Last month, the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester announced plans to accept the Chinese Gaokao exam for direct entry to degree programs. This news follows a trend of greater numbers of higher-profile universities using the Gaokao in lieu of more traditional qualifications such as secondary school records, IELTS, and SAT.
The Gaokao, also known as the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is China’s national-level university entrance exam. It is generally the only qualification measured for entry into universities in China. Every year, millions of students take the Gaokao creating an ultra-competitive environment for those seeking admission to China’s most prestigious universities. (For example, last year, the admission rate China’s Tsinghua University was 0.9 percent versus Harvard’s 5.2 percent.)
For this reason, students who are undecided on whether to attend university abroad or within China often face a disadvantage as they must dedicate time to both the Gaokao and foreign university exams like IELTS, TOEFL, and the SAT.
The recent announcement gives Chinese students greater flexibility in applying to Leicester and Birmingham. While many British universities accept Gaokao scores for admission, most require Chinese students to complete an additional Foundation year before beginning coursework in a degree program. Both universities also stand out for their reputations: the University of Leicester ranks as a Top-200 university, and the University of Birmingham is a member of the UK’s Russell Group.
Leicester and Birmingham join other universities in the UK accepting the Gaokao for direct-entry to degree programs including the University of Plymouth and the University of Glasgow. Internationally, institutions in other countries have also increased their acceptance of the Gaokao. This year in the U.S., two large public universities – the University of Vermont and Louisiana State University – announced they would begin accepting the exam. Gaokao results are also widely-accepted at universities across Australia, Canada, and Continental Europe.
As more institutions accept the Gaokao, they must consider reforms recently implemented by the Chinese government. The reforms are aimed to provide greater flexibility by allowing students to choose from a range of subjects and to take certain sections of the exam more than once. The reforms create different scoring guidelines according to province and are expected to achieve a country-wide rollout by 2022.