However, this was not the first time the country's nationwide examination has come under fire. Earlier this month, test proctors asked more than 1,000 junior high students taking the college entrance examination, known as the "gaokao" in Chinese, in central China's Hunan province to hand in their examination papers five minutes ahead of schedule, which also stirred waves of public indignation.

Yin Xiaojian, an expert from the Jiangxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said that the frequency of examination incidents reflects management loopholes in the examination organization department and ineffective supervision during the examinations.

"Long-term training and a great sense of responsibility are needed for those who often monitor examinations," Yin said.

The College English Test, better known as the CET, is a national English as a Foreign Language test in China. The purpose of the CET is to determine the English proficiency of undergraduate students in China as well as ensure that Chinese undergraduates reach the required English levels specified in the National College English Teaching Syllabuses.

The CET consists of the non-English-specialized "Band 4" (CET-4), in which certificate holders have reached the English level for undergraduate students not majoring in English, and the "Band 6" (CET-6), in which the certificate holders have reached the English level specified for those pursuing post-graduate degrees in fields other than English. The tests include listening, reading and writing sections.

In China's universities, CET-4 or CET-6 is a requirement for university students applying for higher education. Many universities will not let a student graduate without obtaining such a certificate, and it is also a prerequisite for those entering China's highly competitive job market.

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