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Simplified Chinese普通高等学校招生全国统一考试
Traditional Chinese普通高等學校招生全國統一考試
Higher education exam
A 2013 banner at Chongqing Nankai Secondary School announcing it as an examination venue for the 2013 National Higher Education Entrance Examination
Parents and teachers outside Beijing Bayi Middle School during the 2016 National College Entrance Examination

The National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), commonly known as the gaokao (高考; gāokǎo; 'Higher Education Exam'), is a standardized college entrance exam held annually in mainland China. It is required for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level. It is usually taken by students in their last year of senior high school, but the age requirement was abolished in 2001.

The exams last about nine hours over a period of two or three days, depending on the province. The Standard Chinese language and mathematics are included in all tests. Candidates can choose one of the subjects in English, French, Japanese, Russian, German and Spanish as a foreign language test (although the six languages were identified as college entrance examination subjects in 1983, the vast majority of candidates regard "foreign language" as "English", and English is the choice of the most candidates). In addition, students must choose between two concentrations in most regions, either the social-science-oriented area (文科倾向) or the natural-science-oriented area (理科倾向). Students who choose social sciences receive further testing in history, political science, and geography (文科综合), while those who choose natural sciences are tested in physics, chemistry, and biology (理科综合).

The overall mark received by the student is generally a weighted sum of their subject marks. The maximum possible mark varies widely from year to year and also varies from province to province.

Generally, the modern College Entrance Examination takes place from June 7 to 8 every year, though in some provinces it can last for an extra day.[1]


A banner on the HUST campus in Wuhan congratulates top exam score achievers from the university-affiliated high school


The first gaokao was held in August 15–17, 1952.[2]

The unified national tertiary entrance examination marked the start of reform of National Matriculation Tests Policies (NMTP) in the newly established People's Republic of China. With the implementation of the first Five Year Plan in 1953, the NMTP was further enhanced. After repeated discussions and experiments, the NMTP was eventually set as a fundamental policy system in 1959. From 1958, the tertiary entrance examination system was affected by the Great Leap Forward Movement. Soon, unified recruitment was replaced by separate recruitment by individual or allied tertiary education institutions. Meanwhile, political censorship on candidate students was enhanced. Since 1962, criticism of the NMTP system had become even harsher, because it hurt benefits of the working class. On July 1966, the NMTP was officially canceled and substituted by a new admission policy of recommending workers, farmers and soldiers to college.[3] During the next ten years, the Down to the Countryside Movement, initiated by Mao Zedong, forced both senior and junior secondary school graduates, the so-called "intellectual youths", to go to the country and work as farmers in the villages. Against the backdrop of world revolution, millions of such young people, joined the ranks of farmers, working and living alongside them.

In the early 1970s, Mao Zedong realized that internal political struggle had taken too big a toll on him as well as the nation and decided to resume the operation of universities. However, new students were selected on the basis of their evaluation by a revolutionary committee rather than formal academic scores. This practice continued until the death of Mao in September 1976. In late 1977, Deng Xiaoping, then under Hua Guofeng, the heir apparent of Mao, officially resumed the traditional examination based on academics, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, which has continued to the present day.

The first such examination after the Cultural Revolution took place in late 1977 and was a history-making event. There was no limit on the age or official educational background of examinees. Consequently, most of the hopefuls who had accumulated during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution and many others who simply wanted to try their luck emerged from society for the examination. The youngest were in their early teens and the oldest were in their late thirties. The questions in the examinations were designed by the individual provinces. The total number of candidate students for the national college entrance exam in 1977 was as many as 5.7 million. Although the Ministry of Education eventually expanded enrollment, adding 63,000 more to the admission quota, the admission ratio of 4.8% was the lowest in the history of the PRC, with only 272,971 students being admitted.[4]

Starting from 1978, the examination was uniformly designed by the Ministry of Education and all the students across the country took exactly the same examination.

However, reforms on the content and form of the exam have never stopped, among which the permission for individual provinces to customize their own exams has been the most salient. The Ministry of Education allowed the College Enrollment Office of Shanghai to employ an independent exam in 1985, which was the beginning of provincial proposition. In the same year, Guangdong was also permitted to adopt independent proposition. Starting from 2003, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang were allowed to adopt independent propositions. Since then there have been 16 provinces and municipalities adopting customized exams.

Although today's admission rate is much higher than in 1977, 1978 and before the 1990s, it is still fairly low compared to the availability of higher education in the Western world. Consequently, the examination is highly competitive, and the prospective examinees and their parents experience enormous pressure. For the majority, it is a watershed that divides two dramatically different lives.

In 1970, less than 1% of Chinese people had attended higher education; however, university admissions places are less than 1/1000 of the whole population of China. In the 1970s, 70% of students who were recommended to go to university had political backgrounds reflecting the political nature of university selection at the time. At the same time, the undergraduate course system narrowed down the time from 4 years to 3 years. According to incomplete statistics, from 1966 to 1977, institutions of higher learning recruited 940,000 people who belonged to the worker-peasant-soldier group.

For most provinces, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination is held once a year (in recent years some of the provinces in China hold examinations twice a year and the extra one is called the Spring Entrance Examination). The previous schedule (before 2003) of the National Higher Education Entrance Examination was in July every year. It now takes place in June every year. Partial Provincial administrative units determine the schedule of the exams on the 7th and 8 June.

2006 gaokao[edit]

In 2006, a record high of 9.5 million people applied for tertiary education entry in China. Of these, 8.8 million (93%) took the national entrance exam and 27,600 (0.28%) were exempted (保送) due to exceptional or special talent. Everyone else (700,000 students) took other standardized entrance exams, such as those designed for adult education students.[citation needed]

2017 gaokao[edit]

9.40 million students attended gaokao in 2017, 7 million of whom were admitted by colleges and/or universities.[5] The percentage of first-class admission (Yi Ben(一本), deemed as good universities in China) varied from 9.48% to 30.5%,[6] with the lowest admission rates in Henan province and Shanxi province, at less than 10%.

The changes of the exam scope in 2017 (in most areas of China, where the students use the Nationwide Exam Papers in gaokao)


All the exam contents are set into compulsory examination scope.


Elective Course 4-1 (Selection of Geometric Proof) is removed from the elective examination scope.

Foreign Language

No changes.


Elective Course 3-5 is changed from the elective examination scope into the compulsory examination scope.


Elective Course 2 (Chemistry and Technology) is removed from the elective examination scope.


Topic 3 (Tissue Culture Technology of Plants) is removed from the elective examination scope of Elective Course 1 (Biotechnology Practice).


No changes.


Elective Course 2 (Democratic Thought and Practice in Modern Society) is removed from the elective examination scope.


Elective Course 5 (Natural Disasters and Prevention) is removed from the elective examination scope.

2018 gaokao[edit]

9.75 million students attended gaokao on June 7 and 8.[5]

Acceptance rate for each year[7][edit]

The number of higher education institutes in the People's Republic of China has risen annually since 1977. During the period from 1999 to 2020,the amount of institutes increased dramatically from 1071 to 2740.[8] This is one important factor contributed to the rapid growth in the number of NCEE examinees and Accepted students.

Annual acceptance rate
Year Number of examinees Accepted students Acceptance rate
1977 5,700,000 270,000 4.74%
1978 6,100,000 402,000 6.59%
1979 4,680,000 280,000 5.98%
1980 3,330,000 280,000 8.41%
1981 2,590,000 280,000 10.81%
1982 1,870,000 320,000 17.11%
1983 1,670,000 390,000 23.35%
1984 1,640,000 480,000 29.27%
1985 1,760,000 620,000 35.23%
1986 1,910,000 570,000 29.84%
1987 2,280,000 620,000 27.19%
1988 2,720,000 670,000 24.63%
1989 2,660,000 600,000 22.56%
1990 2,830,000 610,000 21.55%
1991 2,960,000 620,000 20.95%
1992 3,030,000 750,000 24.75%
1993 2,860,000 980,000 34.27%
1994 2,510,000 900,000 35.86%
1995 2,530,000 930,000 36.76%
1996 2,410,000 970,000 40.25%
1997 2,780,000 1,000,000 35.97%
1998 3,200,000 1,083,600 33.86%
1999 2,880,000 1,596,800 55.44%
2000 3,750,000 2,206,100 58.83%
2001 4,540,000 2,682,800 59.09%
2002 5,100,000 3,205,000 62.84%
2003 6,130,000 3,821,700 62.34%
2004 7,290,000 4,473,400 61.36%
2005 8,770,000 5,044,600 57.52%
2006 9,500,000 5,460,500 57.48%
2007 10,100,000 5,659,200 56.03%
2008 10,500,000 6,076,600 57.87%
2009 10,200,000 6,394,900 62.70%
2010 9,460,000 6,617,600 69.95%
2011 9,330,000 6,815,000 73.04%
2012 9,150,000 6,888,300 75.28%
2013 9,120,000 6,998,300 76.74%
2014 9,390,000 7,214,000 76.83%
2015 9,420,000 7,378,500 78.33%
2016 9,400,000 7,486,100 79.64%
2017 9,400,000 7,614,900 81.01%
2018 9,750,000 7,909,900 81.13%
2019 10,310,000 8,200,000 79.53%
2020 10,710,000 9,700,000 90.57%
2021 10,780,000 - -


The National Higher Education Entrance Examination is not uniform across the country, but administered uniformly within each province of China or each direct-controlled municipality. The National Higher Education Entrance Examination is graded variously across the country. It is arranged at the end of the spring semester and secondary school graduates across the country take the examination simultaneously over a three-day period. Prior to 2003, the examination was held in July, but has since been moved to the month of June. This move was made in consideration of the adverse effects of hot weather on students living in southern China and possible flooding during the rainy season in July.

In different places and across different time in history, students were required to apply for their intended university or college prior to the exam, after the exam, or more recently, after they learned of their scores, by filling a list of ordered preferences. The application list is classified into several tiers (including at least early admissions, key universities, regular universities, vocational colleges), each of which can contain around 4-6 intended choices in institution and program, though typically an institution or program would only admit students who apply to it as their first choice in each tier. In some places, students are allowed to apply for different tiers at different times. For example, in Shanghai, students apply for early admission, key universities and regular universities prior to the exam, but can apply for other colleges after they learned of their scores.

The exam is administered for two or three days. Three subjects are mandatory everywhere: Chinese, Mathematics, and a foreign language—usually English, but this may also be substituted by Russian, Japanese, German, French or Spanish. The other six standard subjects are three sciences: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and three humanities: History, Geography, and Political Science.[9] Applicants to science/engineering or art/humanities programs typically take one to three from the respective category. Since the 2000s, an integrated test, science integrated test, humanities integrated test or wider integrated test has been introduced in some places. This integrated test may or may not be considered during admission. In addition, some special regional subjects are required or optional in some places. Currently, the actual requirement varies from province to province.

However, the general requirements are as follows:

  1. Abide by the Constitution and laws of the People's Republic of China.
  2. Have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  3. Be in good health.
  4. Have read carefully and are willing to abide by the rules of the Register and other regulations and policies of the Institutions of Higher Learning and the Office of Admissions Committee about the enrollment management.
  5. If foreign immigrants who settle down in China conform to the enlists condition of the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, they can then apply for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination with the foreign immigrants’ resident certificate, which are sent by the Provincial Public Security Department at the location that is assigned.
  6. If willing to apply for the Military Academy: students who are going to graduate this year and have studied in high school for the first time can not be older than 20 years of age and unmarried; willing to apply for the Police Academy, and students who are going to graduate this year and have studied in high school for the first time can not be older than 22 years of age and unmarried; willing to apply for the foreign language major in Police Academy, and students who are going to graduate this year and have studied in high school for the first time can not be older than 20 years of age and unmarried.
  7. If students from Juvenile Classes want to take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, their schools need to pre-select, send certification of approval, inform the exact required courses, and clarify the offices of Admissions Committee where they will take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination. After doing so, the students can then file the application. After the Office of Admissions Committee reviews and approves, the students can apply for and attend the National Higher Education Entrance Examination at the right location. Students who apply for Shao Nian Ban must be part of the small percentage of the population. They must have very high IQ, their grades must be excellent, and they must study at a secondary or high school under the age of 15 (not including those who are going to graduate this year and has studied in high school for the first time).

The following groups are prohibited from taking the exam:

  1. Students who are currently studying higher education.
  2. Students whose files are incomplete, such as no school status.
  3. One who is serving a prison sentence or is being prosecuted for violating Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China.

Applicants to some specialist programs are also screened by additional criteria: some art departments (e.g. audition), military and police schools (political screening and physical exam), and some sports programs (tryout).

Scores obtained in the examinations can be used in applying universities outside mainland China. Among all the places, the counterpart Hong Kong is on their top list. In 2007, 7 students with overall highest score in their provinces entered Hong Kong's universities rather than the two major universities in mainland China. In 2010, over 1,200 students entered the 12 local institutions which provide tertiary education courses through this examination. In addition, City University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong directly participate in the application procedure like other mainland universities.

The examination is essentially the only criterion for tertiary education admissions. A poor performance on the test almost always means giving up on that goal. Students hoping to attend university will spend most of their waking moments studying prior to the exam. If they fail in their first attempt, some of them repeat the last year of high school life and make another attempt the following year.


The subjects tested in the National Higher Education Entrance Examination have changed over time. Traditionally, students would undertake either a set of "arts" subjects or a set of "science" subjects, with some shared compulsory subjects. The subjects taken in the Examination affected the degree Examination, or implemented flexible systems for selecting the subjects to be tested, resulting in a number of different systems.

"3+X" system (Being phased out)[edit]

As a pilot examination system used in order to promote education system reform, this examination system has been implemented in most parts of the country, including Beijing City, Tianjin City, Hebei Province, Liaoning Province, Jilin Province, Heilongjiang Province, Anhui Province, Fujian Province, Guangdong Province, Jiangxi Province, Henan Province, Shandong Province, Hubei Province, Shaanxi Province, Sichuan Province, Guizhou Province, Yunnan Province, Shanxi Province, Chongqing City, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Tibet. In the context of the reform of the National College Entrance Examination, this program will be suspended in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Hainan provinces from 2020, and will be suspended in most provinces and cities in China from 2021. It will cease across Mainland China by 2022.

  • "3" refers to compulsory subjects, including "Chinese, Mathematics and a foreign language ", each of which accounts for 150/750 in total score.
  • "X" means that students can choose, according to their own capability, one subject from either Social Sciences (including Political Sciences, History and Geography), or Natural Sciences (including Physics, Chemistry and Biology), which accounts for 300/750 in total score.
  • If a student chooses Natural Sciences, then he or she will take a relatively harder mathematics test as well, including Curves and Equations, Space Vector and Solid Geometry, The Concept of Definite Integral, Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, Simple Application of Definite Integral, Mathematical Induction, Counting Principle, Random Variable and Its Distribution.
  • For candidates of minor ethnic groups in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Jilin, their Literature score consists of an easier Chinese Literature test and an optional subject on Tibetan, Mongolian, Uyghur and Korean Literature, each counting for 75 points.
Compulsory Subjects Score Time Elective Subjects Score Time
Social Sciences Chinese, Mathematics (for arts students) and a foreign language 450/750, 150 each 150 minutes for Chinese (9:00 to 11:30 on June 7), 120 minutes for Mathematics (15:00 to 17:00 on June 7) and the foreign language (15:00 to 17:00 on June 8) Political Sciences, History and Geography 300/750, 100+100+100 150 minutes (9:00 to 11:30 on June 8)
Natural Sciences Chinese, Mathematics and a foreign language 450/750, 150 each 150 minutes for Chinese (9:00 to 11:30 on June 7), 120 minutes for Mathematics (15:00 to 17:00 on June 7) and the foreign language (15:00 to 17:00 on June 8) Physics, Chemistry and Biology 300/750, 110+100+90 150 minutes (9:00 to 11:30 on June 8)

"3+2" system[edit]

This system used to be employed in Jiangsu Province, but is being replaced by another system in 2020. The total score is 480 points.

  • "3" refers to three compulsory subjects "Chinese, mathematics and a foreign language", which are recorded in the total score.
  • "2" refers to selecting two subjects either from Politics, History or Geography for arts students, or from Biology, Chemistry or Physics for science students, which are not recorded in total score but a class like A, B, etc. will be recorded.
  • Bonus Points: refers to 4 comprehensive science or liberal arts exams, one gets a bonus of 5 points if they get 4 "A"s in all 4 elective exams.

"4+X" system[edit]

This system was used after the New Curriculum Reform being employed in Guangdong province, and now it has been abandoned.

  • "X" means that according to their own interests, candidates can choose one or two subjects either from arts subjects, including Politics, History and Geography (Politics and Geography cannot be chosen simultaneously), or from science subjects, including Biology, Physics and Chemistry (Physics and Biology cannot be chosen simultaneously).
  • Chinese and a foreign language are compulsory. Two separate Mathematics tests are designed respectively for arts students and science students.
  • In addition to three compulsory subjects and X subject, arts students have to take comprehensive tests of arts, and science students have to take comprehensive tests of science.

"3+1+X" system[edit]

This system has been implemented in Shanghai since the employment of comprehensive courses, now abandoned.

  • "3" refers to three compulsory subjects "Chinese, Mathematics and a foreign language", with 150 scores for each subject.
  • "1" refers to one subject that candidates choose according to their own interests and specialty from "Politics, History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry and Biology". This subject accounts 150 scores when admitted by universities and colleges at undergraduate level. The score is not included in the total score when admitted by vocational and technical colleges. Therefore, candidates can give up this subject when applying for colleges at vocational and technical level.
  • "X" refers to comprehensive ability test, which is categorized into arts tests and science tests. Arts students can either choose one subject from Politics, History and Geography, or take an arts comprehensive test when giving up "1' subject. Science students can either choose one subject from Physics, Chemistry and Biology, or take a science comprehensive test when giving up "1" subject. Regardless of arts and science categories, all the comprehensive ability tests cover knowledge of six subjects,including Politics, History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In the first volume of the arts test, number of questions related to arts subjects exceeds science questions, and vice versa; the second volume of the two tests are the same.

"3+2+X" system (Ready to disable)[edit]

This is a pilot college entrance examination system implemented by the Jiangsu Province in 2003 after examining other testing systems, but it was replaced by "3+2" system in 2008. Subject tests will take turns into the embrace of National Standard. A new policy is expected to substitute the old one in 2021.

  • "3" refers to three compulsory subjects "Chinese, mathematics and a foreign language", which are recorded in the total score.
  • "2" refers to choosing two subjects from the following six areas "politics, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology", which are not recorded in total score but a class like A+, A, etc. will be recorded.
  • "X" refers to a comprehensive science or liberal arts exam, which is not recorded in the total score, only for university admission reference.

"3+X+1" system[edit]

This is part of the curriculum reform in China.

  • "3" refers to Chinese, Mathematics and a foreign language, which are compulsory testing subjects for each candidate.
  • "X" means choosing one of the two comprehensive tests in either sciences or liberal arts, according to the student's interest.
  • "1" refers to a basic proficiency test on skills that high school graduates needs and should have in order to adapt to social life. This college entrance examination system was implemented for the first time in Shandong in 2007.
  • The examination system in Shandong Province reverted to the "3+X" system as of the most recent testing in June 2014.[citation needed]

Reform of the National College Entrance Examination[edit]

"3+3" system[edit]

For a summary of information about this program, see the Education of Sina.[10]

  • This system has been implemented in Shanghai and Zhejiang since the employment of comprehensive courses since September 2014.
  • All students participating in the National College Entrance Examination must take Chinese, mathematics, and a foreign language (a choice of one from English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Spanish). They also take three subjects of their choice from physics, chemistry, biology, technology (Zhejiang only), geography, politics and history.
  • Since 2017, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hainan have begun to use this program. Since 2018, about 7 Chinese provinces and Chongqing City have started to use this program. This system will apply to the rest of the country starting in 2020.[needs update]
    • Provinces and cities that were originally scheduled to start The Reform of the National College Entrance Examination in 2018: Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Hubei, Chongqing, Hunan, Hebei, Henan, Heilongjiang, Shanxi, Sichuan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Jilin, Guizhou, Anhui, Tibet.
    • Henan, Heilongjiang, Shanxi, Sichuan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Jilin, Guizhou, Anhui, Tibet were evaluated by the Ministry of Education of PRC, and their conditions did not meet the start-up requirements and were required to be postponed. Among them, it will apply in Anhui since 2019. Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Hubei, Chongqing, Hunan, Hebei, Liaoning reached the start condition and were approved to start in 2018.
  • Originally, the initial intention of the reform was to let students develop their strengths and avoid their weaknesses; however, students taking the exam rushed to test into subjects that were perceived as higher-scoring. This has resulted in very few people entering into certain subjects, such as physics.
  • In the calculation of the scores of the other, 70 points (in Shanghai) or 100 points (in Zhejiang) for each of the subjects, according to the levels like A+, A, B+, ..., D, E, etc (Divided into 21 grades in Zhejiang, 11 in Shanghai; 3 points between every two grades). According to the published news, Beijing and Tianjin indicated that their plan is similar to the Zhejiang plan, and Anhui's request for comment is similar to Zhejiang, too;[11] Shandong is divided into eight grades of A, B+, B, C+, C, D+, D, and E. According to the original scores and equal conversion rules of the candidates, they are converted to 91-100, 81-90, 71-80, 61-70, 51-60, 41-50, 31-40, 21-30 eight score intervals, get the grades of candidates.[12][13]'
  • Another concern is that candidates who want to take the college entrance examination must first take the Qualifying Exam of the Academic Proficiency Examination for Senior High School Students (普通高中学业水平考试). The results are credited as "qualified" and "failed".
Exam scope
Subject Compulsory Courses Elective Compulsory Courses
Chinese the first volume
the last volume
the first volume
the middle volume
the last volume
mathematics two or four volumes two or three volumes
English three volumes four volumes
politics 1.Socialism with Chinese characteristics
2.Economy and society
3.Politics and rule of law
4.Philosophy and culture
1.Contemporary international politics and economy
2.Law and life
3.Logic and thinking
history Outline of Chinese and foreign history (I)
Outline of Chinese and foreign history (II)
1.National system and social governance
2.Economic and social life
3.Cultural exchange and communication
geography two volumes 1.Fundamentals of physical geography
2.regional development
3.Resources, environment and national security
physics three volumes three volumes
chemistry two volumes 1.Principle of chemical reaction
2.Material structure and properties
3.Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
biology 1.Molecules and cells
2.Heredity and evolution
1.Steady state and regulation
2.Biology and environment
3.Biotechnology and Engineering
information technology 1.Data and calculation
2.Information system and society
1.Data and data structure
2.Network foundation
3.Data management and analysis
general technology Technology and design 1
Technology and design 2
1.Electronic control technology
4.Modern housekeeping Technology
7.Fundamentals of Vocational Technology


Academic segregation[edit]

Chinese students are required to choose either Social Sciences (political science, geography, and history) or Natural Sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology). This happens particularly at the end of the first or second year of high school, when students are mostly 15–17 years old. Once they make their decisions, they start preparing for the subject tests, and no longer take classes for the other three subjects. This decision will determine which college entrance test they will take at the age of 18, as well as influence their college majors and future career path.[citation needed]

Regional discrimination[edit]

A university usually sets a fixed admission quota for each province, with a higher number of students coming from its home province. As the advanced educational resources (number and quality of universities) are distributed unevenly across China, it is argued that people are being discriminated against during the admission process based on their geographic region. For example, compared to Beijing, Jiangxi province has fewer universities per capita. Therefore, Jiangxi usually receives fewer admission quotas compared with Beijing, which makes a significantly higher position among applicants necessary for a Jiangxi candidate to be admitted by the same university than their Beijing counterpart. The unequal admission schemes for different provinces and regions might intensify competition among examinees from provinces with fewer advanced education resources. For example, Peking University planned to admit 800 science students from Beijing (with 80,000 candidates in total), but only 38 from Shandong (with 660,000 candidates in total). This is not similar to the practice of regional universities in other countries which receive subsidies from regional governments in addition to or in place of those received from central governments, as universities in China largely depend on state budget rather than local budget. However, this regionally preferential policy does provide subsidies to minority students from under-developed regions that enjoy limited educational resources, such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

The regional discrimination can be proved by the disparities between ratios of a province's enrollment of students to the total number of candidate students of the province. In 2010, the acceptance rates for students from Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong and Henan who applied for universities of the first-ranking category were 20.1%, 18%, 7.1% and 3.5% respectively. High acceptance rates are likely to appear in the most and least developed cities and provinces, such as Beijing, Shanghai or Qinghai. In contrast, acceptance rates remain relatively equal among provinces of the average developmental level.

In recent years, varied admission standards have led some families to relocate for the sole purpose of advancing their children's chances of entering university.[14]

In addition, regional discrimination is not only restricted to the ratio for admission. This is best illustrated with an example of the Hubei Province, where students' exam scores have been higher than other provinces for a long time. A score for a Hubei student to just reach the admission cut-off line for a key university may be enough for a student from another province to be admitted by a much better university, and even enough for a Beijing student to be admitted by top universities like Tsinghua University and Peking University.

Some local students in Hong Kong complained that it was unfair that the increasing intake of Mainland students who have performed at a high level in this examination increases the admission grades of universities, making it harder for local students to get admission. In 2010, more than 5,000 out of the 17,000 students who achieved the minimum university entry requirement were not offered places in any degree courses in the UGC-funded universities.

Migrant children[edit]

As a student is required to take exams in the region where their household registration (Hukou) is located, the qualification of migrant children becomes controversial.[15] Since 2012, some regions began to relax the requirements and allow some children of migrants to take their College Entrance Exam in regions outside of their household registration. As of 2016, Guangdong's policies are the most relaxed. A child of migrants can take their Entrance Exam in Guangdong if they have attended 3 years of highschool in the province, and if the parent(s) have legal jobs and have paid for 3 years of social insurance in the province.[16]

Special concessions[edit]

There are special concessions for members of ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, persons with family origin in Taiwan, and children of military casualties. Students can also receive bonus marks by achieving high results in academic Olympiads, other science and technology competitions, sporting competitions, as well as "political or moral" distinction. In the 2018 National People's Congress, the government passed legislation abolishing all bonus scores from competitions.

Psychological pressure[edit]

Because gaokao is one of the most influential examinations in China and students can only take the test once a year, both teachers and students undergo tremendous pressure in preparing for and taking the exam. For teachers, because the society heavily focuses on the rate of admission into universities, they have to work harder to prepare every student for the exam. Because of this, teachers give students more and more practice for exams. This teaching methodology, colloquially referred to as "cramming", involves students memorizing large volumes of information fed to them by teachers and undertaking many practice exercises in order to optimize exam writing ability. One of the disadvantages of this method is the lack of focus on teaching critical thinking and ignoring students' emotions, values and personalities. Many examinees suffer from severe anxiety during the test. In some cases, examinees may faint in the examination room.[17]

Further and deeper stemming criticisms have been leveled that the testing system is the "most pressure packed examination in the world."[18] Behaviors surrounding the testing period have been extreme under some reports, with doctors in Tianjin purportedly prescribing birth control pills to female students whose parents wanted to ensure the girls were not menstruating at the time of examination.[18] Testing pressure, for some critics, has been linked to faintings, increased drop out rates, and even increasing rates of teenage clinical depression and suicide in China.


Gaokao tends to rule the lives of most Chinese teenagers and their parents. In Zhengzhou (Henan), the local bus company parked a 985 number bus outside a gaokao center for parents to wait in, the number reflecting a popular enrollment program number for university entrances.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chi, ma (8 June 2017). "Scenes from the most important test in China". China Daily. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Lishi de jintian: 1952 nian 8 yue 15 ri juxing shouci quanguo tongyi gaokao" 历史的今天:1952年8月15日举行首次全国统一高考 [History today: The first national unified gaokao on August 15, 1952]. Zhongguo jiaoyu wang (in Chinese). Archived from the original on June 9, 2021. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  3. ^ Guodong Wei, “On the Reform of China’s NCEE since 1977” (PhD diss., Hebei University, 2008).
  4. ^ Wei, “On the Reform of China’s NCEE since 1977.”
  5. ^ a b "中国教育网". 中国教育在线(Chinese simplified). 2018-06-06. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  6. ^ "全国31省市一本录取率排名,哪个省份高考最难?". Sohu (Chinese simplified). 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  7. ^ "高考报名人数|高考录取率|2018年高考报名人数|历年高考人数|2019高考". Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  8. ^ "普通高等院校数量持续增长—中国教育在线". (Chinese simplified). 2020-07-11. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  9. ^ This subject is partly a civics or introductory legal studies class, and partly ideology from the Communist Party of China.
  10. ^ sina_mobile. "新高考|高考改革_新浪专题". Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  11. ^ "安徽省普通高中学业水平考试实施办法(征求意见稿)__万家热线-安徽门户网站". Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  12. ^ "山东省教育招生考试院". Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  13. ^ "山东高考综合改革的等级计分规则_山东教育社". Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  14. ^ "Migrating college candidates could be left out in cold, News Guangdong, 2005".
  15. ^ Fu, Yiqin (2013-06-19). "China's Unfair College Admissions System". The Atlantic.
  16. ^ Hornby, Lucy; Mao, Sabrina (2012-12-30). "Chinese cities to relax school entry for rural migrants". Beijing, China. Reuters. Jin, Dan (2016-06-07). "Nearly 10,000 migrant students sit for gaokao in Guangdong". China Daily.
  17. ^ Xu, Xiuhua. "基础教育弊端日益显现 中国课程改革势在必行". People Website.
  18. ^ a b Siegel, Ben (June 12, 2007). "Stressful Times for Chinese Students". TIME magazine. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]