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February 13, 2012

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Critics hit out as school students face weekend of exam anxiety

THOUSANDS of Shanghai high school students faced a weekend of exam angst sitting university pre-admission tests.

But critics claim these tests are adding to the academic burden placed on students, some of whom rushed from center to center to take exams.

The top three university enrollment alliances - led by Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing and Shanghai's Tongji University - plus other local universities held pre-admission tests or interviews.

Nationwide, more than 100,000 students sat pre-admission tests.

These have become hugely important as high school students can earn extra credits when applying for university places.

This is the 10th anniversary of university independent enrollment, following higher education reform.

The tests were intended to reduce the academic burden on students by offering more opportunities to show their abilities, instead of everything depending on the national college entrance exam in June.

However, parents, students and academics have complained that independent tests have in fact created heavier burdens.

"Universities have failed to fulfill the original purpose of independent reform," said Xiong Bingqi, vice dean of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Meanwhile, students had to face up to the pressure at the weekend. A Fenghua High School student, surnamed Huang, had failed the Fudan University pre-admission test, so was nervous about the exams.

"I've already lost one opportunity, so must do a good job to win a place at Shanghai Jiao Tong University," he said.

However, competition is fierce. Around 5,000 local students had applied to attend the Jiao Tong pre-admission test, but fewer than 4,000 were given the opportunity to attend the written exam.

In the next step, the university will select one quarter of those for interview.

Failing pre-admission tests would make it harder for Huang to be admitted to a top university as fewer and fewer students win places without passing the pre-admission tests.

In top universities, such as Jiao Tong and Fudan, fewer than half of students are admitted by only sitting the national college entrance exam.

Pre-admission tests are often more difficult than the national college entrance exams and sometimes require college knowledge.

And while they were intended to avoid judging simply by scores, universities favor students with top marks in the tests, say critics.

Moreover, the complicated pre-admission tests are said to be unfair to underprivileged students from poor areas.

"The procedures governing independent enrolment must change," said Xiong.


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