Gaokao 2021 – All you Need to Know About the National College Entrance Examination In China

Gaokao exam
Gaokao 2021

Studying in China requires a prerequisite exam known as the Gaokao . Every Chinese student applying to study in any of the institution of higher learning needs to present the Gaokao result. And needs to write the exam. In this piece, we have carefully put together all the information you need about the Chinese National College Entrance Examination: Gaokao, the exam system, and answers to questions that plague your mind.

This is the only exam that can get you into Chinese universities as a Chinese. Welcome aboard as we explore this together.

What is Gaokao?

The Gaokao is a Unified National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) held annually in China. It’s often referred to as China’s version of the American SAT and British A-level tests. We know Gaokao to be a standardized entrance examination for all students applying for higher studies in China. This includes universities, colleges and intuitions of higher learning.

Established in 1952, the National College Entrance Examination brought about a reform in the National Matriculation Tests Policies (NMTP) in the newly established People’s Republic of China. Following its establishment, in 1977, about 5.7 million students registered.

With the influx of international students into China, the acceptance rate for NCEE was raised to 79.53%. What this means is that you have a chance of getting into any Chinese University such as Wuhan, Tsinghua, ECNU, University of Hong Kong, Peking, Central South University, Nanjing and so on if you pass the NCEE.

The NCEE is essentially the only criterion for tertiary education admissions in China. A poor performance on the test almost always means giving up on that goal. This calls for adequate preparation to ace it.

Universities in China!!!

Who Should Write the NCEE?

Of course, the National College Entrance Exam is not for everyone. The NCEE is an exam for Chinese students. As part of the regulation, you must not write the exam if;

  • You’re a student currently studying higher education.
  • You have an incomplete file, such as no school status.
  • If you’re serving a prison sentence or are being prosecuted for violating Criminal Law.

In order words, if you do not fall under the above category, you can write the entrance exam. There is no age limit as to who writes the exams or not. Fit into the category and you could register for the exam

Note: The National College Entrance Examination is for Chinese Students Only.

How Does the Exam Work?

National College entrance examination NCEE
English Sample of the NCEE

Just like any other entrance exams, Gaokao has rules and regulations and systems. However, understanding how it works will aid you obey its rules.

The exam adopts the 3+X system. This means you have to take 3 mandatory subjects which are Chinese, Mathematics, and a foreign language—usually English. You can substitute English for Russian, Japanese, German, French or Spanish depending on your foreign language.

And “X” means you can either add three other subjects which could be three sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) or three humanities (History, Geography, and Political Science) or mixed depending on your course of study.

In summary, you need to write

  • Chinese
  • Foreign language (English, Japanese, Russian or French)
  • Mathematics
  • Science (chemistry, biology, physics) or arts (history, geography and political education).
  • Optional test (Depending on province)

Note: Some regions require you to take an optional test. This does not apply in all regions. Currently, the actual requirement varies from province to province. We recommend you enquire of your province’s requirement when registering. This will help you prepare well.

How do I Ace the Gaokao Exam?

To ace the Gaokao exam, you need to know that though it’s just like any other examination; it requires a little extra preparation. One reason many students do not ace the Gaokao exam is that they take it as just another exam.

To ace your Gaokao exam,

  • Prepare (Nothing beats adequate preparation)
  • Gain the past questions or sample questions of the exam.
  • Study in groups or get a tutor to aid you.
  • Practice the questions daily, scoring yourself without bias.
  • Prepare with online courses

What’s the Duration of Gaokao Entrance Exam?

Depending on the province you’re scheduled to write your exam, Gaokao lasts for nine hours. This is covers two to three days. Each subject lasts for 150 minutes. Most times, the exam can extend to a day or two.

What’s the Accepted Score for Gaokao?

The overall mark received by the student is a weighted sum of their subject marks. The maximum mark differs from year to year and also varies from province to province.

The Gaokao exam is scored over 750, the acceptable score depends on your university.

How is the NCEE Exam Scored?In

Chemistry Sample NCEE

The 3 compulsory subjects have are scored “150” each. They score the other additions “100” each. This totals to “750”. That should be your aim. If you don’t land at a 750, you land considerably on a 650-700 range. And that’s a suitable spot to be considered for admissions.

However, cut-off scores are given for each province’s Gaokao–for the first and second tier universities. Students failing to achieve the cut-off score for first tier universities will not be admitted.

When is the Chinese National College Entrance Examination Written?

They often write the National College Entrance Examination in China from 7th to 8th June every year. Because of some unforeseen circumstances, it can extend an extra day.

Do An International Student Need to Write the Gaokao?

No, you don’t need to write the Gaokao as an international student. Chinese’s universities require other requirements such as the TOEFL score, IELTS, motivation letter, SAT and ACT scores. And in most times you need to go through a virtual interview with the Adcom.

As an international student, you need to focus on getting the above requirements right. Gaokao is for Chinese students spying to Chinese higher institutions.

Can one Retake the Gaokao Exam?

Yes, you can retake the Gaokao exam again and again till you pass it. There is no limit to how many times you can take the exam. All it takes is constant re-registration and that costs MONEY.

How Hard is the NCEE Exam?

Many say that the National College Entrance Examination is the hardest exam in the world. I couldn’t agree less. But we strongly believe that there’s nothing an expert advice can’t fix with proper preparation.

To ace your Gaokao, you need to be well equipped and prepared. Start by getting the sample questions for the previous exams.


The NCEE exam is your only way to gain admission into Chinese universities as a Chinese. Failing it equals to no admission. We wish you luck as you prepare following the guidelines stated in this piece.

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