Santa Monica High School

Juniors, are you ready for testing season?

As the spring semester begins, high school juniors are readying to take tests – lots of test. SATs, ACTs, AP Exams and SAT Subject tests.

So many tests. But what if there was only one test? Only one test to determine your entire future. One 9-hour, two-day test taken with up to 13,000 other anxious students. That’s what Chinese students have – the Gaokao.

Chinese students begin preparing for this test from a young age. Teachers teach to the test, training young students how to master math problems, as well as both Chinese and English.

Parents drill their children nightly, knowing that a good score on the Gaokao is equivalent to a golden ticket.

One Chinese student Bo Wen Zhu recently shared that this test may be the reason Chinese students can’t solve problems with critical thinking or “out of the box” thinking. He concludes that years spent drilling students on how to solve a math problem in a particular way (so they achieve on the test) creates an inability to solve problems in any other way, an inability to look at things from a different perspective.

The test is set up to be an equalizer between rich and poor, urban and rural students. They all take the same test. Cheating is a criminal offense that can result in being jailed, so students must be prepared.

The results of the test will determine if you get to go to college and if so, where you’re eligible to go to college. For rural students this is the only way out. As for urban students, many seek to go to an American college to improve the prospects of better future for them, as the Chinese culture holds American colleges in high regard.

It may seem harsh to have only one test to determine one’s future, but understand that over 9 million students take that test each year and this is, so far, China’s best way to determine college entrance.

Two things to keep in mind as juniors prepare for the test-taking semester: there are a lot of Chinese students vying for American college spots and you can always take the SAT again.