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In-person Chinese university entrance exams to be held in July

The Chinese government has announced that in-person university entrance exams will be held in July after being postponed from June.

Experts have viewed the Chinese government’s decision to hold the National College Entrance Exams, also known as gao kao, in July as a sign that the government expects the country to be back on track by summer. 

An estimated 10.7 million students are due to sit these in-person tests, which were originally due to be held in June but were postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Gao kao is the exam taken in the final year of high school and is the only criterion for admission into Chinese universities.

The gao kao is made up of four three-hour papers: Chinese, English, maths and a choice of either sciences or humanities. 

The tests are highly competitive; top universities in China accept as few as 1 in every 50,000 students each year.

China only has a 60% internet penetration rate, which means some students will not be able to access online preparatory courses

Across China, parents and teachers have expressed concerns about whether students are academically prepared to take these exams. The Chinese government imposed nationwide school closures in February and schools are not  due to open again until April 20.

Concerns have been raised on the emotional strain that the gao kao will have on students that have been recently released from a lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. A 2014 study found that exam stress was a contributing factor in 93% of student suicides in China.

Students from poorer economic backgrounds and those who live in certain parts of the country are unable to access the internet. China only has a 60% internet penetration rate, which means some students will not be able to access online preparatory courses. 

It may also be unsafe to sit crowded in-person examinations so shortly after the outbreak.

While China has begun to relax its lockdown due to Covid-19, 108 new infections were reported on  12 April, marking the highest number of cases in five weeks.

UK universities are expecting a drop in numbers of Chinese students due to Covid-19, with universities in South East Asia set to be the main beneficiaries.

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