Continuing my interview series, here’s a chat with Martin Chan, who has been teaching TOEFL prep in China for about ten years. This interview went long (and is really inside-baseball at times) but it is a fun one because TOEFL is thriving in China and there is a lot of demand for his services. Below is the video. After the jump are a few highlights.
1. From Martin’s perspective, the TOEFL Test is still the most popular English test in China, though the IELTS is at about the same level.
2. He doesn’t see a ton of demand for help with the Duolingo and Pearson tests, and from his perspective their popularity may have declined a bit since pandemic restrictions were lifted.
3. People love the recent changes to the TOEFL Test, but some people worry about how errors are now weighted in the reading section.
4. 1:1 classes seem to be the most common prep method in China.
5. We tried to explain the reasons for increases to the average TOEFL score in China. We speculated that it might be a result of technology, great prep resources, and changes to the demographics of test takers. Note that this conversation occurred before the release of 2022 test score data (which showed another significant increase).
6. More specifically, we talked about how much students in China benefit from greater access to retired TOEFL tests and to implementations of the SpeechRater and e-rater AI (all licensed from ETS).
7. It is still really hard to book seats at test centers in China (for all English tests). Many students resort to buying seats from resellers who charge an extra fee.
8. The NEEA. What’s up with that?
9. We discussed the ban on private tutoring (for regular school subjects) that went into effect back in 2021. This is still impacting the tutoring industry. But, interestingly, it has created new business for TOEFL and IELTS prep as it is something of a workaround for parents who want their kids to do well in their regular English classes.
10. Some parents in China continue to consider study abroad destinations other than the USA due to the dreadful state of relations between those two countries.