I blogged last month about how TOEFL scores in China skyrocketed in 2020. Part of that was due to the test changes in 2019, but of course that isn’t the whole explanation, as scores in the rest of the world didn’t increase quite as much.
To figure this out, I asked one of my contacts in China for comment. This teacher owns a small TOEFL tutoring school in a major city. He said:
That is a significant raise in average scores. Compared to when I started teaching TOEFL in 2013, parents are definitely expecting more of their kids and tutors nowadays. I remember at the time, the ‘target’ most students would aim for was +100. Now, everyone wants to reach +105, with some parents & counselors/advisors insisting on +108 for their children. I think this stems from increased competition, as the number of Chinese international students applying to the USA has increased quite a bit, so students need to strive harder to stand out. Even the average age of our students is much younger than before. We get quite a few middle school students now whose parents are younger, more international, and globally savvy as well.
Of course, how students are actually able to achieve better results, I have a hard time placing my finger on. In general, I think the reason might be that the international education industry is more developed than before. There are more international schools; STEAM programs and Project Based Learning is being heavily embraced by the industry; and test prep is now mostly comprised of small, independent centers rather than the monopoly New Oriental had on the market. From what I’ve heard, it was quite easy to get by at New Oriental before, as long as you could entertain large classes and could play politics in the company. Now, with all the smaller centers, more responsibility is placed on teachers as there is more direct contact with students and families. This is just a guess based off the changes I’ve seen recently though.
So there ya go. An insider’s take on TOEFL prep in China.