Middle-Aged Man Takes China’s College Entrance Exam for 16th Time

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Examinees sit at their desks before the National College Entrance Exams in the Anhui province in China on June 7, 2011

Do well on China’s version of the SAT, and you might get an Audi.

China’s college admission test, the gao kao, determines all and is such a pressure-cooker that some parents reward their children with luxury cars or thousands of dollars. One 44-year-old man from Chengdu, Liang Shi, is also taking the gao kao again for the 15th time.

(MORE: See the pressure surrounding the gao kao)

Despite originally having taken the test in 1983, this year he’ll also be taking the gao kao alongside with his teenage son. He was not originally offered admission into any Chinese college the first time around.

On other tries, he managed to place into a technical school, but eventually dropped out because he wanted to do better on the test. He’s been trying ever since to get into Sichuan University for mathematics.

In China, sitting for the gao kao is intense. The New York Times reports that the pressure to score often results in obsessive tactics:

In Sichuan Province in southwestern China, students studied in a hospital, hooked up to oxygen containers, in hopes of improving their concentration.

Some girls take contraceptives so they will not get their periods during the exam. Some well-off parents dangle the promise of fabulous rewards for offspring whose scores get them into a top-ranked university: parties, 100,000 renminbi in cash, or about $14,600, or better.

“My father even promised me, if I get into a college like Nankai University in Tianjin, ‘I’ll give you a prize, an Audi,’” said Chen Qiong, a 17-year-old girl taking the exam in Beijing.

Liang says if he doesn’t get into the university this time, he might stop taking the exam.

(MORESee a brief history of standardized testing)