Background Information

The college application process can be very different for Chinese and American students. The Gaokao is China’s national college entrance exam and is administered once a year. Whereas many college admission boards in the United States take extracurricular activities such as sports and volunteer experiences into consideration, Chinese universities tend to give much more weight to standard test scores. During high school, some Chinese students spend free time preparing for the Gaokao exam including after school and weekend prepatory classes. With only one opportunity available each year, the Gaokao can be a great source of anxiety for Chinese high school students. This is often contrasted to American students, who tend to emphasize sports and extracurricular groups/events such as clubs, plays, bands, and musicals. See the following articles for more information regarding the Gaokao exams and how Chinese students prepare for them.

Gaokao: Can you pass China’s grueling college entrance exam? (CNN)

Inside a Chinese Test-Prep Factory (New York Times)

Is China’s gaokao the world’s toughest school exam? (The Guardian)


高考 College Entrance Exams

Suggested Level: Intermediate High (CHN 202)

Context information: This conversation is also between Ted, an American study abroad student, and Han, a domestic Chinese student. They are discussing China’s College Entrance Exam (aka the gaokao).

Han: 美国1,就是你们,会怎么看待中国的高考?

Ted: 我觉得我们都觉得高考给你们很多压力。

Han: 对。

Ted: 而且非常难的考试2

Han: Mhmm。

Ted: 我觉得在上高中的时候,你们为了准备高考而上高中。

Han: Mhmm。

Ted: 实际上这是我的看法。我觉得,有的美国人看法跟我一样。

Han: 那在美国,如果你想上一所大学,你要怎么准备?

Ted: 我们还应该参加一个考试。

Han: 哦。

Ted: 但是跟高考比起来,我们的考试没有那么重要。

Han: 哦,可能是因为在美国有很多的大学。

Ted:  对,有很多大学,而且他们也重视别的——别的原因。就是说如果你运动——

Han: Mhmm

Ted: 最好的,他们会考虑这个方面啊,而且如果我弹钢琴弹得最好3

Han: 也可以。

Ted: 也会考虑那个那个方面。

Han: Mhmm。

Ted: 所以考试,也成绩4肯定很重要但是——

Han: 没有那么重要

Ted: 嗯,因为很多方面可以帮你5…进入大学

Han: Mhmm

Ted: 是,中美的差异。

Han: 在中国,好的大学不是很多。在我的家乡,我的一个省,一个河南省只有两所很好的大学。

Ted: 嗯。

Han: 也有其他的大学,但是他们教学质量没有那么好,所以我们都想到上海。

Ted: 嗯。

Han: 到北京广州。

1. From the context of the conversation, Han might mean 美国人 ‘American’ rather than 美国 ‘America’.

2. In English, 而且非常难的考试 might translate to something like ‘Actually a very difficult test’ (which sounds a bit incomplete). To make it sound like a more complete statement, Ted could simply say 而且非常难 ‘Actually it’s very difficult’ or 而且是非常难的考试 ‘Actually it’s a very difficult test’.

3. Placing 的 at the end of this statement may sound a bit strange. If there is a 的, it should also be accompanied by its friend 是 as in 如果我弹钢琴是弹得最好的. Both of these patterns have similar meanings.

4. Ted might be following the English pattern ‘Also the score is definitely very important’. In Chinese, make sure to put adverbs like 也 directly before verb. For example, 成绩也肯定很重要.

5. Ted might have switched mid-sentence from saying 申请 ‘to apply’ to 进入 ‘to attend’.


  1. 看待 (kàndài) To look at (as in to look at an issue)
  2. 高考 (gāokǎo) College entrance exam
  3. 压力 (yālì) Pressure; Stress
  4. 准备 (zhǔnbèi) To prepare
  5. 实际上 (shíjìshang) In fact
  6. 看法 (kànfa) Opinion
  7. 所 (suǒ) Measure word used for schools as well as other institutions such as hospitals or companies
  8. 参加 (cānjiā) To participate
  9. 重视 (zhòngshì) To pay attention to; To stress (the importance of something)
  10. 原因 (yuányīn) Reason
  11. 考虑 (kǎolǜ) To consider
  12. 方面 (fāngmiàn) Aspect
  13. 啊 (a) Sentence-final particle to show emotion (e.g., it highlights what is being said)
  14. 成绩 (chéngjì) Score
  15. 申请 (shēnqǐng) To apply
  16. 进入 (jìnrù) To attend; To get into
  17. 中美 (zhōngměi) Chinese-American
  18. 差异 (chāyì) Difference
  19. 质量 (zhìliàng) Quality