Monday, November 01, 2010

Gaokao: SAT Stress On Steroids

As insane as the obsessive preoccupation with acing the SAT can seem in the lives of American teenagers ... it's a lot worse in China, apparently. Stressed-out American teens can at least be grateful they don't have to place all their bets on a single test score, as do their Chinese counterparts.

A recent Associated Press article examines the phenomenal pressure faced by students taking the ultra high stakes Chinese "gaokao" college entrance test:

"Education is unrivaled in importance in China, and the two-day test that ended Friday is one of the few events that can bring the country to a standstill. Cities ordered drivers not to blow their horns, construction sites were shut down, streets near test sites were closed and flight paths were altered lest the noise disturb test-takers.

"This is the culmination of years of studies. This test will decide the rest of their lives," said Ma Jingshun, speaking for his son, a hulking 18-year-old whose voice had sunk to a soft mumble because of nerves.

Unlike the U.S., where standardized test scores are just one factor weighed by universities, how Chinese students do on the gaokao determines everything. Students list their top three schools and their major and hope their score is high enough to win a place.

Extracurricular activities, volunteer work and high school grades do not count. There are no essays to persuade admissions officers."

To read the entire article, click here.

Next time you begin to complain about the overblown importance of the SAT, you may want to remember the goakao, and Ma Jingshun's son, and count your blessings instead!

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