Over 13 million to sit for ‘world’s toughest’ college entrance exam

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13.4 million students brave China’s gaokao exam amid economic uncertainty.

CHINA, June 8: A record-breaking number of high school students in China have embarked on the arduous journey of sitting for the national college entrance exam, commonly known as the “gaokao.” This two-day examination hailed as the world’s toughest and largest academic test, carries immense significance in a country facing economic slowdown and limited opportunities for young graduates.

With over 13.4 million students registered for this year’s exam, surpassing the previous year’s record, the “gaokao” has garnered attention as the toughest college entrance examination globally. Chinese state media has emphasized its competitiveness and intensity, with students channeling their twelve years of education into a handful of subject tests, each lasting less than two hours.

Preparation for the “gaokao” is rigorous and spans several years, as securing a high score is essential for admission to top universities in China. The exam covers a range of subjects, including Chinese literature, math, English, physics, chemistry, politics, and history.

Unlike students in the United States who have the option to retake SAT exams, the vast majority of Chinese students have only one opportunity to excel in this demanding test. The backdrop of China’s economic deceleration and rising youth unemployment adds further pressure on students to perform exceptionally.

On the first day of the exam, parents anxiously waited outside school gates, adorned in red attire symbolizing victory, and holding sunflowers, believed to bring luck for academic success. To ensure smooth conduct, authorities implemented various measures, including traffic control and taxi services specifically catering to exam takers.

Social media platforms buzzed with messages of encouragement and good luck, with “gaokao” becoming a top trending topic on platforms like Weibo. Numerous Chinese and international celebrities took to social media to extend their best wishes to the students, among them British soccer icon David Beckham, who addressed his 10 million fans on Weibo, urging students to strive for success.

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