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How the yearly gaokao papers are kept 'top secret'

China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-08 09:05

Staff collect gaokao test papers at the district education and testing center in Beijing's Haidian district on Wednesday, before delivering them to exam sites. GAN NAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

As thousands of students sit the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, their thoughts are firmly on the task at hand — remembering their studies and getting good grades. The secure and secretive journey the actual gaokao papers go through to get to exam rooms across the country is in some ways just as challenging as the educational journey students take themselves.

The process of creating and delivering gaokao exam papers is a meticulous and secretive one, involving various technological innovations and the hard work and dedication of several groups of people, according to a report by Science Daily.

The team of experts who create the exam questions consists of university and high school teachers. They go through a thorough vetting process, sign confidentiality agreements and undergo strict training on keeping secrets. During the creation of the exam papers, the team is not allowed access to any communication devices and can only use a landline for communication, which is monitored at all times. Jamming devices are used to block cellphone signals.

The exam papers go through several rounds of evaluation until there are no more disagreements among the experts and no repetition or significant similarity is seen with existing questions in various exercise books on the market. The team is not allowed to leave the premises until the exam is over, and they cannot write or publish anything related to the exam without proper authorization from the exam authorities.

Once created, the exam papers are then sent to a select group of accredited printers who have obtained the highest level of national secrecy certification — including prisons, as people have often jokingly assumed. The print units are heavily guarded with sophisticated security systems and personnel monitoring. The workers who handle the papers go through strict controls and are not allowed to leave until the exam is over.

The transportation of the exam papers is another crucial step in the process, and is done with the utmost secrecy and security. The papers are transported in specially commissioned vehicles with satellite navigation and remote monitoring systems, with the drivers including officials from the exam authorities and members of the police and military.

Upon arrival at the exam halls, the exam papers are stored in customized steel-reinforced rooms, equipped with state-of-the-art security measures. A team of attendants, who eat and sleep with the papers, are responsible for their safekeeping until the exams are over. The rooms are equipped with alarms and motion sensors connected to the police system, which triggers a response within moments.

At least three people have to be present at the same time to enter such rooms, as there are at least three gates, with each person holding one key.

The journey of an exam paper from conception to delivery is a testament to the lengths the government and authorities go to ensure the secrecy and security of the exam. The security measures in place ensure the integrity and impartiality of the examination, granting students a fair and unbiased opportunity to succeed.

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