China’s university entrance exams: Would you pass the test?

china gaokao test cheating prevention drones sesay_00005618.jpg
Drones used to catch cheaters in China
02:10 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

This year, around 9.5 million students took the national university entrance exams

30,000 more students sat the test in 2015 than in 2014, according to the Ministry of Education

It's the only way to get into college -- there's intense pressure to succeed

Beijing CNN  — 

Now breathe.

Almost 9.5 million high school students in China have just finished possibly the most important exam of their lives.

The annual National College Entrance Exams – or gaokao – are the only way to get into college. Failure means no degree, poorer job prospects and possibly a life of regret.

The stakes are so high some students have stooped to ingenious methods of cheating – so much so that authorities have started using drones as hall monitors.

One look at the questions is enough to send a shiver down the spine of even the most diligent student.

Different essay questions were set for different regions, and accounted for around one third of total test result.

How would you answer them? You have 60 minutes* No cheating.

Parents crowd a police car outside Maotanchang High School as students leave to sit the 2015 college entrance exam.


“Big essay”

1. Write an essay on either of the topics in no fewer than 700 words:

a) There are numerous heroes in Chinese history who set examples. Please write an essay with the title “If I were given a chance to spend a day with my hero.” Select a hero and imagine spending a day with him/her.

b) For what object you have a “passion deep in the soul?” You can choose a plant, an animal or a utensil to write about.

“Micro essay”

1. Choose one question to answer in 150 words or less:

a) Review a Chinese classic

b) Write a poem on “circle”

c) Comment on uncivilized behavior in Beijing

READ: Why Gaokao’s reforms will fail

National version A used in 13 provinces:

Please write an essay on the following:

Who do you think is the most glamorous person? A biotechnologist who led his company in international research, an ordinary welder who gained international fame through his work, or a photographer complimented widely for a series of photos?

A police officer displays a device used by students to cheat in previous years.

National version B used in 5 provinces:

After a girl failed to dissuade her father from making phone calls while driving on a highway, she called the police. The police came and educated her father. A huge social outcry followed. Please write a letter based on the given information to the daughter, the father or the police officer, in no fewer than 800 words.


Everybody has tough and soft spots in his/her heart. Whether you can reach an inner harmony depends on how you balance the toughness and softness. Please choose an angle and write an essay on this topic in 800 words or more.


An honest person may not be smart, yet a smart person may not have true wisdom. Please write an essay in no fewer than 800 words on this topic.

A wire runs along a T-shirt, presumably to a listening device worn by the student.


After getting on a bus, a little boy asked the bus driver to wait for his mother. A minute passed and the mother didn’t show up. Passengers complained loudly and the boy was brought to tears. When the mother finally caught up with the bus, everybody went silent – she is disabled. Write an essay in 800 words or more based on the given information.


Please write an essay based on three sentences given:

a) Originally there was no path in this world, but after many who have walked upon it, a path came into being.

b) Even if you choose a wrong way to go, it’s a meaningful one anyway.

c) There’s no path in the world that you can’t walk upon; there are only people who dare not step on it.

Right, now step on it.

*You don’t really have 60 minutes. Take your time.