Imagine Having to Answer These Questions

Last week more than 9 million Chinese high school students sat for the annual college entrance examination, a test for which they have spent the last 2 years of high school preparing for.


It’s a make-or-break rite of passage in China. If a student passes, he/she gets to enter the Chinese higher education system. This will mean better future income potential which means he/she can take care of the family. If a student fails, then prospects dim considerably. In other words, a student’s future rides on how he/she does on this one test! In addition to questions on math and science, it also includes pretty wild essay questions. Here’s a description of these essay question from Shanghaiist:

From philosophical quotes to the meaning of a buzzword, these essay questions are designed to test not only students’ language abilities and knowledge, but also their creativity, experience and wisdom.

In the days following the exam, the questions are usually published online and in local media, triggering a nationwide discussion on what in the world they mean and what the writers of the test are trying to measure and who in their right mind could answer them.

Here’s a sampling of essay questions from the exams given in various provinces this year. How would you do?

  •  “A father was talking on the phone while driving on a highway. His daughter reminded him repeatedly to stop doing this, but her father would not listen. The daughter called the police and reported her father at last. When the police arrived, the father was reprimanded. This generated heated debate among the public.” Write a letter of 800 words to either the father, the daughter or the police officer.
  • Who do you admire the most? A biotechnology researcher, a welding engineering technician or a photographer?
  • Based on the three given uses of the word road, write an essay: 1) “The earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men passed one way, a road was made.” (Lu Xun) 2) There is no such thing as a road that dare not be walked; only people who dare not walk it. 3) You may take the wrong road sometimes, but if you keep walking, it will become a brand new road.
  • The buzzword “Fan’er” is popularly used to refer to a person, group or country’s “style.” Draw from personal experiences to describe your feelings about the word.
  • Choose one question to answer in 150 words or less: a) review a Chinese classic; b) write a poem on “circle;” c) comment on uncivilized behavior in Beijing.
  • Everybody has tough and soft spots in his/her heart. Whether you can reach an inner harmony depends on how you balance the toughness and softness. Please choose an angle and write an essay on this topic in 800 words or more.
  • An honest person may not be smart, yet a smart person may not have true wisdom. Please write an essay in no fewer than 800 words on this topic.
  • After getting on a bus, a little boy asked the bus driver to wait for his mother. A minute passed and the mother didn’t show up. Passengers complained loudly and the boy was brought to tears. When the mother finally caught up with the bus, everybody went silent — she is disabled. Write an essay in 800 words or more based on the given information.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad I’m not a Chinese high school student!

Sources: Shanghaiist, CNN

Image source: Business Insider