Gao Kao

Literature Default
a poem by Eva Zhong

Gaokao

*高考 (Gao Kao) is the Chinese National College Entrance Exam with over 9 million participants each year. This exam tests concepts from all three years of Chinese public highschool learning. As a top determining factor for university admissions, Gaokao is notorious for causing immense stress.


The mutterings from early morning English readings fill my ears,

a holy hymn I’ve been conditioned to repeat and recite.

Books stacked on desks, papers crumpled on floors,

disturbed chalk dust drifting through the air.


32 days until the final exam,

32 days for us to prove 3-years-worth of our lives.


The sun peaks in through the cracks of the curtain,

cicadas hum through the summer haze.

But the warmth does not soothe me,

it agitates and distresses in the form of tiny sweat beads.


Words start lumping together on pages,

pens start running out of ink.

The air conditioner rumbles in the corner,

its cold air a noisy protest against the unsettling peace and quiet.


Minds filling with anxieties and hopes for the future,

but blanking of the here and the now.

Knowledge slipping through one ear and coming out the other,

but dreams steadily claim their places in our hearts.


The stress consumes us in our entireties,

but we are too focused to notice.

Carrying our parents’ expectations,

we march towards the promise of a “better life”.


A better life?

A better life determined by circles filled in with number 2B pencils.

We send silent prayers with the phrase

hard work forever pays.


Almost. Almost there.


- Eva Zhong


Cover Photo Source: https://www.barrons.com/articles/u-s-colleges-put-chinas-gaokao-to-the-test-1446188818