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Record 13m Chinese take world's toughest college entrance exam

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-06-07 12:57

Parents of examinees wait outside an exam site at the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University in Beijing, capital of China, June 7, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING -- Fan Xuanzhi arrived at a test center in central Beijing early Wednesday morning for the most important exam in her life so far.

Fan, who gave only a pseudonym in her interview with Xinhua, is among nearly 13 million young adults across China to sit for this year's college entrance test, or "gaokao," a record high since matriculation resumed in 1977.

The 18-year-old rode a bike and her mother wore a traditional Chinese dress known as "Qipao." In Mandarin, both the verb for "ride" and "Qipao" resemble the sound of a "flag," symbolizing victory.

On Tuesday, Fan turned down her parents' offer for her to live in a hotel room next to the test center but she insisted on sleeping in her own bed. She also made a short video to thank her parents for their love, which she presented to her parents Tuesday night.

The exact number of applicants for this year is 12.91 million, an increase of 980,000 from last year, according to the Ministry of Education. Their exams will last from two to four days, depending on their choice of subjects.

Fan, a student of Beijing No 44 Middle School, is confident about her upcoming exams. "I'm sure there will be a place for me at a university or college. All I need to do is playing to my strengths."

She said she would apply to study psychology if her final scores turned out well. Otherwise, she plans to study a foreign language first -- preferably French or Spanish, and pursue her psychology degree later.

Fan's mother, Liu Xiaoyan, a news editor who sat for gaokao herself in 1991, said she unconditionally supports Fan's choice.

"Opportunities are always there as long as the kids are eager to learn," said the mother. "Gone are the days when a student's entire life relies on the exam scores."

China's college admission rate already increased to 94 percent last year, compared to merely 5 percent in 1977, when China resumed the national college entrance exams.

But still, gaokao is widely recognized as the world's toughest college entrance exam, mainly because admission relies primarily on the exam results instead of an overall estimation of a student's academic performance over a period of time.

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