Candidates sit for this year's college entrance exam. Photo: Beijing Daily via VCG
Candidates sit for this year's college entrance exam. Photo: Beijing Daily via VCG

How would you measure up in China’s annual college entrance examination? There is a rare chance to find out, as education authorities have agree to publicly release this year’s papers, along with a choice of suggested answers.

Markers have almost finished assessing 50 million papers submitted by the 10 million candidates in the exam, known as gaokao in Mandarin, which was staged earlier this month. It is part of a merit-based formula used to allocate university places and select the best and brightest for the country’s top institutions.

The exams have also piqued wide interest among academics, parents and alumni, who are keen to test themselves in subjects ranging from Chinese and English to mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history and geography

Some native English speakers may not be familiar with a unique type of question in gaokao’s English paper: the cloze, in which gaps have been inserted in a short piece of writing, and students have to choose the most suitable missing word from four options provided.

Here is this year’s cloze section in the English paper:

For a long time Gabriel didn’t want to be involved in music at all. In his first years of high school, Gabriel would look pityingly at music students,     1     across the campus with their heavy instrument cases.       2     at school for practice hours     3     anyone else had to be there. He swore to himself to     4     music, as he hated getting to school extra early.

__5__, one day in the music class that was __6__of his school’s standard curriculum, he was playing idly on the piano and found it ___7__to pick out tunes. With a sinking feeling, he realized that he actually __8__doing it. He tried to hide his __9__pleasure from the music teacher, who had __10__over to listen. He might not have done this particularly well, __11__the teacher told Gabriel that he had a good ___12__ and suggested that Gabriel go into the music store-room to see if any of the instruments there __13__ him. There he decided to give the cello a __14__. When he began practicing, he took it very __15__. But he quickly found that he loved playing this instrument, and was __16__to practicing it so that within a couple of months he was playing reasonably well.

This __17__, of course, that he arrived at school early in the morning, __18__ his heavy instrument case across the campus to the __19__ looks of the non-musicians he had left __20__.

1. A. travelling   B. marching   C. pacing   D. struggling

2. A. rising up   B. coming up   C. driving up   D. turning up

3. A. before   B. after   C. until   D. since

4. A. betray   B. accept   C. avoid   D. appreciate

5. A. Therefore   B. However   C. Thus   D. Moreover

6. A. part   B. nature   C. basis   D. spirit

7. A. complicated   B. safe   C. confusing   D. easy

8. A. missed   B. disliked   C. enjoyed   D. denied

9. A. transparent   B. obvious   C. false   D. similar

10. A. run   B. jogged   C. jumped   D. wandered

11. A. because   B. but   C. though   D. so

12. A. ear   B. taste   C. heart   D. voice

13. A. occurred to   B. took to   C. appealed to   D. held to

14. A. change   B. chance   C. mission   D. function

15. A. seriously   B. proudly   C. casually   D. naturally

16. A. committed   B. used   C. limited   D. admitted

17. A. proved   B. showed   C. stressed   D. meant

18. A. pushing   B. dragging   C. lifting   D. rushing

19. A. admiring   B. pitying   C. annoying   D. teasing

20. A. over   B. aside   C. behind   D. out

Questions in the math exam can be a bigger challenge. Here’s one:

(Translated from Chinese). As shown below, within the square marked by ABCD is the taiji figure of ancient China, in which the black and white parts are symmetrical as seen from the center of the square. If you take a random point within this square, what is the probability that the point falls in the black part?

And to finish, two questions from the history paper:

Q1: Literature and art are products of the times in which they are created, and they also reflect the spirit and characteristics of those times and eras. Choose one pair below that you think is correct:

A. Dramatic changes in society following the Industrial Revolution led to the rise of modern art.

B. Intensified social conflicts in Western capitalist countries in the 19th century led to the rise of realism.

C. Spiritual crisis in the West post-WWII led to the birth of impressionism. 

D. Prosperity of the Western capitalism after WWII led to the birth of romanticism. 

Q2: What happened in Soviet Russia in the 1920s?

A. Private enterprises began to emerge

B. State-run businesses were given more autonomy

C. The government prohibited the sale of food

D. Peasants were active in collective farming


English cloze:

1. D   2. D   3. A   4. C   5. B   6. A   7. D   8. C   9. B   10. D

11. A   12. A   13. C   14. B   15. C   16. A   17. D   18. B   19. B   20. C

Maths: B

History: 1. B   2. C