Teaching English to Pass or to Learn?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Chinese test preparation company New Oriental Education & Technology Group dominates the Chinese market for preparing students to take entrance exams such as the SAT and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to be accepted into American universities. What sets them apart from their American competitors such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review is that they have “seem[ed] to have cracked the SAT code,” according to Phillip Muth, associate dean for admissions at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Their rigorous classes teach strategies to master test questions rather than actually improving their students’ use of English. When these Chinese undergraduates are accepted into their respective American universities, many are left unprepared for lectures and group discussions in English.

Is New Oriental cheating its students out of the chance to master English, or rather does the bigger problem lay with standardized tests? In America, I took a test prep class for the SAT and improved my score by learning tricks rather than actual knowledge. Is it New Oriental’s fault that standardized tests are designed this way? What will the future hold for both standardized tests and test prep companies globally?

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