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12th graders’ college entrance exam preparation journey ‘no time to breathe’

The first thing that Zhang Junyang, 17, a student at Lushan Binjiang Experimental School in Trường Sa City, Hunan Province does after waking up at 6am is to drink black coffee. I need it to stay awake for a stressful school day.

Zhang is in a sprint to prepare for the gaokao – the most important exam of his life.

Last year, the test pass rate reached 90% in most of China’s provinces, but only 20% of the 10.78 million candidates who participated managed to get into top universities.

For Zhang, in addition to day classes, she has to attend evening self-study sessions organized by the school. Zhang’s school day ends at 10:20pm, so he can only go to bed at midnight.

The college entrance exam preparation journey 'no time to breathe' of students in grades 12 - 1

Students from Dongmeng High School in Nanning City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region during a practice session. (Photo: China Daily)

In China, most students spend their extra time at home late at night, even though they’ve been engrossed in school books all day.

Each week, Zhang only gets half a day off on Sunday morning. On Saturday nights, if I don’t have to attend self-study at school, I study English with a tutor.

Zhang usually only sleeps 6 hours a day and that is not enough.

“I always feel sleepy during evening self-study sessions. But I’m willing to adhere to a tight schedule as long as I can do well in the matriculation exam.” Zhang shared.

Lan Huiyun, homeroom teacher at No. 1 Middle School in Shuocheng District, Soczhou City, Shanxi Province, sympathizes with the pressure students are going through.

“I feel that students are forced to study by their parents, teachers and society. Most of them are unhappy and just study day and night in the hope of getting good results in the exam.”teacher Huiyun shared.

Zhao Yongqiang, a student of Mr. Huiyun, said that he felt exhausted when he had to study for up to 14 hours a day. Although his grades are always among the top of his class, Zhao worries about his chances of getting into top schools.

Last year, only 50 of more than 800 students at her school entered the top universities.

“I think I study too much, but I can still try to get to the exam next June. I’d rather have a more relaxed schedule but I think I’ll regret it if I don’t give my best.” boys share.

Li Mo, Zhao’s classmate sometimes studies until 2am and wakes up at 5:30am. “Some of my classmates work hard and have higher grades than me, so they’re smartg Is there any reason for me to be lazy?”Li shared.

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