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COVID-19 poses extra test for gaokao students

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-06 09:35

Senior students at a high school in Wuhan, Hubei province, return to school in May to prepare for the gaokao, the national college entrance exam. Schools in the city were closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEN XUEZI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Entrants are enduring the tough task of preparing for potentially life-changing exam amid the pandemic

The gaokao, China's national college entrance exam, is a make-or-break event for millions of students, because the highly competitive and intensive test will largely determine their futures.

Although nearly 90 percent of those who take the exam will be admitted to colleges and universities, only a small proportion can attend the country's leading universities.

Every year, the two top schools, Peking University and Tsinghua University, both in Beijing, admit about 3,000 fresh high school graduates each.

Chinese people often compare the gaokao to "thousands of people crossing a narrow bridge".

That's because for many students, especially those from rural areas, enrollment at a good university is a difficult but worthwhile challenge that could shape the rest of their lives.

The exam caps 12 years of intensive study from primary level to high school. In addition, this year, the entrants face additional pressure as the exam will take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure the students' safety and the fairness of the exam, the gaokao has been postponed for a month, and will now take place on July 7 and 8.

A total of 10.71 million students have signed up to take the exam, a rise of 400,000 from last year, according to the Ministry of Education.

So, how has the pandemic affected the students' preparations? Are they ready to take one of the most important exams of their lives? How do they view the test, and what does it mean to them?

China Daily spoke with four high school students to hear their stories about taking the gaokao amid the pandemic.

Wuhan University has always been a dream school for Zhang Yunhan, who was born and raised in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed her determination to study at the university and she wants to become a teacher at her old high school when she graduates.

"I have witnessed how Wuhan has recovered from the worst public health crisis in my lifetime and I want to make my contribution to the city by nurturing future talent," the 18-year-old said.

Time is a luxury for every final year high school student in China, as they want to spend every waking moment preparing for the gaokao.

Zhang is no exception. In February, her school, Wuhan High School, was closed due to the pandemic and all classes were moved online.

"I do not have time to start panicking about the pandemic as it has not changed the fact that the gaokao remains the top priority for me," she said.

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