What is the gaokao?
The gaokao is China's version of the college entrance exam. Officially known as the National College Entrance Examination, the test takes place every June and is administered over a period of two or three days. The test comprises three main subjects, which are Chinese, mathematics and a foreign language, as well as subject tests in science and the humanities. The exam is usually taken by students in their last year of high school, and exam results determine what university they can attend, or if they can attend college at all. The overall score received by a given student is generally a weighted sum of his or her subject scores, and the maximum possible score varies from year to year and from province to province.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the exam is so intense that students have been known to hook themselves up to IV bags full of amino acids to fuel marathon study sessions, and on exam day, police clear roadways for the test-takers, and construction crews across China are silenced. To see for yourself, check out this slideshow of the exam.