A US college testing service wants to offer its advanced English-language exam in China. It would give thousands of people a new way to qualify for overseas universities. Mainland education officials, however, have not approved the test and neither party will say why. About 54,000 Chinese citizens study in the United States, and a further 3,000 apply for study visas at the US Embassy in Beijing during the peak period every year. Studying abroad is so popular that private schools teach people how to pass admission tests. In May, Robert DiYanni, an international services director of the private College Board - which is contracted by the US Government - visited China to promote the board's five-year-old Advanced Placement International English Language (APIEL) exam. The College Board also offers the more common Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, and the Graduate Record Exam. Mr DiYanni said he could not discuss the APIEL exam's use in China until he had spoken to a colleague early next year. The colleague is in China holding talks with the Ministry of Education and other agencies. An overseas education manager with Beijing's Ministry of Education said he had seen copies of the exam but would not comment on whether China would accept it or when the ministry would decide. He said the ministry had not fully reviewed the test papers but would consider co-operating with the College Board if it liked what it saw. The exam is available in Ecuador, India, Turkey and six European nations. About 25,000 people have taken it. Most American universities and a handful of British schools accept APIEL results, often in lieu of TOEFL. Unlike the TOEFL, the advanced placement test examines each student's speaking ability, which is a sore spot among Chinese-educated youth, because they seldom have routine chances to practise oral English. The three-hour exam also requires writing two essays and answering 80 multiple-choice questions. 'Many foreign people do not believe TOEFL comprehensively shows the English proficiency of the international students, especially those in China,' said You Lifang, a Beijing Broadcasting Institute fifth-year student who wants to study in the US. 'So many Chinese students with high marks cannot speak and write English fluently,' she said. 'So if APIEL is a better way to test the actual English standard of international students, many schools will prefer it to TOEFL.'