It's time for GaoKao -- the "big exam" -- the national college entrance exam. Today and tomorrow, almost 10 million high school seniors will take the test in hopes of scoring well enough to go to college, especially one of the first-tier universities.
It is impossible to over-state the importance of this exam, which leads to such insanities as suicides, 12-hour school days, tricky cheating, and more. Scoring well is seen as a ticket to success; scoring poorly is one of the biggest failures of a young person's life. Some of my students arrive at university unable to even boil water because their parents did everything for them during high school to allow more time for studying for the exam. Other girls kept their hair short for years to devote those extra few minutes of hair care to studying. Some of my freshman students are 21 or 22 years old because they scored poorly the first time, took a couple years off to just study for the exam, and then tried again.
Students across China are taking the exam today and tomorrow. In this short article, danwei.org translates some of the essay questions from the exam.