Scholarship and education

Test Questions


Post-mortems of the college entrance exams filled the papers today. We are treated to profiles of anxiously waiting parents, dissections the morning transportation situation, and heartwarming stories of students overcoming incredible odds to make it to the testing centers.

But what everyone really wants is to discuss the test itself. The big news in yesterday's evening papers was the topic of the composition section of the exam, which took place Tuesday morning. Today's papers revealed the topics for the entire country along with analyses of their difficulty and predictions of possible grading rubrics. Staff writers tried their hands at writing model essays. Online portals ran polls of students' impressions and their expected marks. For other subjects, information and answers have been trickling out all day.

See the extended entry for a summary of this year's composition questions. If you've never read any of the questions from previous years, you might be struck by the creativity demanded of the students.

Note that the following are summarized from a website that collected information from students; these are not authoritative. Most of the essays required at least 800 characters. The italicized titles given are merely general topics; students were expected to choose their own title and perspective in most cases. Poetry and other forms of writing were allowed unless specifically prohibited.

  • National: Unexpected yet within reason. Students were given a quote by Niels Bohr about how not being afraid to look foolish in front of his students was the ultimate reason for his success in physics. Form of writing, approach, and title were not set.
  • National II: Position and Value
  • Beijing: On "Peace". The character 安 can mean security, safety, tranquility, ease, and satisfaction, among other things. Students were asked to choose a perspective and discuss it. Literati quoted in yesterday's Mirror were impressed by this question - easy to approach, hard to write well, and free of politics.
  • Shanghai: Students were given three scenes: (1) the idealism of martial arts fiction and the glamor and sentiment of romance novels enticing readers; (2) the song Deskmate illustrating the life of the contemporary middle school student; and (3) elegant classical music introduced through advertisements being seen as the melody of commerce rather than music. Students were asked to reflect on contemporary culture's influence on their growth and development. (no poetry)
  • Tianjin: Leave it for tomorrow (no poetry)
  • Chongqing: Two parts: 1. Write instructions on the topic of Chopsticks
    2. Write 600 words on the subject of Self-mockery (no poetry)
  • Jiangsu: In ancient times, an essay was described as having "the head of a phoenix, the body of a hog, and the tail of a leopard." Students were asked to write on this subject.
  • Guangdong: Commemoration. Students were given a short explanation of "commemoration" and asked to choose an approach, a form of writing, and a title.
  • Zhejiang: One branch, one leaf, one world: The question cited a poem about the fall of one leaf bringing Autumn. (no poetry)
  • Shandong: Win-win wisdom. Students were presented with a fable about a carpenter having his life saved by the stonemason he was competing with.
  • Hubei: Given a quotation from Wang Guowei about a poet needing to experience the universe from both within and without, students were to write their understanding of its implications. Approach, form, and title were not fixed.
  • Hunan: Experience of Running. Discussion or narrative.
  • Jiangxi: Face. Choose a topic and write.
  • Liaoning: This year's flowers are redder than last year's
  • Fujian: Two pictures: (1) a standard circle, stable, with small circumference enclosing a large area; (2) a knobby circle, non-uniform, with a large circumference enclosing a small area. Students were asked to choose a topic to write.
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