STRESS TEST

Photos: The agony and the ecstasy of taking China’s make-or-break college exam

This week (June 7 and 8), took 9.7 million Chinese students (link in Chinese) began what’s known as “life’s most important test” in China—the gaokao, or the national university entrance exams.

In the lead-up to exam time, high schools across China often engage in various activities to inspire test-takers. Teachers lecture students as if they were soldiers in the army, preparing for battle. Motivational slogans might be placed across campus walls or worn on uniforms. Sometimes students get superstitiouswearing red clothes (link in Chinese), burning $240 joss sticks, or praying before a statue of Confucius.

The test is so high-stakes that some students go great lengths to cheat on it. To crack down on exam fraud, schools have made use of metal detectors, drones, and facial-recognition software. Authorities this year in Inner Monglolia are performing finger vein scans on test-takers—because fingerprints can be too easily faked.

This year’s exam has been highly politicized. Of the nine essay questions asked nationally (there’s some regional variations to the test), five were centered around slogans put forth by president Xi Jinping.

Below are some photos of students across China as they prepare for the 2018 test.

Students take part in an oath-taking rally, 100 days before the annual national college entrance examination, or gaokao, in a high school in Hengshui, Hebei province, China, February 26, 2018.
Students in an oath-taking rally 100 days before the exam begins. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)

Students cheer as they take part in an oath-taking rally ahead of the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", at a high school in Anyang, Henan province, China March 12, 2018.

Students study in the evening ahead of the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", at a high school in Handan, Hebei province, China May 23, 2018.
Students in Handan, Hubei province stay up late in the classroom studying. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
Students gather and wait to be taken to the venue for the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", while their parents see them off in Dandong, Liaoning province, China, June 5, 2018.
Crowds of students in Dandong, Liaoning province. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
Parents wait behind police cordon outside the venue for the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China June 7, 2018.
Parents wait beyond a police line for their children to finish the test. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
Students launch a Kongming lantern asking for success in the upcoming national college entrance exam, or "gaokao", in Luan, Anhui province, China June 1, 2018.
In Luan, Anhui province, students launch a sky lantern wishing for success. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
A student is checked with a metal detector before she enters a classroom for the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China June 7, 2018.
A student whose T-shirt says “Pass every exam” passes through a security check. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
Staff members monitor the venues as students sit for the annual national college entrance examination, or "gaokao", in Xian, Shaanxi province, China June 7, 2018.
Test monitors watch live feeds of students sitting for the exam. (Reuters/China Stringer Network)
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