As Gaokao Scores Roll Out, Netizens Wonder if There’s More to Life Than the Hustle

"Are we born just to be counted in the labor force?"

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10:47 PM HKT, Thu June 24, 2021 2 mins read

Two weeks ago, over 10 million Chinese high school seniors walked out of the testing site for the Gaokao, China’s National College Entrance Exam. Their scores on the test will largely determine their future.

On Wednesday, June 23rd, Shanghai, Anhui, Jiangxi, and six other provinces became the first to release test-takers’ scores. Four other provinces released results on June 24th, while the rest will follow on June 25th and 26th.

Unsurprisingly, users of Chinese microblogging site Weibo have been flooding the internet with their scores and reactions. Some chose to upload a simple screenshot, while others recorded reaction videos of them checking their scores, surrounded by family members.


The announcement of the results have precipitated a flurry of trending hashtags on Weibo. Among them, #How should I spend my vacation after the Gaokao# has been viewed 7 million times. Well-known vlogger @我叫孙火旺 commented about his experience of post-Gaokao life, writing “10 years ago I had just finished the college entrance examination. At that time, I was like a wild horse breaking free of its cage, yearning for college life.”

Among heartwarming tales surrounding the release of the results was the story of an 18-year-old amputee from Anhui who secured high enough scores to get into Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of the most famous schools in the country.

There was also some controversy, too, as the cutoff scores for each province were also released. These scores indicate test-takers’ collective performance.

There are separate cutoffs for the Humanities Gaokao and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Gaokao. Test-takers select their divisions before the test. Usually, those pursuing a Bachelor of Arts take the humanities test, while those interested in a Bachelor of Science select the STEM test. Historically, STEM students have outnumbered humanities students.

For each division, those who outscore the first cutoff can be admitted by top-tier colleges, while those who beat the second cutoff are eligible for four-year colleges. For everyone else, unless they retake the Gaokao the following year, their only option is vocational schools.

For most provinces, the cutoff scores for the humanities division of the test have sharply increased, while those taking the STEM test face a looser cutoff. As an example, compared to last year Jiangxi Province’s first cutoff increased by 12 points for humanities, while it decreased by 16 points for STEM.



Weibo users quickly picked up on these major cutoff changes. On the afternoon of June 23rd, the topic #Why is Anhui’s Humanities cutoff so high# began trending on Weibo. While not ignoring the possibility that the humanities test was too easy, Weibo users seemed to agree that China is trying to limit the number of humanities students.

One user wrote, “Isn’t it a normal trend that society wants more STEM talent?”

Another shared a blog post written by her sister who took the humanities Gaokao several years ago. “The humanities cutoff has been increasing since I took the Gaokao,” the post read, “A while ago I went to visit my high school. The humanities class size had shrunk by half. The school was discouraging students from studying humanities, in order to send as many of them to college, in order to secure them jobs in the future. But should college only be a bootcamp for the workforce? Are we born just to be counted in the labor force?”

“Obviously, STEM adds value to society,” the post continued, “But isn’t humanities what makes us human?”

Cover image via Depositphotos

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