China’s college entrance exam known as the Gaokao is thought to be one of the toughest examinations in the whole world. If you want a spot in one of the 2,200 Chinese universities then you need to ace your Gaokao exam. And it goes much deeper than that, sure the exam decides the university ranking you will be allowed to enter, but it is also widely accepted that it will determine the entire course of their lives.
Students spend many years preparing to take the entrance exam and sacrifice much of their social life. Taking extra classes and as much tuition along the way as they can, there are even many reports of parents quitting their jobs just to help their children study for this exam. However, a high score does not even guarantee the success of entering a great university.
You see a certain number of places are allocated for every university. And the competition for each place is extremely fierce, the gaokao exam allows the universities to single out the excellent from the just plain good. The system is extremely rigorous and strict, meaning it has received much criticism along the way, but for the past 70 years, it has been the only way to test China’s students.
And it even impacts society, with failure to do well on the gaokao exam normally means shame for the family name. This puts immense pressure on the students, many simply crack and drop out of school. There are even increasing reports of student suicide, notably, they jump out of buildings during high-stress periods.
Extremely in the poorer side of the Chinese society, poorer families see the gaokao exam as their chance to a better life – which means students have to get a high mark on it no matter what the costs. Some students are known to just sleep 2 hours a night and study non-stop.
The exam itself is extremely grueling, taking place over two whole days in June it lasts over nine hours. Critics state that it relies heavily on just learning things by heart and not actually trying to get the individuals to think.