A total of 9.4 million Chinese high school students, just a little less than the population of Sweden, began to take the annual national college entrance examination, known as the Gaokao, on Wednesday.
The exam, generally lasts for two days, is probably the most important moment for most Chinese high school students, as their scores are, to a great extent, the only thing that would decide whether they can go to college, and what college they can attend, and eventually, determine who would find a well-paid job and successful career.
Gaokao is the short form for the "National Higher Education Entrance Examination". This annual event maybe the largest exam in the world. It is usually held across China on the same day, and the number of candidates taking the exam peaked in 2008 to hit 10.5 million.
Gaokao was suspended during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) . During that decade, colleges selected students from factory workers, peasants, soldiers and other walks of life based on a recommendation system.
The examination was restored in 1977, and for the past 40 years, the fierce competition has been almost the only way for candidates, especially those who are from poverty-stricken rural areas, to change their lives.
Why is it so important?
From 1977 to 2016, 120 million Chinese were enrolled in universities. They became a most important driving force behind the decades of robust economic growth of China.
With about 3,000 higher-learning institutions across the country, around 4 million of this year's 9.4 million candidates will be enrolled. By 2020, 50 percent of the total candidates will find a seat at college.