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Gaokao is gaining respect in the West

Updated: Aug 31,2016 7:26 AM     China Daily

The gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam, is winning more recognition as a way for universities overseas to evaluate Chinese students, recruiting officers said.

Stanley Nel, vice-president of international relations at the University of San Francisco in the United States, who is responsible for the university’s admissions from China, said they have had several inquiries from US universities about how to recruit Chinese students on the basis of their gaokao scores.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language and the Scholastic Aptitude Test have long been two musts for students from other countries, including China, to apply to study in the US.

USF, a private university in California, started a pilot program to accept Chinese students based on their gaokao scores in 2015.

The idea came from USF President Paul Fitzgerald’s belief that standardized tests like the SAT are not very good predictors of how well students will do at the university.

“We are aware of the many criticisms that have been made of the gaokao, but it has the advantage of being what educational experts call a ‘criterion-referenced’ exam: It tests whether students are able to master a given body of knowledge, as well as their ability to work hard and consistently,” he said.

Currently, at least four higher education institutions in the US are recruiting Chinese students based on their gaokao performances. The Illinois Institute of Technology, a private institution in Chicago, started the practice first, in 2009.

Outside the US, countries including Spain, Italy, Singapore, France and Australia also recognize gaokao scores.

More than 200 students from China requested an interview with USF last year. Seventy-four of them were selected for a follow-up interview, 44 received offers and 20 accepted the invitation and joined USF for the 2015 fall semester.

Students admitted in this way have done “exceptionally well” in the past academic year, Nel added.

“The average GPA for all gaokao students is about 3.5 out of 4. For all other students-American and non-gaokao international students-the average GPA is 3.2,” he said.

Zhu Zihao, who gained admission in computer sciences at USF in 2015 through the program and performed well in his first academic year, said that students who had experience with China’s gaokao usually have a solid foundation and good habits in acquiring knowledge, which help them excel in studies.

Nel said their experience showed that what they suspected is true: Students admitted through China’s gaokao are not only smart but extremely conscientious and hardworking.”

“This year we hope to recruit about 50 students in this way, and even more in years to come,” he said.

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