An Exam for Your Life

It’s June, and silence falls on China’s schools. Chinese students across the country will be facing the most ominous exam of them all – the college entrance exam, or 高考 (gaokao). Sounding slightly less intimidating in English, it translates directly as ‘high test’, which takes some of the grandeur off it. Let’s stick to Gaokao.

This event brings everything to a standstill. All construction works near exam halls are stopped. Traffic is diverted. Police cars patrol the streets to keep the deathly, unearthly silence of the colossal exam halls. Candidates are checked by the highest levels of security against cheating – a threat of a 7 year jail sentence would surely be enough, but students still cheat in the most inventive ways possible (see below – it’s amazing!) This year, the entrance to the exam hall is protected by fingerprint, multi-verified ID and of course the threat of losing everything with a bad result. The high scorers will get fantastic career opportunities and even better marriage prospects. The low scorers (the creatives that industry needs, perhaps?) will be left behind.


Despite the deterrents, cheating is a huge problem in the gaokao. Glasses, pens, rulers and even underwear have been found in the past to be having illegal material or communication devices – (surely the pioneering thinkers the 21st century world needs?) . The city of Luoyang (which I’ve never heard of, but is huge enough to need this level of security) has hovering drones over exam halls to scan for incoming radio signals, and papers being fitted with GPS trackers.

Meanwhile, as exam season hits Britain, the news is full of blunders. Wrong page numbers. Wrong characters. Papers found in the street. The easy solution? The answer to everything – drones, of course.

Three things I’ve learned this week:

  • Forget GCSEs. The incredibly intimidating ‘high test’ is here.
  • 7 years in jail for cheating on a test, or 80 years of shame for doing badly? What a choice.
  • Drones can stop cheating too (apart from they can’t tell if you’ve got equations on your hand, but besides that  – you’re good)!

If you enjoyed this post, check out the related Tough Master or the top 3 posts of last week: Imperial RacingCoffee – let’s Chinese-ify this. and Fingers Crossed. The archive pick for this week is World of the Chopstick (January) – check back next week for more!

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