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Loopholes in China's postgraduate entrance examination spotlighted

Photo: Sohu

For millions of Chinese students, the national postgraduate entrance examination, which normally takes place during the last weekend of December, could serve as a golden opportunity to change their fate. But in recent years, some of them were disappointed to find that such a serious test was not being treated seriously by some organizers.

Chinese media reported that examinees at the Shandong Normal University (SNU) and Qingdao University of Technology (QUT) in East China's Shandong Province were given test papers containing the answers while taking an English examination.

Many others at the Shanxi Normal University (SNU) in North China's Shanxi Province found that this year's history examination questions mirrored that of past year — which were already publicly known, according to reports.

At the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, examinees revealed that they were asked about topics unrelated to physics while taking the test, said Chinese media.

The Southwest University (SWU) in Chongqing was allegedly involved in releasing the topics of a geography examination ahead of the test, which examinees called "harmful to fairness".

These incidents have captured widespread attention, prompting education authorities to respond quickly to appease the angry students.

Last Sunday, Shandong's education department said that the incidents at the SNU and QUT had caused "serious consequences", and that the people responsible for the tests had been suspended from their posts.

"I felt a little desperate — everyone taking the exams for other majors in the exam hall was writing really fast, but all I could do was stare," an applicant for the SNU told China's prominent news website Caixin.

The Ministry of Education last week gave an administrative warning to the UESTC and SWU, and ordered local officials to probe into these incidents.

Some of those universities have arranged for students to retake the examination, a move to remedy the faults, according to Chinese media.

A total of 2.9 million students took the examination this year amid economy slowdown and heavy employment burden, 520,000 more than last year, according to the ministry.

Reasons for frequent incidents

This is not the first time that such incidents have occurred to China's national postgraduate entrance examination.

In 2012, the police arrested two people, both of them are employees for a profitable training center, on the charge of spreading English examination questions via social media before the test.

Examination question prediction has become a lucrative industry in China, with some students even saying that they are heavily dependent on such services while preparing for the test since they have high hit rates.

In a report, Caixin said that those so-called "prediction" might be suspected of breaking the law and possible leakage of the exam contents before hand.

In China, some test papers of the national postgraduate entrance examination are set by the Ministry of Education in Beijing, while the rest was decided by individual  universities. learned that this year's problematic test papers were all from universities.

"The problem is that these examinations aren't being run by professional organizations," Xie Xiaoqing, an education professor at the Beijing Language and Culture University, told Caixin. "Most organizers are dispatched from other posts at the very last minute, and lack experience."

"As China gives more freedom to universities in enrollment, it must also tighten supervision on the professionalism of examination work," Xie said.

He also referred to the Graduate Management Admission Test and Law School Admission Test in the US, which are operated by independent organizations, saying that China's education authorities could learn experience from them.

Experts also noted, to recruit enough new students, some universities with a small number of applicants tend to lower their enrollment requirements, and some of them even printed questions on test papers that have already been tested previous years.

"Chinese universities should reduce their use of standardized tests, and focus on more regular assessments throughout the course of studies," said Xiong Bingqi, the vice president of the non-governmental organization 21st Century Education Research Institute.

"If universities place a strong emphasis on quality during the education process, and implement strict elimination of students who don't meet the education standards, the returns from cheating will fall dramatically, which will also reduce the problems of cheating and leaking exam questions," Xiong said.

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