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

Almost 10 million high school graduates in China sat the nation’s annual college entrance exams earlier this week. The themes and reference materials are always a topic of conversation among parents and the online community.

But numerous students probably wondered if this was purely a political test on the ‘thoughts’ of Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping.

Several municipal and provincial education departments all jumped on the bandwagon to quote President Xi’s political doctrine through his speeches and articles, asking candidates to write essays on the subject.

Students in the eastern province of Zhejiang were told to write about the “Zhejiang spirit,” which was coined by Xi during his time as the province’s Communist Party chief from 2002 to 2007.

In Guangdong, another essay involved the “Chinese Dream,” another Xi theme which dominates political discourse in the country.

Students in Beijing, Sichuan and Yunnan were all asked to draw inspiration from the President’s thoughts on environmental protection, outlined in his “green hill is also a gold hill” doctrine.

Xi pointed out in his speech that environmental conservation could also drive the economy and generate wealth.

Of course, all this has prompted some parents and commentators to ask if students would have to write glowing reports on the “Xi themes” to score extra “brownie points.”

In previous years, the subjects have been largely non-political, and mainly focused on Chinese culture, history and traditional virtues.