Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao

Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao

Disheveled Brother's cry for help

China's National Matriculation Test, known as the gaokao (高考), is serious business. Success on the exam is critical for getting into a good university, which according to conventional wisdom is crucial for finding a good job, attracting a decent spouse, and making enough money to buy a house and support a family.

Such pressures might tempt test-takers to cheat, but anti-cheating measures grow stricter every year, as Xinhua reports:

At most venues across China, metal detectors are used to prevent candidates from taking any electronic device into the exam, including watches. Clocks are installed on the walls of the classrooms to inform test-takers of the time.

Surveillance cameras are installed in nearly 110,000 exam venues in 25 provinces so that central and provincial education authorities can simultaneously oversee different venues from a distance, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education.

However, it appears that one student in Sichuan may have been able to use his mobile phone to ask the general public for help during the exam. On the morning of June 7, while the exam was still in progress, someone using the ID "Disheveled Brother" posted questions from the ancient Chinese section to Baidu's World of Warcraft BBS.

The Beijing Times published an article summarizing the incident, but it appears that even talking about suspected cases of gaokao cheating is forbidden: the paper has scrubbed the article from its online version, and on Baidu, the name "Disheveled Brother" has been screened as a sensitive word.

"Test-taker" asks for help first thing in the morning

by Sun Qian / BT

Yesterday morning [June 7], not long after the language section of the National Matriculation Test began, someone claiming to be a test-taker in Sichuan posted to Baidu's BBS asking for help in the ancient Chinese translation section of the exam. Once the test had finished, Internet users confirmed that the questions the individual had posted online were genuine, generating many questions.

A post asking for help

Yesterday morning, a post titled "2010 Gaokao Ancient Chinese Translation, A Request for Help at the Scene!!!" was circulated madly around major BBSs. In the post made at 9:53 to Baidu's World of Warcraft BBS, an individual named "Disheveled Brother" (凌乱哥哥) claimed that he was at the testing center and asked for help with a rendering of the lines [in translation]: "Should you be incompetent out of weakness and be dismissed, you shall be without office your entire life, never to be of use again. This is more shameful and than committing crimes of corruption or graft, and more horrible."* One minute later, the second half of the ancient Chinese text was posted online.

About ten minutes after that, Disheveled Brother posted another dozen times, pleading for a "master" to help: "I'll wait online. You can save this — it's the Sichuan translation question."

In the meantime, a netizen expressed surprise: "Could you have brought a computer to the exam? Was this sent from your phone? Don't the test centers screen phone signals?" The original poster responded: "Technology is advanced these days. Speed! It's an emergency!" And several other netizens provided translations to answer the poster's questions.

At 10:28, Disheveled Brother collected the netizens' various answers and posted "Thanks." He made no further posts.

Questions in agreement

As Disheveled Brother was posting his requests for help, another commenter wrote, "The secrets of heaven should not be divulged. I'll save these questions, and in a little while when the test papers are released, if they're the same, then I'll come and settle things with you."

Later on when the language test had concluded, someone claiming to be a test taker from Zigong, Sichuan, made a comment after reading Disheveled Brother's post: "The original poster is 100% correct. I'm speechless. I didn't answer any of the translations." The commenter voiced his astonishment in a second comment: "Yes, that's it exactly. I'm truly speechless."

At 3 pm, an Internet user posted an image of the actual 2010 language test for Sichuan, and verified that the ancient Chinese translation questions included in Disheveled Brother's request for help were indeed taken from the third section's questions concerning the Biographies of Cruel Officials in the Book of Han (汉书·酷吏传).

This reporter then search for other posts by Disheveled Brother. At 8:57, he had made this post: "The test papers have been distributed. Luckily, my mobile phone wasn't discovered. It looks like the test center's screening is broken. Heaven is helping me! Is there anyone from Sichuan? I'll be relying on you in a little while!" This post was deleted shortly afterward. When this reporter returned to the posts requesting help a little after 4 pm yesterday, they too had been deleted.

Netizen doubts

Shortly thereafter, netizens began to discuss the issue. "If it really was you taking the test, that's badass. Advanced technology." But another netizen said, "If it wasn't you, then could the test questions possibly have been leaked?" At the same time, another netizen claimed, "You can hand in your paper after half an hour, so isn't posting after 9:50 entirely expected? It's pure hype!" But another netizen said, "I think that in Sichuan, they only let you out in the last half hour. So there's got to be something up..."

Official Response
Test papers handed in after 10:30

Yesterday afternoon, this reporter contacted a recruitment office at the Sichuan Institute for Educational Examinations and learned from a staff member that scheduling and related rules for Sichuan's gaokao followed uniform nationwide rules set by the Ministry of Education: students are not permitted to leave the test site until half an hour before the exam concludes. After this reporter related the questions that netizens had raised, the staff member said that such issues were typically handled by the Institute's petition office, and investigation results were not available on the same day.


  1. The line given was 一坐软弱不胜任免,终身废弃无有赦时,其羞辱甚于贪污坐赃,慎毋然. A netizen provided an interpretation in modern Mandarin, 如果是因为软弱不胜任而免官,则等于终身废锢,永无重新起用之日,这比犯贪污坐赃之罪更可耻,更可怕 (no source was given), and this is the basis for the English translation in this post.
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