Xiaomei Li is a recent high school graduate from the city of Gaobeidian, Hebei Province. She took the annual national college entrance exam in June 2012, and received a score of 593, or 19 points higher than the minimum required for a Round One college (a round one college is one that is considered a good college with well respected academic programs).
HJ: Congratulations on your excellent score! How does it feel?
Xiaomei: It feels great! It’s been over a month since I took the exam, and I can’t believe I am finally done with high school.
HJ: It was a tough year for you, wasn’t it?
Xiaomei: You bet! My senior year was definitely crazy and nerve racking. I thought it would never end. So much homework and practice tests every day; it was just awful. We got up at 5 in the morning each day, and began our early study session at 6:00 am. Then there were regular classes during the day, four periods in the morning and four in the afternoon. When classes ended at 6:20 pm, we rushed to the cafeteria and had dinner. Mandatory evening study session began at 6:50 pm, and lasted until 10:00 pm. We usually went to bed at 10:30 pm. And the next day, the same process would repeat itself.
HJ: How did you spend your weekends?
Xiaomei: Saturday was treated like a weekday, so it had the same schedule as Monday through Friday. We were given a lot of practice tests on Saturdays. Sunday was slightly different. We were given 5:00-6:50 pm off, but we still had to come back to school for the 6:50-10:00 pm evening study session. So basically, Monday through Saturday, we studied between 6:00-11:55 am, 2:00-6:20 pm, and 6:50-10:00 pm; and Sunday was very similar except we got 5:00-6:50 pm off.
HJ: That’s 90 hours a week, more than twice what the average adult works in a week!
Xiaomei: What can you do? Everyone was working hard, and no one wanted to be left behind. We gave up a lot of the fun things that teenagers do, like TV and movies. Some of my friends even stopped using their cell phones during our senior year to minimize distractions.
HJ: That was incredible! Do you think it’s all worth it?
Xiaomei: I guess so. We didn’t want to disappoint our parents or teachers. They’ve done so much for us, and we want them to be proud of us.
HJ: Tell me a little about how the senior year was structured.
Xiaomei: Basically our senior year was spent reviewing everything we had learned in high school. There were three stages. The first stage was pretty much the first semester of our senior year, and we spent those five months going over everything we did in high school. The second stage lasted about four months, which ran from the winter break to the first mock exam. During this period, we tried to distill all the knowledge we had learned in each subject into a clear, concise summary format. The third stage began after the first mock exam and ended right before the actual national entrance exam. During this period, most of us were under a lot of pressure, and it was really important to learn to relax and maintain a positive attitude.
HJ: How did you handle the pressure?
Xiomei: Sometimes I would go out to the track field and run a few laps. Before I went to bed, I would like to listen to some soothing music to relax. Occasionally I would go to my teachers and chat and asked for advice.
HJ: Was there ever times when you felt particularly frustrated or disappointed?
Xiaomei: Sure. For our first mock exam, I received a score of 80 on my math test, out of 150! Math was one of my strongest subjects, and I usually did reasonably well in it. I was so disappointed in myself, and asked my homeroom teacher for a few days off to go home. She said to me: I understand home is a comforting place, but you can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, you need to learn to face your own challenges.
HJ: What did your parents say when they saw you at home? I know you went to a boarding school and rarely went home during your senior year.
Xiaomei: My mom said: “don’t worry about it. Take a few days to rest up and relax. A score of 80 is not the end of the world, and it means you have plenty of room to improve and do better.” Her words made a lot of sense to me. I realized that looking from a different perspective, getting an 80 was not such a bad thing, and I needed to be more positive and stop dwelling in something that already happened.
HJ: On a different note, did you see much cheating during the college exam?
Xiaomei: Not really. It’s too risky. Because if a student is caught cheating, his scores will be cancelled, and he won’t be able to attend college that year. During our hundreds of practice quizzes and tests, I’ve heard some students tried to cheat, but it was really pointless. So it helped you get a better score on a mock test, but on the real exam, there is almost no chance that you could cheat. And if you are caught, you reputation is ruined.
HJ: I agree. So have you selected your schools and majors yet?
Xiaomei: I already submitted my Round One selections the day after my score came out. We could select up to five schools and six majors. My choices of colleges include Yanshan University, Qingdao University, China University of Geosciences, and China University of Petroleum, and I would like to major in automation technology.
HJ: Good luck in college and thank you for sharing your story with us!