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China's top universities start joint entrance exams

FEB . 22 2011

Peking University, Feb. 21, 2011: Chinese students wanting to get into some of China's most prestigious universities began sitting independent college entrance exams last weekend, three months before the national one.


Saturday and Sunday respectively saw two joint independent exams by two leagues represented by Tsinghua University and Peking University.


A candidate waves to his parents as he walks into an exam hall of a college entrance test at Peking University.


Parents stand on the stairs of a building and watch their children entering an exam site of a college entrance test at PKU.


Candidates flood into an exam hall of a college entrance test at PKU.


Parents rest at PKU Nongyuan Dining Hall while their children sit a college entrance exam. (Xinhua/Cui Xinyu)


Next Saturday, another alliance of nine universities, composed of Shanghai-based Tongji University and institutes of technology in Beijing, Harbin, Dalian, Guangzhou, and Xi'an, will also conduct its joint entrance exams.


These three groups, of a total 29 universities, will use their own criteria to help them independently select five percent of their students rather than just using the results of the national exam.


It's an important step in the reform of China's college entrance exam system, said Lao Kaisheng, an expert on education policy at Capital Normal University.


Students who want to gain entrance to any of the seven universities of the Tsinghua league, or any of the 13 universities of the Peking league, only needed to sit one independent exam.


"This helps lighten the students' load, otherwise they must take exams for the different universities," said Lao.


Passing the exam could result in more than one interview, giving the students more opportunities to get into their most preferred universities, he said.


But all candidates still had to take the national college entrance exam in June, which would finally determine their success. Though examinees could benefit from being awarded certain marks according to their scores in the independent tests.


For decades, the national college entrance exam was the only test for Chinese high school graduates wanting to receive higher education.


The joint independent recruitment exams are regarded as latest attempts to improve China's widely-criticized college recruitment system.


"The independent exam focuses more on testing students' creativity, imagination and learning skills, and is tougher than the national exam," said Yu Han, director of the admission official at Tsinghua University.


The test results would not only show the scores, but also give students a report on their strengths and weaknesses in different subjects, Yu said.


This would remind students to purposefully improve their weak points and help universities select students who excelled in certain subjects, Yu said.


The Tsinghua alliance, which came together last year as the first of its kind, is composed of Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Nanjing University, Renmin University of China, and Zhejiang University.


Peking University, Beihang University (Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics), Beijing Normal University, Nankai University, Fudan University, Xiamen University, and Hong Kong University agreed to form another alliance later last year to use the same independent exam to test students hoping to gain entrance to them.


In 2003, Peking University and another 21 universities were allowed to pilot the reform by using their own criteria to independently select five percent of their students. Now nearly 80 universities across the country have the right to select talented students based on their own exams.


To take pressure off students as they could sit many different exams when applying for a number of universities, the national education outline (2010-2020) released in July last year encourages high-level universities to group together to use the same exams.


Education experts regard universities selecting students according to independent examinations as conducive to better understanding where the students' talents lie.


Edited by: Jacques