‘Fail’ Grade for Authorities on College Entrance Exam Revamp
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2017-09-18 09:13:14

As if getting into university in China wasn’t stressful enough, students in the southwestern province of Guizhou are having to deal with yet another pressure point: botched testing procedures.

On Saturday, school authorities noticed that due to an apparent printing error, a significant chunk of the test’s answer sheet was missing, The Beijing News reported next day. There were only spaces for answering 15 out of 20 multiple choice questions on an English-language listening test, the results of which may count toward students’ scores on China’s college entrance exam, the gaokao.

The snafu highlights the jitteriness of test-takers: Performance on the gaokao can make or break one’s professional career, having potentially serious consequences for economic and even marital prospects. The incident in Guizhou also highlights moves in recent years to make the gaokao less stressful by introducing more flexible testing methods and offering students more options in terms of how to take the exam.

The gaokao is usually administered in its entirety in early June. But in a move to ease some of the strain on exam-takers, certain provinces have been experimenting with different approaches. In Shanghai and eastern China’s Zhejiang province, students can sit parts of the gaokao from as early as their second year of high school. The aim is to spread the work and pressure load out rather than concentrate it over a few intense days during students’ final year. But such measures are not always welcomed by students, some of whom complain that the moves only mean they must endure exam-related emotional stress over a more drawn-out period of time.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, called for reform of the country’s examination system in 2014, and Guizhou, like other provinces, is developing pilot programs aimed at improving gaokao procedures, which have long been viewed by some education experts as rigid and stressful. Some experts also say that the system puts students in rural parts of China, such as Guizhou, at a disadvantage.

Guizhou students now have two chances during their final year at high school — one in September, the other in March — to take the English listening test.

Upon discovery of the mistake, students were instructed to write their answers on a blank part of the answer sheet. They were also allotted extra time, The Beijing News reported.

The printing error that resulted in the incomplete answering sheets arose because the test and the answer sheet were produced separately: The former was produced by the testing authority of China’s Ministry of Education in Beijing, while the latter was developed by the recruitment and examination center of Guizhou province.

Following the incident, some students took to microblog platform Weibo to express their frustrations, saying the lack of space for answers threw them off and left them feeling anxious. “I was kind of lost while listening to the audio,” wrote one Weibo user.

Authorities have launched an investigation into the mix-up, The Beijing News reported without elaborating.

Contributions: Fan Liya; editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: Students take an English listening test in Wuhan, Hubei province, June 23, 2007. Yang Hongbin/VCG)