Beijing briefing: The hell of gaokao season

China’s annual university entrance exam is gruelling for students and parents alike. It also exacerbates regional inequality, says Yu Jie

The World Today Published 27 May 2022 2 minute READ

The gaokao is China’s national university entrance exam, the spectre of which haunts many a student and their anxious parents. In the academic calendar, it is typically held between June 7-9 during the third and final year of high school. It is the sole criterion for admission to Chinese universities.

It is often referred to as ‘a stampede by thousands of soldiers and ten thousand horses across a single log bridge’ to indicate the level of difficulty in achieving a top score in the exam.

During the three days of exams, workers on nearby building sites down tools and traffic calming measures are introduced so the students are not distracted by any noise. Ambulances are on standby outside the exam halls in case any candidate is overcome by nervous tension. Outside police cars patrol the streets to prevent disturbances.

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