China's first English test created for working professionals will be launched early next year. A trial run of the Test of Professional English (TOPE), produced by the world's largest non-profit educational testing organisation, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), is set for November 2003 in six mainland cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Announcing the test last week in Beijing, the ETS director for business development (Asia-Pacific), Susan Chyn, said China was the first place in the world to adopt the test, which would be conducted later in other regions including Hong Kong and Macau. It will examine candidates' listening, speaking, writing and reading skills. Unlike the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which is more inclined towards academic use, the new test will focus on practical English usage in a business and general setting. 'It can be used for recruitment or evaluating the standards of employees. China needs this test more than any other country because of its entry into the World Trade Organisation and the 2008 Olympics,' said Ms Chyn. The test is being offered jointly by ETS and mainland company Topeak, which was started up initially as a property developer in the mid-1990s but has now branched into educational services. Topeak will provide pre-test training for interested professionals. A State Economic and Trade Commission official said China needed a means to both gauge and raise the English standards of its civil servants and business work force. Meanwhile, Ms Chyn also revealed that a new, computer-based TOEFL would be introduced in 2004, adopting an interactive testing format that would also put more emphasis on speaking and writing ability. Technological advances such as that allowing for testing of students' spoken English by phone will be used. Ms Chyn hopes it will be taken as proof of their English standards by people seeking to work abroad. A fluent Mandarin speaker, she addressed crowds of mainland students at an education fair last week in Beijing. The students were more concerned about ETS' recent suspension of the Graduate Record Examinations test in Asia, and replacing its computer-based version by the paper test next year. Ms Chyn said ETS was looking into restoring the computer version, but only on the basis that it would be held simultaneously at a fixed date in various countries to prevent cheating.