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China to advance reform of college entrance exam

China's Ministry of Education on Wednesday published its annual notice on college enrollment for 2024, pledging to advance the reform of policies related to entrance exams and admissions.

Seven provincial-level regions, including Jilin, Anhui and Guizhou, have been urged to implement new policies on the college entrance exam this year, according to the notice. The ministry urged efforts to ensure that the exam focuses on testing not only the knowledge acquired by candidates but also their competence and academic caliber.

In 2013, the Chinese government decided to comprehensively reform the education system, especially the national college entrance exam, or gaokao. Since then, the Education Ministry has implemented a wide range of reform measures to improve the education examination system.

According to officials, 14 provincial regions have already implemented gaokao reforms; seven regions will officially implement them this year, while eight others will do so in 2025.

Before the reforms, high school students were divided into liberal arts and sciences categories, in which the former needed to answer questions related to politics, history and geography on the gaokao while the latter concentrated on physics, chemistry and biology. Students could only take the exam once a year and the total score they got in the gaokao would decide which college the student could get into.

Now, aside from Chinese, math and a foreign language, students can choose any other three subjects from politics, history, geography, physics, chemistry and biology to be tested on. They also have two chances a year to take part in the language test and choose the higher score to be counted in the gaokao. For the selected subjects, most provinces use the grade scoring principle, which means their grades are scored into A B C D E levels.

The ministry, in the notice, also stated that it will step up its crackdown on cheating in exams, particularly that involving high-tech devices, and will work to prevent colleges from adopting improper admission policies, such as excessive scholarships.

In China, college admission relies primarily on the results of the entrance exam. In 2023, a record 12.91 million people sat for the exam.

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