Long considered the most fierce exam in the world, “Gaokao” is the Chinese college entrance exam that determines students’ future in the billion-plus-people country.  

Nearly 12 million Chinese candidates entered the university entrance exam from June 7 to 8. The examination subjects were Chinese, mathematics, and foreign languages.

To deter student fraud, China enacted a criminal law in 2015. Following that, candidates found cheating would face up to seven years in prison. They will also be barred from taking any other national exams for three years.

However, during test time, some math questions from the test on June 7 were  photographed and posted to a QQ group chat—a Chinese social media website—by a student named “Zhang Ruirui.” 

Many students confirmed that the four photos posted by “Zhang Ruirui were the math exam questions from the college entrance test that day.

Netizens ask why Ruirui could bring in a mobile phone and take pictures of the test. Are there no metal detectors, exam observers, surveillance [cameras], or proctors? Are they all broken?

Another netizen asks how the mobile phone can get in while there is a mobile signal detector and how the guy can take out the mobile phone to take photos and then type on it without being detected by the proctor.

It is the second year in a row that a Chinese math college entrance test has been leaked. Last year, a candidate from Huangpi in Wuhan brought his mobile phone into the examination room. He took a photo of the test questions and posted them to a learning app asking for answers, but he forgot to cover his name and seat number in the picture.

Why do Chinese students cheat on examinations even though they may face jail time for many years?

Everything hinges on the gaokao for Chinese students hoping to get a spot at a prestigious university. For some, this is the compelling reason. 

Most youngsters competing in the fierce race are from rural areas or come from low-income homes. Students who get good grades can easily enter prestigious universities, thus expanding their career opportunities. They have a chance to change their families’ fortunes. Their family life would no longer be limited to farms and factories.

Those who fail the Gaokao exam have three options: The first option is to look for a manual job as a worker to help support himself and his family. The second option is to locate a test preparation center and repeat the exam the following year. And the third option? We will talk later.

Most families want to escape poverty through their children’s college grades.

As a result, cities across China have sprung up with intensive test-prep schools, but one school remains unique.

Maotanchang Middle School is one of China’s most secretive “exam preparation schools”: a memory-enhancing factory with 20,000 students, four times the town’s official population. 

The exam preparation center serves students who have failed an exam and those who are taking the exam for the first time that year.

At the school, students are not allowed to use mobile phones or laptops; about half of the students live in dormitories; they have no power sockets in the rooms; dating is not allowed. 

The other half of the students live in the town, mostly in cramped cubicles with their mothers. The local government has banned all entertainment venues. It is probably the only town in China that does not have video game arcades, billiard halls, or internet cafes. Instead, countdown timers can be seen all over town.

Most of the students at Maotanchang Middle School are from rural areas. Yang Wei is a senior at the public school, the son of a peach farmer. 

Even on weekends, Yang Wei rushed to his first session at 6:20 a.m. and returned to his room after the last lesson at 10:50 p.m.

The “hardest students” in the school have a weekly break of only 90 minutes. They study in crowded classrooms. Each classroom has more than 150 students. Teachers had to use loudspeakers to be heard.

The boy who lives in the room next to Yang Wei is a repeater. He failed the college entrance examination a year ago, and now he has to review every night until 1:30 in the morning.

Yang Wei said his mother continuously reminded him that he must study hard. To pay his tuition, his father went to work at a construction site far away with a physical job. They all know that if his college entrance examination is not good, his future will be the same. In that case, he would be forced to return to the first option. He would have to join China’s army of a hundred million migrant workers. 

The third option for those who fail at the Gaokao is only for rich people. Some government officials have offered them the opportunity to enter a university using the identity of another student.

The most recent impersonation case was that of Tong Zhuo, a celebrity person in many Chinese shows. The Chinese regulator investigated his lawsuit in June 2020. They found out that he failed the university entrance test in Beijing in 2012 when he was known as Li Zhenhua. 

At that time, his stepfather was the Deputy General Secretary of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress Linfen, Shanxi. His stepfather used the fake transfer procedures and forged fake student status. Hence, his stepfather helped get him admitted to the Central Academy of Drama.

The Chinese regime has dismissed eight officers involved in the case and transferred three suspected criminals to judicial organs.

Since the Tong Zhuo case, the Shandong Provincial Department of Education has identified 242 impersonating suspects from 2002 to 2009. Many victims of impersonation have raised their voices to demand justice. 

For the first case, Gou Jing said she passed a Beijing school entrance criteria in 1997. But the daughter of Gou Jing’s headteacher took Gou Jing’s place at the school. 

The principal registered his daughter’s admission with Gou Jing’s profile. At the same time, the principal also changed the address to receive the matriculation results at his son-in-law’s office address.

At the time, the principal’s son was a police officer with the Jining City’s Tangkou. He and officials in Jining province created a fake household registration application under the name Gou Jing, a resident of Jining province. 

Thanks to the joint efforts of the principal and relevant local officials. With the identity and profile of Gou Jing, the principal’s daughter enrolled at Beijing Coal Industry School.

In the second case, Chen Chunxiu found out Chen Yanping used her profile to get into the Shandong University of Technology in 2004. 

Chen Yanping’s college entrance exam scores in 2004 fell short of the admission requirements for many universities. So her father and uncle looked for a high-scoring individual for her to impersonate. Chen Yanping’s uncle was the vice secretary of the Yanzhuang Town Party Committee at the time. So he utilized his connections to help her. They then sought assistance from the director of the Guanxian Admissions Office. On July 26, 2004, this director discovered Chen Chunxiu’s file was suitable for the deception.

Finally, they all agreed to use this profile to assist Chen Yanping in getting admitted to college.

Authorities in Shandong province penalized people connected with the case. As a result, many lost their jobs and were expelled from the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese regime has created a fierce race. However, college entrance exam results are not always the deciding factor for success.

Shiny Wang, Director of the Admission Guidance Office of the High School Affiliated with Tsinghua University, wrote an article in the New York Times in Chinese.

He said that the criteria for admitting students to foreign universities are a “holistic view” of students. The schools look for the best in the student. Different students have different characteristics, and admission criteria take a more holistic view of the applicants rather than just academic scoring ability.

There are excellent and unremarkable students, and some are even those with perfect scores on the exams that foreign schools reject, such as students with 2400 SAT scores.

Shiny Wang said he knew a student who got 2,390 on the SAT in 2013, but all the top 10 universities in the United States rejected the student.

Many foreign universities must see the records of students’ learning process to analyze and evaluate students’ academic potential. Then they decide whether to accept the student or not.

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