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April 25, 2016

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Police called in after university exam answers ‘leaked’ via Weibo

THE National Foreign Language Teaching Advisory Board in Shanghai yesterday said in a statement that it had filed a report with police concerning online allegations that someone had leaked the answers for a national test for English majors on Saturday morning.

Shanghai International Studies University, where the board’s office is located, denied that it had leaked to its students the answers to the Test for English Majors-Band 4, an assessment of language fluency for sophomore English majors.

It was the first TEM-4 test issued since China last year made it a criminal offense (punishable by up to seven years in prison) to cheat on national exams.

Students were told to hand in their mobile phones before the exam began. However, a picture posted on, a communication section on, showed that “answers” had been sent via QQ, an instant-messaging application developed by Tencent, shortly before the written exam started at 8:30am.

The post has already been deleted from Tieba but the printscreen version has been widely shared on Weibo.

Some Weibo users who claimed they had sat the exam said the posted answers closely matched the test. Some even suspected SISU students had obtained the answers in advance because the office in charge of administering the test is located at SISU, and one of its faculty members led the team responsible for producing it.

Many students said the test, the first since the TEM process was reformed last year, was much more difficult than previous ones and complained that it was unfair to honest students if the answers were leaked.

Some web users also asked the school to provide an explanation on its Weibo account.

A SISU official told Shanghai Daily they found “some of the answers did match the Saturday test,” but denied that the school leaked the answers.

He said the office administrating the tests for English majors, including Band 4 and 8, is located in the school but run by the Foreign Language Teaching Advisory Board under the Ministry of Education, adding that the questions on the tests were set by a board comprising teachers from several universities, rather than just SISU.

The board said the test papers for TEM-4 are always stored in accordance with requirements for the management of confidential state files, and answers to the tests are usually not disclosed within the year, adding that the whole procedure for this year’s test was monitored by the authorities.

“We noticed that some students and web users had reported suspicions about a leak on Weibo and we reported it to police immediately and asked them to investigate,” the board said in a statement. “Members of the public who have information can contact the police or the board by calling +86 (21) 65176788.” It added: “We will also take legal action against rumor posters and spreaders.”

SISU students also denied they had received any answers to the test.

“If I had the answers, I would not be so worried that I might fail the exam,” said Chen Yujin, a sophomore English major at SISU.

Huang Qianxia, Chen’s classmate, said at least 80 percent of the answers were the same as her own, but stressed that she did not see the Weibo post before the test.

“The so-called answers were not completely correct,” she said.

The two said SISU students prepared for the test with a book of model tests edited by Zou Shen, a SISU instructor and head of the board responsible for writing the test questions.

“It can be bought in bookstores and online by everybody,” Huang said. “The only function of the book is to help us to become familiar with the types of questions asked.”


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