Only 340 English-language teachers - about two per cent of all English teachers - had signed up to take the language benchmark test when the deadline passed yesterday. An Education and Manpower Bureau spokesman said the Hong Kong Examinations Authority had received 600 applications for the proficiency assessment for English and Putonghua teachers. The test is designed for new staff joining the profession in the 2001-2002 school year. The serving 14,000 English-language teachers and 4,300 Putonghua teachers can meet the minimum standard by 2005 by attending training courses instead. About 2,100 applications for exemption have been received from serving English teachers and 480 from Putonghua staff. Professional Teachers' Union President Cheung Man-kwong said: 'Many teachers support our call for boycotting the test and decided to attend training courses.' Director of Education Matthew Cheung Kin-chung denied there had been a lukewarm response from teachers.