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August 8, 2011

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Home » Metro » Education

English exam makes its mark

MORE children are sitting an English exam this summer, amid fierce competition to secure places at top schools.

The latest "Shanghai Children's Star English Exam," to be held in the middle of this month, will see about 61,000 test takers - the same number as for the national college entrance exam in the city.

That's a 20 percent increase on the same time last year, according to test organizer, the Shanghai General Foreign Language Level Testing Center.

The exam, launched in 2001, has become increasingly popular in recent years after the Shanghai Education Commission scrapped its official English Test in 2007 to reduce the academic burden on students.

The English exam which is held three times a year, saw a 25 percent increase in test takers last year, compared to 2009.

And this year's numbers seem certain to exceed last year's, said Yao Fumin, an official with the test organizer.

"We never promote the test or run adverts. It has become popular because it meets market needs," said Yao.

Without an official exam to gauge students' English skills, parents see the Star English Exam as a means of giving their children an advantage when they attend admissions interviews for key schools, especially private ones.

In the summer vacation, many children attend extra classes to boost their resumes.

"My son's English is very good," said Shirley Huang, whose child is at primary school.

"But students still need to take tests to prove their abilities, especially when their classmates have certificates," she said.

Though busy with work, every morning, Huang gets up early to send her son to an English training course to prepare him for the exam.

She hopes the certificate will be useful when he applies to attend a private school in Yangpu District.

The test currently has four levels and next year the Shanghai General Foreign Language Level Testing Center is launching a fifth - the fifth-star test - aimed at students from Grade 1 to 9.

Kindergarten pupils are also sitting exams as parents attempt to prepare them for admissions competition.

A total of 824 kindergarten pupils applied for the first-tier test this year, 250 more than in 2010.

The test organizer has also set up two test centers in bilingual kindergartens.


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