Construction work is halted near examination halls so as not to disturb the students and traffic is diverted. Ambulances are on call outside in case of nervous collapses and police cars patrol to keep the streets quiet.
Radio talkshow hosts discuss the format and questions in painstaking detail and when the results come out the top scorers are feted nationally.
A high or low mark determines life opportunities and earning potential. That score is the most important number of any Chinese child’s life the culmination of years of schooling memorisation and constant stress.
Sulayman Hussain 14h ago
Why couldn't he resit the exam next year?
Perhaps candidates who resit are deemed not academic enough to deserve a place at Beida although anyone who managed to get a score of 680 should be good enough even if it takes two gos. If it was important enough to study at Beidawhy couldn't he resit?
HermanPrahran Sulayman Hussain 12h ago
Resitting is not allowed.
robinsoninspace HermanPrahran 10h ago
The article says explicitly that you can and I've had friends who have retaken. Whether he could retake get into Beida or Tsinghua is another matter I guess.
fla404 Sulayman Hussain 7h ago
They could but it's just too hard to try again. Or some of families financially couldn't afford that delay. When a test at that level of toughness it requires a huge amount of detailed knowledge that is too much to keep it in long term for a ordinary people. So even if he resit the Gaokao it couldn't make his life easier.
Xiang Li 20h ago
I can still remember how I solved some math problem in my dream and I felt so happy about it. Seriously I am not sure whether dreaming about girls would make me happier at that time. My gaokao story ends dramatically. I somehow over-performed and resulting from this I had to major in something which I do not really like. As I look backward I realize that the education system is more like showing a single light spot to you and cover the rest of your world in darkness. Going towards it seemed to be a natural and reasonable choice in that circumstance. That is why I admire those brave guys who chose other directions whether or not they are talented enough to find their ways in the end.
Advaitya 23h ago
Its almost exactly the same in India. This is not a good system. It prepares you for success in exams not for success in life. And the two are very different.
HermanPrahran Advaitya 22h ago
Hence the high suicide rate.
hankuang HermanPrahran 19h ago
AntonZ 1d ago
The questions are mostly multiple-choice or fill-in-the-gap and are notoriously hard – the maths paper has been compared to university-level maths in the UK.
I looked at a Chinese maths paper a few years ago. I don't think it would have presented the slightest difficulty to the average A level maths student of the early 70s. That it is now regarded as undergraduate level only goes to show how far standards have fallen to satisfy the mantra that 'all must have prizes'.
Bob Yu AntonZ 1d ago
I have seen both. Honestly the broadness are similar but Gaokao is much more difficult deeper and kinda test your intelligence rather than memorization. It kinda looks like this. old A-level (covers most topics but least challenging) Gaokao (covers slightly fewer topics but a lot more challenging IMO (covers least materials but most challenging).
Btw the translated version of Gaokao on the internet are the multiple choice or fill-in-the gap sections of Beijing or Shanghai exam which is the easiest section of the easiest exam. Trust me the article is not accurate. There is much more than just multiple choice and fill-in-the-gap.
IMO （国际奥数） 考察范围最小 难度最大
顺便说句，网上翻译的只有北京高考或者上海高考卷的选择题和填空题部分，所以你们看到的，只是高考数学最简单的地区卷里的最简单的部分，相信我，这文章还不够准确，难得不只是这些选择填空（看名字 这是国人吧 我说怎么这么了解）
HermanPrahran AntonZ 1d ago
The essay questions are year 9 level.
CustardTarty HermanPrahran 23h ago
Tell me you're joking? If not provide evidence.
Robert J. Crawford 1d ago
I have taught at Beida and reported on the business elite in China. In my experience the most creative business people in China are rarely impressed with what they get from the elite schools. What they get they complain are students who are over-impressed with themselves and expecting special treatment while having narrow minds that are unable to question beyond what is expected or re-imagine how to do things differently.
One business man Zhang Ruimin (the founder of the Haier Group) was famous in China for telling a class of students at Beida that he didn't want them. This was so shocking that it was reported on throughout China. A victim of the Cultural Revolution Zhang never went to university and was assigned instead to manage a scrap metal heap in Tsing Dao. He educated himself came up with a strategy and then executed it. Many of the entrepreneurs of the Deng period have similar stories - a very different trajectory from the gaokao route.
ashleyhk Robert J. Crawford 1d ago
Apropos your comments: My daughter (now at Beijing Film Academy) went to secondary school in Shenzhen. A big problem was motivating the children by telling them studying was important for their future as most of their parents were very wealthy (couple of villas Mercs Porsche SUV etc.) and as their kids often reminded them they could barely write their own name.
Eric Smith 1d ago
No matter how smart you are there will always be someone smarter. Perhaps someday we will have an educational system that focuses on teaching every child to reach their potential - with the corollary that all those potentials have equal value. I think that might unlock an astonishing amount of economic value. Think how much time and mental energy is wasted in a system where a tiny minority pass and everyone else fails. All those failures are doomed to waste much of the rest of their lives either rationalizing their failure running away from it torturing themselves for it or fighting against it. Competition against oneself is of great value. We should not hobble so many with the crushing feeling that they will never really be good enough so why bother.
KennyF Eric Smith 15h ago
with the corollary that all those potentials have equal value
Equal value to whom? Equal value in what respect? This seems very wishy washy.
I do agree that there are careers or jobs out there where exam performance is no indicator but the opposite also holds true.
verainsummer 1d ago
Wellfirst I would say I'm Yuan 's classmate. This article impressed me so deeply that when I was reading memories of those bygone days flooded back. I don't know how to comment gaokaobecause I'm a role in this play. But believe or not I have to sayit is tiringbut not that horrible. Like Yuan Qi I ranked in top 200 out of 60000in Beijing-which means I 'm able to enter Tsinghua University and Peiking Universitytwo most elite universities in China mainland-but underperformed in gaokao and lost the chance. But through the whole senior 3I did gain a lot. Everyone sprinted all the effort to achieve his dream and all the teachers and students worked together like a real family. To be honest I missed those days now at times. This experience will be my invaluable treasure for the days to come. Alsoif you have interests to know more detailsI'd like to tell you more.
HustGfs verainsummer 1d ago
You don't know how hard it is in other provinces in gaokao so you think it is not so horrible as it is described.
Indra Dhanu verainsummer 1d ago
You brought an important point that although sometimes the results did not go your way but the experience teaches you lots of things.
Robert J. Crawford verainsummer 1d ago
What do you do now? Where did you study? Did you like University? Did it prepare you for the work force?
Dina AyAsh 1d ago
Thanks for the article...i was absorbed...well written and whatever..china is a rocket rising nation...keep up you student if you resd the comment...no need to b one of the top as long as u do sth that u like...
maleficent 1d ago
'learned how to ride a bike.'
I refuse to believe that an 18-year-old kid in China did not know how to ride a bike.
天啦噜 这货18岁不会骑车 我不敢相信
HermanPrahran maleficent 1d ago
There was no opportunity to learn. Comprehension a bit difficult for you?
glhinhk maleficent 1d ago
. . . very common here too!
verainsummer maleficent 1d ago
Not every kid. Many of my schoolmates started riding bike to school from junior one when they were 13.
ghostinthemachine 1d ago
I teach in a private chinese school here in Vancouver. And I can tell you now that 90% of the students cheat. Their parents have a lot of money and they pay for their kids tests sat by others this includes educational exams and entrance exams for other schools/universities etc. submitted by experts. Mnay of them also pay other to sit their driving tests and take language tests for their entrance to Canada.Those with money are the worse category of people who cheat that I have ever seen.
wskelton 1d ago
Christ. And I thought the 11+ was bad.
kanimoto 1d ago
I would also like to provide an insight into the Chinese mindset regarding competition in education with their peers.
Whereas in the West the kids will do anything and everything to discredit the competition dismissing them as geeks/nerds or privileged middle class or that money and advantage got them where they are that they won the post code lottery ANYTHING but take a look at themselves in China kids admire rather than diss educationally superior classmates.
To understand this we need to look at who kids in the west admire: sporting stars. Nobody grudges sporting prowess in the west in the same way that nobody begrudges academic prowess in the east.
But look at how Olympic athletes gain their superiority: training long hours dedication hard work repeating the same actions over and over again. Nobody is saying that they train so hard they're not enjoying themselves that they are mindless automatons unable to do anything except run round and round a track. Nobody questions that only a handful can ever become Olympic champions that it is elitist and unfair to the sportingly challenged. The stakes are so high that some try to cheat and take drugs to win. Nobody questions that rich countries have all the advantage of training facilities and funding to support the athletes.
We're not so different after all.
HermanPrahran kanimoto 1d ago
If that were true then Melbourne University in a country of 24 million people would not be ranked far higher than Peking University.
kanimoto HermanPrahran 1d ago
Congratulations to Melbourne but my point was about difference in values between West/UK and Chinese kids - one valuing sport and one valuing academics.