High Stakes

A teenage friend has, after months of strenuous study, successfully completed an exam that may allow her to bypass the dreaded gaokao. She is lucky – and smart – enough to attend one of Shanghai’s key schools that offer this alternate path to university.

Having done better than expected on the exam she is one of 10 names being put forward for one of the country’s top universities. Early acceptance will ultimately be determined by interview. If past experience is anything to go by 9 of these 10 will be accepted. Though the chances are good, she is still pretty nervous – with good reason.

If she is accepted she gets to take the rest of the year off (and a successful future is pretty much guaranteed). If not it’s back to square one – 8 more months of arduous study before undertaking the brutal gaokao in June.

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