Chinese Students Struggle to Get Seats for English-Language Exam, Suggesting Rise in Interest in Studying Abroad

October 22, 2020 Updated: October 22, 2020

Chinese students recently rushed to snap up spots to take an English-language test, suggesting a heightened interest in studying in the United States and other English-speaking countries. This comes despite the deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Washington.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the U.S. organization that administers the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), on Oct. 14 opened registration for 2021 TOEFL tests in China. Within five minutes of opening, all test spots in Beijing and Shanghai for the first eight months of 2021 had booked out.

Test places in other Chinese cities, such as Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, Wuhan, Changsha, Nanjing, Xiamen, and Changchun, similarly booked out quickly.

ETS released more 2012 TOEFL test seats two days later. But several minutes after the release, Chinese students started complaining that those spots had been booked out too.

In response to the soaring demand, ETS said on its official Chinese social media account that it would release more seats at 10:00 a.m local time every Wednesday and Friday going forward. Following the announcement, Chinese students commented that they would set their alarms to remind them to register at each upcoming release.

TOEFL is a standardized English-language test and accepted by most American high-schools, universities, and institutions, as well as those in the UK, Australia, and other countries.

To apply for American universities or many British and Australian academies, a Chinese student must have a TOEFL score. A TOEFL score is valid for two years.

ETS released its first batch of seats for the 2021 TOEFL tests at 10:00 a.m. on Oct. 14. The seats covered the first 53 testing dates in 11 Chinese cities. However, Chinese students quickly found out that all seats for the tests were booked out, especially the seats from January to August.

ETS explained on its official social media account that test seats were limited due to social distancing requirements as a result of the CCP virus pandemic.

Chinese state-run Beijing News quoted a Chinese TOEFL trainer, who said: “In past years, on the first day of booking, only the seats in January and February were occupied. It’s unusual that the seats of the whole year were booked out [on the first day.]”

Tang Jingyuan, a U.S.-based China affairs commentator said: “Chinese students use their bookings to tell people how eager they want to study overseas, especially to the United States.”

This development presents a “strong contrast to the regime’s tone criticizing the U.S,” Tang told The Epoch Times.

The Chinese regime has stepped up its criticism of the Trump administration as relations between the two countries hit the lowest point in decades. In recent months, state-run media has escalated its anti-US rhetoric and attacks on U.S. officials.

In August, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Chinese people might stop using the iPhone in protest against the United States.

However, when Apple opened preorders for the new iPhone 12 on Oct. 16, Chinese customers snapped up more than 1.6 million units in the first few hours —equal to the amount of iPhone 11 pre-orders received in the first three days in 2019, according to state-run financial publication Yicai.