At the beginning of June, millions of Chinese high school students will take the National College Entrance Exam, also called gaokao or “the big test.” In 2016, 9.4 million students sat for the test.
Notoriously stressful, the big test has sparked harsh criticism for its high-stakes nature. It’s considered a prerequisite to get into college that puts an incredible amount of pressure on students and has even been linked to student suicide.
This intense pressure spurs some students to cheat, and police are on hand at test sites to catch and detain cheaters.
Keep reading to see how intense China’s national exams are for students and families.
Students put an incredible amount of preparation before the exam. In fact, some schools have been criticized for producing “robots” who study 15 hours per day for gaokao. Here, a student takes a must needed study break.
These students took oxygen while studying chemistry at a hospital in Suining.
Students begin studying for the exam far in advance of high school. Here, middle school students study for the gaokao.
It’s not all work. Leading up to the exam, students and teachers take part in pressure-release activities, like this trust-fall.
Students in a Hebei Province school hold up two 5 yuan banknotes that their school gives for good luck before the exam.
On the day of the exam, police vehicles clear a path for students leaving school to attend the gaokao.
And thousands of family and friends crowd the streets in support of test takers.
The gaokao is fiercely competitive test that is seen as make-or-break for getting ahead. In the past decade, authorities have vowed to crack down on cheating during the exam.
A hidden camera inside a pen (second from the left) and a receiver disguised as an eraser were confiscated by police.
These confiscated glasses contained a hidden camera and a coin with a tiny receiver.
And in in Chengdu, Sichuan province, a more complex cheating contraption was discovered.
The Ministry of Education said students caught cheating would be stripped of enrollment qualifications for one to three years. Here are confiscated cell phones and receivers.
Once in the testing rooms, students take the exam, which is comprised of three main areas of testing: English, math, and Chinese. Below, students take an English exam in an exam hall at Dongguan University.
Proctors monitor examinees in Suining, Sichuan in case of any sudden cheating. Leading up to gaokao, some high schools place security cameras in classrooms to monitor students in case of laziness.
After students finish the roughly nine-hour exam that is spread out over two days, they rush out, relieved that it is all over