Examinations and Certificates

Find out about the exam system, grade groupings and certificates in schools in China...

Throughout their years of compulsory education, students sit a series of examinations, which usually take place at the end of term, the end of the school year, and before graduation.

Primary school: There are examinations in Chinese language and mathematics only. Progress in other subjects is measured rather than tested.

Secondary school: At the end of junior secondary education, there are entrance examinations, which enable students to enter high school or senior secondary school. If students do not pass the entrance examination, they continue their education in vocational schools.

Gaokao: At the end of senior secondary school, students who wish to go to university or college must sit the National Higher Education Entrance Examination or Gaokao. It is a difficult examination where only 40 per cent of candidates pass. The examination consists of compulsory papers in Chinese, mathematics and a foreign language (usually English). Some of the six optional subjects (biology, chemistry, geography, history, physics and political economy) are also examined.

Grade groupings

Chinese schools use a rank-based grading system where teachers are only allowed to award a certain number of A, B, C, D and E grades to students in their class, depending on the number of pupils in the class. This results in students competing with each other for grades. Most schools do have mixed ability classes.