The Contra Costal Times has a great article titled "College exam impacts all of China" that accurately describes the test process that influences soo many people each and every year.
College admissions in China is strictly based on the score from the test.
Unlike the U.S., where standardized test scores are just one factor weighed by universities, how Chinese students do on the "gaokao" determines everything. Students list their top three schools and their major and hope their score is high enough to win a place.
Extracurricular activities do not count, and neither do high school grades. And forget writing about volunteer work; there are no essays to persuade admissions officers.
Every student is tested in 5 different areas. Each student is required to take the Chinese, English and Calculus test. The final 2 areas are different depending on the student pursuing a Bachelor's of Arts or a Bachelor's of Science degrees. They take History and Social Studies versus Physics and Chemistry, respectively.
Each test is scored on a scale of 150 points for a maximum possible of 750 points. Each university has a low cut off point. The top universities like 北京大学 choose first and pick the best students. Students with more than 600 points are considered. Those who were not chosen are then available for the next schools. This process goes on until all of the spots in every university are filled.
This process is accurate for the vast majority of students in China. A few percent of students go to school in other ways. These might include going to a specialized school where the student was recruited. Just as schools in the US recruit for sports, Chinese schools recruit for sports, as well as other areas of study.
Chinese gaokao has been such a important thing that kids are tutored and nurchered at a young age, to be ready for it. College exam impacts all of China describes a mother waiting for her daughter to finish the test.
Li Yukun gripped a bouquet of pink roses, a gift for her 18-year-old daughter who has been tutored every weekend since middle school.
"These 12 years have been so hard. These roses are to show her that I care, it's been so hard for her, not one day of rest," the mother said.
Due to the importance of the test, high school in China has also become a "breeding ground" and very different than its US counterpart. The typical Chinese high school lasts 3 years. In the first 2 years of high school, a student takes all of the classes as a normal US high school student with new material. In the 3rd year (senior year), high school transforms from a place of learning to a place of preperation. Instead of learning new material, the entire year is used to review and focus on the old material (in order to be ready for the entrance exam). Students prepare with extensive study sessions, mock tests and outside tutors.
Years of study, hope, investment and hard work all comes down to the exam. Make or break. Win or go home.