SCMP Tuesday, October 10, 2000

English exam enters the computer age


Hong Kong people hoping to study abroad are going to have their lives made easier by the introduction of a new computerised system for testing their English.
The Examinations Authority, which presided over Tuesday's official ceremony to mark the new system, said that now candidates can take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) any time instead of the previous on six fixed dates a year, provided that they had registered and arranged a time for the test in advance. Most English-speaking colleges and universities abroad require a TOEFL pass.
Examinations Authority spokeswoman Margaret Lo Wai-ki said the new test, which began operating on October 3, is better at assessing candidates' English proficiency.
''A writing section has been added and there are questions other than multiple choice. The test is computer-adaptive, that is the computer will select questions for the candidate according to his/her level.''
Ms Lo denied that this could be unfair to some candidates. ''The adaptive mechanism has been tested by experts and students thoroughly.''
Candidates can also view their unofficial scores, which range from 0-300, immediately after taking the test, though the formal results would only be sent two to five weeks afterwards.
However, examination fees will be raised from HK$663 to about HK$860.
Ms Lo said the charge was determined by the Educational Testing Service in the United States and the increment was mainly to cover the system's research and operation costs.
Ms Lo said the Authority will provide a disk for candidates to get familiarised with the test at home before the exam, making more ''user-friendly''. Allowances would also be made for candidates whose typing skills were not good enough.
More than 800 candidates have registered to take part in the exam in the past two months.