Many in the United States are quick to criticize standardized testing, but a glance at gaokao, China’s college entrance exam, offers some perspective on just how bad standardized testing can actually be.
By the time Chinese high school students take gaokao, they have often spent up to half their lives studying for the exam, which was first introduced in 1952 to even the opportunity gap between poor and affluent students in China.
Taken over two days, gaokao — which lasts nine hours and covers an array of subjects including Chinese literature and Mathematics — sees approximately 9 million students vie for fewer than 7 million college spots per year.
Here’s what that looks like:
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents pour over books mere minutes before the test begins.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents come together before the test.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents wait in a long line to enter the testing room.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesParents and close relatives tend to wait outside of testing centers, praying for their kin to do well.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents also gather to pray before the test.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA range of emotions can be seen of the faces of the test-takers as they begin the walk inside.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents file into a testing facility. Once inside, they are quickly checked for materials that could be used to cheat.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA girl prays before the test.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesChinese actress Xiaotong-Guan poses before taking the exam.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents filter into double file lines.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesParents wait outside for any news on the testing.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA student cries on the day of the exam.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesLast minute cramming is the final preparation for the gaokao.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA student displaying extreme focus as the testing begins.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesBetween the students, their parents, and other attending relatives, the gaokao literally stops traffic around the testing site.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesSecurity officers keep things flowing smoothly around a testing facility.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA student gets a hug from a relative as a photo is taken to commemorate the day.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesOne parent uses a toy to help locate her child after the test is over.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesParents pile rice up a measuring board to indicate high scores.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesTo relieve stress, students sometimes will throw their teachers in the air after the test.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesAnother teacher is tossed by relieved students after testing is complete.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesExam bags find their way into the air, too.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesRelatives gather to cheer on the students, much like a sporting event.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesA congratulatory gift of flowers for one tired looking student.
VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesStudents celebrate finally being free from the mental anguish of the gaokao.
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