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How Gaokao scores for study admission opens doors for Chinese students

Mothers of students in traditional dress posing for the picture in front of the school gate during China's national college entrance examinations so-called Gaokao exams. Source: Shutterstock

The University of New Hampshire is now the first flagship American higher education state institution to accept results from the Chinese national college entrance exam (known as the “gaoako”) as part of its admission requirements.

The New York Times recently reported that “outstanding Chinese high school graduates” receive their gaokao results in late June, according to spokewoman Erika Mantz, and the school wants to attract this elite group of students. They would have missed the deadline under the regular admissions process and must wait to apply in the next cycle.

“Admissible students with eligible gaokao scores, language scores and transcripts will be directly admitted to begin their matriculated courses,” one of the school’s brochures read.

For Chinese high school seniors, this means opening a door to more higher education opportunities abroad.

A Chinese student leaving school with her mother after China’s national college entrance examinations.
Many parents of students in China are obsessed with so-called gaokao scores. Source: Shutterstock

The grueling gaokao – said to be one of the world’s toughest tests – promotes intense competition among almost 10 million Chinese students (only less than one percent gain admission) vying to get into China’s top universities.

Preparation takes years and ramps up in the final stages, making it hard for them to simultaneously pursue international standardised testing like the SATs and write admission essays, as is usually required as part of the entry requirements to study at American universities.

Before New Hampshire’s gaokao program, those who failed to gain admission have to wait another year or more to retake the exam. Now, they can use their scores for a spot at New Hampshire.


“From the student’s perspective, it opens a door,”  said Andrew Chen, Chief Learning Officer of the WholeRen Group, an education consulting firm based in Pittsburgh.

New Hampshire’s gaokao program follows its previous introduction of a dedicated recruiting website written in Chinese and English. It joins dozens of European, Australian and Canadian universities, as well as a handful of private American institutions, attracting more Chinese students to their campuses by accepting gaokao scores.

While Chinese students considered for New Hampshire would most likely have to take the SAT or ACT after their gaokao scores, according to Mantz, those admitted would still be able to enroll earlier than before.

“This streamlined process quickly gives feedback to students who need additional English prep, so that they can start on that path right away,” said Mantz.

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