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gao-kao National Higher Education Entrance Exam in China (Gao Kao)


In China, college applications are all about the Gao Kao exam. Gao Kao or
高考 is also known as 普通高等学校招生全国统一考试  or The National Higher Education Entrance Examination. A student's score on this standardised test determines their chances of being selected for college.

Gao kao entrance examination

Frequency of the examination

The gao kao is an examination which is held at the conclusion of the school year. Third-year high school students take this test for admission into undergraduate courses in China. High school lasts for 3 years in China. At the end of high school, Chinese students must take the Gao Kao for admission into colleges.

The Gao Kao is not uniform across the country. It is administered uniformly within each province of China or directly controlled by municipalities. The National Higher Education Entrance Examination varies across the country. It occurs towards the end of the spring semester. Secondary school gradates across China take the examination over a 3 day period. Before the year 2003, the exam was held in July but it has now been moved to June. This was done for ensuring that students do not have to face flooding during the month of July.

Eligibility for the Gao Kao Examination

Gao Kao entrance examinationDepending on which region of China is being considered, the students are asked to indicate the colleges and universities they prefer in several tiers. Their acceptance or rejection is based on their scores on the test. Students who are not able to pass the test in the first go often spend another year to prepare again and take the test.

This exam is a must for entrance into all higher educational institutions at the undergraduate level. Taken by students in the last year of their senior high school, there are no age restrictions for the gao kao.

Format for this Examination

The gao kao generally lasts 2 to 3 days and the subjects tested by it vary from one place to another. The test varies across different regions and it includes Chinese language and literature as well as maths and a foreign language. The foreign language is generally English. One/more subjects taken by the student include social studies, politics, biology, physics, history and chemistry. The subject chosen depends upon the student's choice of a major.

Apart from the 3 major sections of maths, Chinese and (usually) English, there are 3 minor subsections as well. Students have to score high on these 3 big topics or the total score falls too low to get into first or second rank universities.

The subsections for science or humanities are divided into specific options. For science oriented students, biology, chemistry and physics are 90 points each. Entry into science oriented universities and colleges requires a large score. In China, many universities offer quality technical education. A case in point is Tsinghua University which is China's MIT. Some other popular courses include literature, political science, history and geography. Many Chinese universities focus on foriegn studies only.  

Registration & Fee For Gao Kao

Areas near the testing sites are marked as off limits during the gao kao so that students can concentrate on the exam. To facilitate the gao kao, students are changed nominal fees and helped to get to their venue. The first step for registration is for applicants with the PRC National College Entrance Exams or the Gao Kao qualification. Electronic application forms are submitted so that there is no duplication of form.

Gao kao entrance examinationOnce the online application form has been submitted, an application number is provided to you. You are also given information regarding the completion of the items on the tracking page. The same page can be viewed at the Check status link. Once the application has been acknowledged, it will be forwarded to the email addresses provided in the application form.

The application fee has to be paid next. It ranges from USD $30 to Singaporean dollar 30 for global or international applicants. Those paying by credit card can get a discounted rate of S$20. Application fee for Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents is around 10 Singaporean dollars.

Universities which Accept Gao Kao

The gao kao is the only basis on which tertiary education admissions are carried out. Good performance on this test is essential for admission to all colleges and universities in China for undergraduate courses. Students who fail in the first attempt often study the next year.


Though the gao kao is a tough test, students are required to excel so that they can gain admission into good colleges and universities in China. This exam is extremely difficult. Students have to work very hard to get good marks on it.

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