Postgraduate exam more competitive

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 30, 2022
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Examinees leave a venue of the postgraduate entrance exam at Xi'an University of Technology in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Dec. 26, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The record number of students signing up for this year's national postgraduate entrance exam has further driven up the threshold scores, and experts have cautioned that the exam might become another highly competitive and stressful entrance exam like the gaokao, the national college entrance exam.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Education and some well-known universities, many majors have seen a significant increase in their entry scores this year. The difficulty of the postgraduate exam and the increase in entry scores have trended on social media platforms.

In China, students are required to take a written test with a total score of 500 in late December before entering an interview exam in March the next year to enroll in postgraduate studies.

The Ministry of Education released the national threshold scores in early March. They are used for entry requirements for interview exams by most universities. In addition, 34 well-known universities are allowed to publish their own entry scores shortly afterward. The students' overall performance in the written and interview exams is their final score.

According to the ministry, no major has lower entry scores than last year and the entry requirement for majors including philosophy, history, sports and arts increased by 15 points from last year.

Many majors have witnessed a steady increase in their entry scores in the past five years. For example, the score for philosophy increased from 280 in 2018 to 314 this year, while the score for education jumped from 320 in 2018 to 351 this year.

The threshold scores released by universities have also seen significant increases. The public health major at Tsinghua University in Beijing increased by 59 points year-on-year, while the literature major was up by 50 points and philosophy increased by 45 points.

Experts believe the jump in the test scores is directly caused by the increase in the number of exam takers.

A record 4.57 million people registered to take the exam this year-800,000 more than last year, according to the Ministry of Education. From 2015 to 2021, the number of applicants rose from 1.65 million to 3.77 million, while the number of enrollments only increased from 570,600 in 2015 to 1.05 million, meaning that the enrollment rate has slipped by 6 percentage points during the period.

Experts said that when the enrollment rate for undergraduate studies reached 57.8 percent last year, bachelor's degrees were no longer enough to prove students' overall ability.

Luo Yan, an associate professor at the Institute of Education of Tsinghua University, said the popularity of undergraduate studies means that postgraduate studies have become the new yardstick for talent selection.

To some extent, the postgraduate entrance exam has become another college entrance exam for students to compete for elite higher education, she said.

Chen Zhiwen, editor-in-chief of online education portal EOL, said employment pressure remains the main reason for students' enthusiasm in pursuing postgraduate studies, as many employers have used master's as the entry requirement for hiring new employees.

Some local governments have even associated academic background with conferring administrative ranks, and students with higher degrees can obtain higher government positions, he said.

Wang Luxi, a senior at Beijing Institute of Technology, said the entry score for his major, English literature, had increased from 355 in 2021 to 367 this year.

"Almost all of my classmates have chosen to pursue postgraduate studies, as a bachelor's degree can no longer guarantee a satisfactory job," he said.

He has prepared for almost half a year for postgraduate studies in Beijing Normal University's education major, but given the fierce competition, he opted for a safer choice, his old major at his alma mater.

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