Zhejiang's publicity statement emphasizes that the postgraduate entrance examination should not become a second college entrance examination. What are the characteristics of the current postgraduate entrance examination? Why do some people refer to it as the "second college entrance examination"?

The National Postgraduate Entrance Examination, known as the year-end key exam, has begun these days with over 4 million hopeful candidates. A month ago, news of a 360,000 decrease in the number of applicants for the exam after 8 years of continuous increase sparked discussions. At the same time, the “high school entrance exam trend of postgraduate entrance examination” has also attracted attention. The reason why some netizens describe the postgraduate entrance examination as a “second college entrance examination” is because, with the continuous expansion of colleges and the increasing employment pressure, postgraduate entrance exams have increasingly become a “standard” part of many people’s university careers, just like the college entrance exam is a “standard” part of high school. From being an “optional” option for further education to becoming a “mandatory” option for employment, the transformation of the postgraduate entrance examination into a “second college entrance examination” reflects not only the increasing difficulty of “landing” but also the “educational anxiety” and “employment anxiety” faced by college students. Public data shows that from 2015 to 2022, the number of applicants for the postgraduate entrance examination in China increased by an average of 15.8% per year for 7 years, maintaining high growth every year. In 2023, the number of applicants for the postgraduate entrance examination increased to 4.74 million. Although the number of applicants for the postgraduate entrance examination in China decreased for the first time in 2024 after 8 consecutive years of increase, with 4.38 million applicants, it still accounts for a significant proportion of the more than 10 million college graduates. It must be said that the postgraduate entrance examination, as a significant path for graduates, remains a crucial choice.In this context, we can see that some freshmen have set their college goals as “complete studies and find employment” as soon as they enter college. Increasingly, college students believe that a postgraduate degree is more like a “must-have” for finding a good job in the future. Phrases like “the whole dormitory takes the postgraduate entrance exam,” “the whole class takes the postgraduate entrance exam,” and “the whole department takes the postgraduate entrance exam” have become common sights on college campuses. At the same time, in recent years, phenomena like “top students” actively applying for the “double non-elite” universities through “reverse postgraduate entrance exams” are also not uncommon.All of the above indicates that graduates see taking the postgraduate entrance exam as one of the “mandatory” options and that obtaining a higher degree and better job prospects through postgraduate education has become a widely accepted consensus. In this situation, students, teachers, schools, and the job market are all drawn into the wave of postgraduate entrance examinations.Let’s also take a look at the current popularity of the “national civil service exam” and the “public institution entrance exam.” Compared to the decrease in the number of applicants for the postgraduate entrance examination this year, the national civil service exam has been on a trend of “expanding enrollment” for the past five years. With the growth in the number of applicants and the increasing difficulty of “landing,” candidates can only resort to the “ocean of test questions” used to cope with the college entrance examination. This has also given rise to various markets, such as “expensive coaching classes,” “high-priced prediction papers,” and “renowned teacher training camps.” For many college students, passing the postgraduate entrance exam and then taking the public institution entrance exam has become their ideal plan.Although the national civil service exam and the postgraduate entrance exam have seen “one rise and one fall,” overall, it still reflects society’s emphasis on education and positions, which in turn reflects some of the practical challenges faced by young people in choosing and finding employment.While the examination system has its limitations, it cannot be denied that whether it is the college entrance examination, the postgraduate entrance examination, or the national civil service exam, examinations are the fairest and most just way to select talent and promote social mobility. It is also the “key” to change the fate of many ordinary people. However, when the postgraduate entrance examination “pulls” everyone, either voluntarily or involuntarily, into the same race, and even becomes known as a “second college entrance examination,” it indicates that some problems are inevitably emerging.For example, the “high school entrance exam trend” has deviated from the original intention of postgraduate education. Unlike undergraduate education, which focuses on “learning knowledge and practicing skills,” postgraduate education aims to cultivate talents with research and innovation capabilities. But when the exams become increasingly brutal and insular, it is easy to form such a perception: many people participate in the postgraduate entrance examination not for research but simply to enhance their qualifications. This undoubtedly deviates from the original purpose of postgraduate education.There have been news reports pointing out that some universities overly emphasize the postgraduate entrance exam pass rate and the rate of further study, investing a lot of resources and energy in mobilizing and organizing students to take the postgraduate entrance exam. They even make “the postgraduate entrance exam base” their goal in running the university, marginalizing basic education in the process.For example, the “omnipotent theory” conveys a one-sided employment orientation. In traditional employment views, a higher degree is considered a bonus for getting a better job. Combined with the increasing employment pressure in recent years, many graduates are rushing into the postgraduate entrance exam, and more and more high-education talents are starting to “fight for jobs.” This has, to some extent, increased the pressure on the job market.Furthermore, this has led to a certain degree of “educational anxiety.” While valuing education is a good thing, in the context of rising job requirements, some employers excessively emphasize education, often requiring candidates to have postgraduate degrees, even from “985” or “211” universities, as a minimum threshold. On the other hand, some students who have just graduated are not adapting to the demands of the job market, leading to a situation where many highly educated talents are “neither high nor low.” Over time, anxiety, confusion, and herd mentality have unknowingly grown and spread.Lastly, the “high-pressure state” has an impact on the physical and mental health of college students. The process of preparing for the “thousands of soldiers crossing the single-plank bridge” is a significant test for the physical and mental health of young people. The “2022 College Student Mental Health Survey Report” jointly published by institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that 50.44% of college students intend to pursue postgraduate education, and their anxiety risk is significantly higher than that of students who do not plan to pursue postgraduate education.

In terms of effort, there is indeed a trend towards “Gaokao-ification” in the postgraduate entrance examination.

After all, the employment threshold is getting higher and many job positions now require a master’s degree, so candidates are compelled to take the postgraduate entrance examination.

I used to joke that it’s a bit like a “second college entrance examination,” but there are significant differences compared to the Gaokao. Not to mention, this is the most significant distinction:

“Graduate admissions require selecting a program first and then taking the exam; whereas, the Gaokao involves taking the exam first and then selecting a university and major.”

This means that the choice of program plays an extremely important role in the postgraduate entrance examination.

Furthermore, the postgraduate entrance examination is mostly a one-way street. What does that mean? If you can’t get into Tsinghua University and are rejected after the interview, your most likely option is a non-985 university (if you’re lucky, you might be able to switch to another major within Tsinghua). There is no situation like in the Gaokao where you can say, “I didn’t get into Tsinghua for finance, so I’ll settle for Zhejiang University to study computer science.” The Gaokao highly respects individual “effort.”

For competitive exam takers, the Gaokao offers substantial rewards.

However, for the postgraduate entrance examination, there are often cases where two classmates take the exam together, and the one with lower academic ability gets admitted to their first-choice program, while the one with higher ability not only fails to get admitted this time but might not even get admitted next time. I previously mentioned an example where someone scored 440 in three subjects in the year they applied for the PBC School of Finance, while another person scored over 310 in their general courses. In terms of pure test-taking ability, the latter was significantly stronger than those who were admitted to Tsinghua or Peking University in the same year.

Moreover, “inverted selection” is very common in the postgraduate entrance examination.

Some non-985 popular majors have much fiercer competition than certain majors in 985 universities. To give a simple example, programs like computer science at non-985 universities, finance professional master’s programs in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai non-985 universities, as well as many non-985 law professional master’s programs and education programs, have more intense competition compared to some less popular and low-quality majors in 985 universities. In the Gaokao, there are also cases where students give up on 211 universities and choose to study at universities like Hangzhou Dianzi University for computer science, but both of these options are available to you.

This means that there are “opportunistic” situations in the postgraduate entrance examination every year.

If it were to take on the “format of the Gaokao,” many people would desire it, but it’s not possible.

This is primarily because of the differences in majors. In addition, the initial purpose of the postgraduate entrance examination should be to select graduate students, not to train test-taking experts. If it were to follow the format of the Gaokao and reduce the proportion of the interview, then the postgraduate entrance examination might become the fairest examination;

This would eliminate the differences in test questions among different provinces in the Gaokao, the impact of the allocation of quotas in different provinces, and even the influence of prestigious high schools, as most online courses from famous teachers are widely accessible. The only remaining influence would be the loophole in the preliminary exam for specialized courses.

Of course, in the many years of the postgraduate entrance examination, one of the most interesting aspects is the dramatic element that “choice may be greater than effort.”

Different choices can lead to stronger individuals losing. I hope that parents and elders don’t compare their children, as it only adds pressure, and it’s impossible because they are fundamentally incomparable.

Finally, I would like to quote something I wrote on Weibo yesterday:

The examination hall at 18 and 22 is different.
At the age of 18, we were full of youthful vigor, and when we left the examination hall, we were the youth of the entire summer, filled with boundless longing for the future;
At the age of 22, we understood each other without words, hurriedly walking forward with lowered heads, as if we had lost the youthful spirit of the past.

Today, Zhejiang’s publicity says: The postgraduate entrance examination should not become a “second college entrance examination.” I think, just on this point alone, everyone’s mindset is entirely different.

Leaving the Gaokao examination hall is a dream, while leaving the postgraduate entrance examination hall is life.

Is the postgraduate entrance examination really a second college entrance examination in life? It is neither defined by others nor by any authoritative individuals or institutions. Instead, it is defined by each individual who decides whether or not to take the postgraduate entrance examination, just like how life itself lacks inherent meaning, and meaning is assigned by individuals.

More than a decade ago, when the popularity of the postgraduate entrance examination was not as high as it is today, the topic of the heated discussion about the postgraduate entrance examination revolved around a few renowned local universities in various regions known for their emphasis on the postgraduate entrance examination. These universities were referred to as “specialists” in the field of postgraduate entrance examinations.

The culture of preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination in many universities began right from the moment students entered college. From the curriculum to the school’s various schedules, everything revolved around the postgraduate entrance examination, making way for it in every aspect.

Because when calculating employment rates, further education is also considered as employment, and at that time, the competition for the postgraduate entrance examination was not very intense. For most majors, as long as one prepared diligently, obtaining a postgraduate enrollment slot was not difficult.

For some local universities, encouraging students to take the postgraduate entrance examination and helping them succeed was much easier than assisting them in finding suitable employment opportunities.

Thus, the choice of pursuing further education was made effortlessly.

For students from these local universities, pursuing postgraduate studies was indeed an excellent choice. During that era, the number of master’s degree holders was not excessive, and graduate students were considered top talents in many companies. With numerous job opportunities available, having a graduate degree provided a significant competitive advantage. For students with lower undergraduate qualifications, obtaining a master’s degree was a straightforward, direct, and effective method to improve their employment prospects.

Therefore, the situation at the time was such that those who did not worry about employment mocked those pursuing the postgraduate entrance examination as an army, but these individuals were well aware that the postgraduate entrance examination was the only path to better job opportunities and prospects.

The biggest premise for pursuing a higher degree to secure a better job is actually built upon the fact that the majority of people do not want to pursue higher education.

Because many people do not pursue higher education, those who do are able to gain a competitive advantage in terms of their educational background, leading to job opportunities that would not be available without pursuing higher education.

However, when more and more people begin to seek better job opportunities through this path, this path gradually becomes less effective.

In the end, it comes back to the saying, “There are many paths in this world, but as more people tread them, the paths become scarce."

This is also why, in recent years, the postgraduate entrance examination has shown increasingly obvious differentiation.

Some majors, from prestigious institutions like Tsinghua and Peking University to other top universities, and even to ordinary institutions with no notable ranking, have witnessed exceptionally fierce competition, with candidates achieving outstanding scores.

On the other hand, some majors offer the most cost-effective way to earn a master’s degree from a prestigious institution, as they are relatively easy to get into. Even if one cannot secure a spot in a 985 university, they often can still enroll in a 211 university through transfer.

The reason for this lies in the fact that, in some fields, having a master’s degree can still lead to relatively better job opportunities. Therefore, many people within their own fields and those looking to switch into these fields are willing to work hard to pass the postgraduate entrance examination, hoping to use their educational background as a stepping stone to enter the industry.

For ordinary individuals with limited resources and connections, the postgraduate entrance examination is the best and only path to change careers. This is why they persevere.

However, in some fields, even if you earn a master’s degree, it may seem like your starting salary has increased slightly, and your job title may appear a level or two higher than that of an undergraduate. Nevertheless, when looking at the overall picture, not much has changed. People in these fields understand the reality and no longer believe that pursuing higher education and obtaining degrees will significantly alter their employment prospects. Except for those who want to pursue a purely technical or academic path, there are not many people queuing up to earn degrees, resulting in much less competition.

So, whether the postgraduate entrance examination is a second college entrance examination in life ultimately depends on each individual’s independent judgment. If it proves to be valuable, then it is an examination worth persevering for; if not, there will naturally be fewer people determined to take it.

Universities have become enhanced high schools, and the 92 universities are not much better.

The inertia of exam-oriented education determines that anything related to exams will soar. Because once it’s related to exams, the learning path becomes very clear. Isn’t this how the standardized interview questions for programmers have been developed?

Whether the postgraduate entrance examination will become a second college entrance examination is determined by multiple factors, including the overall economic situation, employment prospects, job benefits, preferences of employers, fairness of the examination, and the choices made by schools and candidates. It will not change solely because of statements from provincial propaganda departments.

Firstly, the overall economic situation and employment prospects fluctuate. Before the pandemic, the economy was relatively prosperous, especially with foreign and private enterprises hiring a large number of graduates, resulting in many universities achieving an easy employment rate of over 90%. However, after the pandemic, there were economic fluctuations, and employment opportunities outside the formal system decreased. For universities like ours, apart from teacher education programs, the employment rate remained high at 80% to 90%, while non-teacher education programs saw a decline to 40% to 50%. Although positions within the formal system are in high demand, they require mandatory examinations and face fierce competition, with statistics showing admission rates ranging from only 1.28% to 5% in various regions. In comparison, the postgraduate entrance examination, with an admission rate of around 20%, offers slightly better opportunities and becomes an option to delay employment and enhance competitiveness.

Secondly, some positions offer low benefits, and employers prefer higher academic qualifications. In the past, graduates from colleges and high school were often associated with blue-collar jobs and low incomes. In recent years, due to the tough employment situation, even university graduates have ended up in low-paying jobs, some even taking on manual labor for meager wages. Better employers often require candidates to have at least a master’s or bachelor’s degree, with a preference for graduates from prestigious institutions, such as those in the “985” or “211” categories. Some even look at whether the candidate’s first degree is from a “211” institution. To improve their qualifications and secure a ticket to job applications, many students reluctantly pursue higher education.

Furthermore, the examination system needs to balance fairness and competency assessment. If postgraduate admissions institutions have a fair system, qualified examiners, and a high ratio of independent question setting and interviews, it becomes easier to identify talents. However, not all institutions can fully achieve this. For instance, in the field of history, it is generally believed that institutions using a unified examination system are more scientific, comprehensive, and fair in their assessments compared to those with self-set questions. Yet, choosing the unified examination system, which is highly standardized and allows for easy collection, study, and memorization of examination materials, may inevitably lead to a situation akin to a second college entrance examination in terms of format.

Lastly, the postgraduate entrance examination becoming a second college entrance examination is also a choice made out of necessity for some universities and candidates. In highly competitive provinces for the college entrance examination, many candidates can only be admitted to non-prestigious institutions within the province. These schools may not have significant advantages in research or teaching, and their students tend to excel in exam-oriented skills while having weak overall competencies, resulting in poor competitiveness in the job market. The transformation into a postgraduate dream factory is a joint decision made by the institutions and the students. Although this model may encourage the emergence of advanced test-takers and is not conducive to nurturing research-oriented talents, it cannot deny others the opportunity to take the examination.

In conclusion, the postgraduate entrance examination becoming a second college entrance examination is an inevitable choice of the times. Neither schools, mentors, nor students are satisfied with this situation, but it is not something that can be changed solely by the education system.

Believe it or not, the current postgraduate entrance examination is becoming more and more like the college entrance examination.

Stay true to your original intention.

I remember the first class meeting in high school when we were in grade one. The class teacher motivated us passionately. He slammed the desk forcefully, and the chalk dust fluttered in the air as he said, “What is our only mission? It’s to aim for the college entrance examination three years from now!”

In other words, from the first day of high school, our original intention was crystal clear: the college entrance examination.

Nowadays, a similar trend is observed in universities. My niece is currently a freshman, and even before she entered university, she was already thinking about how to prepare for postgraduate studies. Later, she told me that some of her dorm mates were already considering taking postgraduate entrance examination courses during the winter vacation.

Whether it’s the college entrance examination or the postgraduate entrance examination, we are like products on an assembly line. As soon as we start, we already know what the endpoint is.

Going with the flow.

The consequence of staying true to your original intention is undoubtedly a rush to join the fray. However, not everyone is suitable for postgraduate studies, and not everyone necessarily should pursue it. One of the adverse effects of collective behavior is that emotions spread rapidly, whether they are positive or negative.

When you see an individual preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination, you may remain indifferent. When you see an entire class doing the same, you might hesitate. When you see an entire department or school heading in that direction, you may decide to join in.

As for some schools' incredible feats, such as creating idols on their official social media accounts, often promoting slogans like “all dormitories secure postgraduate enrollment” or “twin sisters both succeed in postgraduate entrance,” it only adds to this anxiety.

The reign of the “exam king."

Once everyone joins the race, internal divisions within this group will become more apparent.

Some individuals take the postgraduate entrance examination to improve themselves, some do it to reassure themselves, and some do it to outperform others.

Hence, various high-priced coaching classes emerge, along with bizarre news about exam preparations, resembling the fervor of certain college entrance examination factories where the motto is “one more point on the exam, surpassing a thousand others.”

Dreaming of the big pie.

In reality, both the college entrance examination and the postgraduate entrance examination are responses to concerns about educational attainment and employment prospects.

When the future environment is uncertain and it’s difficult to determine one’s direction, the first thought is often to enhance one’s qualifications through education.

This is understandable, but it’s akin to what high school teachers often say, “Once you get into university, you’ll have an easy life.” Many people seem not to consider why they want to pursue postgraduate studies, what they should gain from it, but instead simply believe that “getting into postgraduate school will lead to a comfortable life, with job offers pouring in.” This kind of pie, when consumed excessively, might turn out to be toxic.

Whether it’s the postgraduate entrance exam or the civil service exam, the two paths that university students converge on actually lead to the same destination.

Students preparing for the postgraduate entrance exam understand that getting admitted doesn’t guarantee they will become research elites. Similarly, students aiming for civil service positions understand that success in the exam doesn’t guarantee future leadership roles.

They both realize that winning a single exam has limited significance, but they still strive for it. They do so because they understand that this exam holds two layers of significance. Firstly, it provides them with a safety net, ensuring their basic prospects and shielding them from the likelihood of facing greater hardships and challenges. Secondly, when they aspire to reach higher goals, passing this exam becomes a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite.

These two layers of significance are analogous to the college entrance examination.

When someone opposes the college entrance examination, postgraduate entrance exam, or civil service exam, what are they talking about? Are they citing examples of sports stars, celebrities, social media influencers, or esports champions? In reality, these examples are not easily transferable or replicable. Those who excel in these fields do not necessarily need to succeed in the mentioned exams. However, the qualities that support their success are much scarcer in terms of competitiveness than even top students from prestigious institutions.

Of course, it must be said that individuals following paths that require the college entrance examination, postgraduate entrance exam, or civil service exam as prerequisites also possess unique and highly competitive traits. For them, success in these earlier exams is relatively straightforward and insignificant.

So, what I want to emphasize is that when we discuss topics like the college entrance examination, postgraduate entrance exam, or civil service exam, we are essentially discussing the possibilities for the general public. It’s about how, when you lack special advantages in terms of your background and circumstances, you can still accumulate competitive advantages, chart a path for growth, and improve your weaknesses.

As an average person, you understand that you won’t become a globally recognized prodigy. There is a limit to what you can achieve, and that limit exists. For ordinary individuals, your ceiling might be a department head in a design institute, a section chief in a government department, or an associate department head in an academic institution. If you want to aim higher, you must possess and utilize other rare and specific competitive advantages, as following the conventional path won’t be enough. However, you should aim to reach or at least approach that limit, or else you risk facing a future far below your potential.

When dealing with individuals, you can certainly advise them that paths like the college entrance examination, postgraduate entrance exam, etc., are not the only options and that they should explore their interests and talents to create a more distinct personal image. This will enhance their differentiation in their respective industries rather than being solely defined by their affiliation with a certain institution or exam.

However, when looking at the collective, you must realize that the majority of people in this group don’t possess notable interests or talents. For them, if they don’t strive for higher academic qualifications, join a higher platform, pass a series of exams, and accumulate research experience and credentials through external resources, they will face society with a blank slate, perceived as having little to offer. You have no right to obstruct their pursuit of a safety net for their lives.

Best regards.

In recent years, the postgraduate entrance exam has become similar to the college entrance exam!

Various training courses are everywhere, making the initial postgraduate exam no longer about techniques!

For top universities like the “985” and “211,” the only way to differentiate oneself in the initial exam is through the specialized subject! For example, in universities like Tianjin University, each department sets its own specialized subject questions, and there isn’t a specific syllabus, just a list of reference books! In such exams, having the right information is crucial, I recommend finding senior students from your target university to guide you, just like preparing for final exams in college. Having someone highlight key areas for you can significantly enhance your performance!

Unlike subjects like mathematics, English, and politics, which have specialized question experts, many specialized subjects are set by university professors themselves. To be frank, university professors may excel in research, but when it comes to exam preparation, they may not be very effective. They often struggle with setting exam topics, so questions are usually straightforward, and some are even pulled directly from question banks! If you can access real exam questions from previous years, it’s almost like an open-book exam!

Another trend in the postgraduate entrance exam is that the weight of the interview stage is increasing. If the initial exam and interview each account for 50%, with a total score of 500 for the initial exam, you are essentially reduced to just 50 points. If you perform poorly in the interview, it can significantly alter your initial exam ranking! So now, it feels like those who pass the interview hold the keys to success!

The postgraduate entrance exam generally consists of several parts: an English listening and speaking test (usually the listening part is in written form, while the speaking part is an interview), a written exam in the specialized subject, and a comprehensive interview.

Do not underestimate the written exam in the specialized subject during the interview stage; many people stumble here! The specialized subject in the interview is often more information-oriented than in the initial exam. Having a reliable senior student provide guidance is often more effective than reading numerous books!

As for English, there’s not much to say; you can find plenty of relevant tips online. Study it on your own!

The most crucial part of the interview is the comprehensive interview. Many reversals happen during this stage! In essence, it’s about whether you have any bonus points, such as having published academic papers, holding patents, winning competitions, or receiving scholarships. These are the criteria for the interview panel’s evaluation! This year, someone who made a comeback to Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) had an SCI paper! If you have nothing in these aspects, then you don’t need to struggle. Just say what you have. You won’t have time to make significant changes in half a year! Don’t submit to general journals or engage in academic misconduct; it may backfire!

Additionally, I’d like to remind junior students: make sure to contact your potential advisors in advance! Regardless of the advisor’s attitude, try to have a phone conversation with them to leave a good impression. Even if they don’t agree, they don’t reject you either. A positive impression during the interview can still be beneficial. If you’ve communicated with them before, they might help you during the interview, which can be a huge advantage!

But if you don’t contact your potential advisor in advance, you won’t reap this benefit. If someone else does, they might take your spot. It’s as simple as that!

Finally, I want to say that although the number of postgraduate exam takers increases every year, truly hardworking and dedicated individuals are not that common. Most people don’t put in the effort! So, personally, as long as you work hard and apply to a university within your abilities, don’t aim too high; getting accepted is a normal occurrence and not as difficult as it’s portrayed!

I am Zheng Nan, a Ph.D. graduate who has spent several years in academia. Your likes, bookmarks, and follow-ups are the greatest support to me! I live stream on video platforms every Friday at 8:00 PM; please stay tuned!

In recent years, the craze for postgraduate entrance exams is essentially a form of inefficient competition. When this inefficiency reaches a certain level, the marginal benefits inevitably decrease. With no real advantages, people naturally stop putting in the effort.

Imagine I am a hiring manager for a company that is doing well and needs to expand. In the job market, there is an excess of talent. For a regular position that only requires a bachelor’s degree, there are numerous applicants, including many postgraduates. In this scenario, selecting the best candidates, in this case, postgraduates, makes sense.

At this point, undergraduates still have some opportunities, but their competitiveness is lower compared to postgraduates.

Later on, I realize that the supply-demand relationship further favors the buyers' market. Many postgraduates, including those from prestigious universities, are applying to my company. With such a large pool of postgraduates to choose from, the company doesn’t need to lower its requirements. All positions can be filled with postgraduates.

This trend is especially prevalent in state-owned enterprises and government agencies, as they tend to focus on appearances rather than substance.

As a result, the job market becomes extremely unfavorable for undergraduates, with limited job opportunities that are often of low quality. Without pursuing postgraduate education, they may not even have the chance to submit their resumes.

Naturally, students are compelled to pursue higher degrees more aggressively.

The pursuit of higher degrees has reached an alarming level. Last year, the number of fresh postgraduates in Beijing exceeded that of undergraduates for the first time.

But does the nation and society really need so many postgraduates? Do most job positions truly require a postgraduate degree to perform well? Or, after spending two to three years on a postgraduate program, do students genuinely acquire solid knowledge and skills that significantly enhance their abilities and allow them to be more effective than undergraduates?

In reality, it’s not the case.

Except for academic and high-tech fields, most social jobs, especially those in the humanities, rely on skills and capabilities that are primarily acquired through work experience, not in schools.

Universities primarily provide general education, laying the foundation for knowledge and logical thinking. The true factors contributing to personal and professional success are mainly gained through real-life experiences.

In fact, most of those who pursue postgraduate degrees only go through the motions.

To put it simply, people who started working in the 1990s had limited access to educational resources. Their knowledge and resources were far inferior to what’s available now. Most had relatively low levels of education, with many having only completed college or vocational school. Full-fledged university graduates were rare. However, if we compare them to today’s postgraduates, after working for a decade, it’s likely that many of those from the 1990s still have better abilities and qualifications. Achievements aside, the skills and qualities of many current postgraduates might not match up.

If it’s an inefficient form of competition, it will ultimately return to its essence.

This is similar to the trend of traditional Chinese clothing (Hanfu). It became trendy, and people invested time and money in dressing up in Hanfu. Streets were filled with people wearing Hanfu, and pursuing it lost its meaning.

Soon, people might return to wearing the most comfortable and simple sportswear, sneakers, and T-shirts.

Similarly, as the head of a company, I might initially feel proud of hiring many postgraduates and proudly proclaim the high percentage of master’s degree holders in my workforce.

But soon, having postgraduates won’t be a big deal.

As the company grows, it will focus more on the real value of its employees rather than superficial value. After all, making money isn’t easy, and achieving higher returns at lower costs is the key. Spending more money on positions that don’t require postgraduate qualifications for the sake of appearances isn’t cost-effective.

When times are good, such concerns might not matter, and money is spent without much thought. But during tough economic times, every penny counts.

At this point, companies will consider whether undergraduates can do the job. If they can, why spend more to hire postgraduates?

Of course, a decrease in the number of postgraduate candidates doesn’t necessarily mean that people are no longer interested in postgraduate education. However, it does indicate that blindly pursuing postgraduate degrees, resulting in an inefficient competition for education, is gradually returning to its essence.

Because at this point, spending three years to earn an ordinary postgraduate degree from an ordinary university no longer guarantees a significantly better future.

So, if you can find a good job during your undergraduate years, such as passing the civil service exam or joining a public institution, why waste those years?

Many believe that after completing postgraduate studies, they can apply for better positions and jobs. However, in this fiercely competitive job market, having an ordinary postgraduate degree primarily means you’re part of the denominator.

For slightly better government job positions, there are hundreds of applicants for one opening. For better corporate positions, there’s a sea of resumes from postgraduates from top universities.

If your field of study or your career direction involves academic research, scientific research, or highly technical work in fields like medicine, automotive technology, or information technology, then a bachelor’s degree might not be enough. Pursuing postgraduate or doctoral studies may be necessary.

However, for the majority of jobs with less specialized requirements, if your undergraduate education is decent, and you have some opportunities, along with decent abilities, then entering the workforce early and gaining real-world experience and improvement is likely the most sensible choice.

And if your undergraduate education is exceptionally poor and you can’t even secure a basic job, then pursuing postgraduate education becomes necessary.

Taking the civil service exam, understanding the system, and following the advice of experienced individuals is essential. Follow the public account “Civil Servants Speak about Civil Service Exams” for insights.

In fact, from the perspective of talent selection rationality and social upward mobility, if the postgraduate entrance exam can become as significant as the college entrance exam, it may not be a bad thing.

It’s been reported in the news that the “high-pressure state” affects the physical and mental health of college students. The intense preparation process, described as “thousands of troops and horses crossing a single-log bridge,” places significant physical and psychological stress on young people.

Attributing this solely to the postgraduate entrance exam itself is unfair.

So, let’s say we restrict postgraduate exams now, and encourage everyone to work instead. Does working not affect physical and mental health? Does a good job not involve facing intense competition?

Twenty years ago, when jobs were relatively easy to find, the trend of pursuing postgraduate education began to rise. Even those who had been working for several years decided to return to academics. Why?

Because some individuals didn’t quite fit into the promotion logic and requirements of their jobs and were looking for a change in direction.

For example, those who studied foreign languages didn’t want to continue training in language skills at training institutions or those with artistic talents wanted to shift to fields like law or accounting.

Likewise, individuals who initially studied fundamental subjects like physics wanted to delve into the practical side of chip manufacturing.

Without postgraduate education, their progress in the job market would have been less certain, and perhaps only a few top companies would have had the patience to train them.

Not to mention the benefits brought by switching to a better master’s program, such as platforms, networks, and resources.

Back then, the proportion of graduates from the previous years who pursued postgraduate education had already exceeded fifty percent.

Now, how are job opportunities compared to twenty years ago? What about opportunities for career advancement? When will the youth unemployment rate be announced?

In such a situation, isn’t pursuing postgraduate education a more certain path to upward mobility?

Oh, by the way, some might argue against blindly pursuing postgraduate education and insist on having a clear career plan, not following the crowd. They might point out that not everyone from prestigious universities pursues postgraduate degrees.

Yes, indeed, some of them didn’t pursue postgraduate education; they went abroad for their master’s degrees.

Why Can’t the Postgraduate Entrance Exam Become a “Second College Entrance Exam”?

Why is the national youth unemployment rate not being disclosed now? Does it mean there is no data available?

In times of economic prosperity, when there are abundant job opportunities that can be handled with a bachelor’s degree,

Why should I bother preparing for the postgraduate entrance exam? (The returns may not necessarily be high)

I graduated from a prestigious university, secured a job offer from a top company right away. Who wants to spend 5 years preparing for the postgraduate entrance exam and 3 years in mock exams?

Why has the number of candidates for the postgraduate entrance exam and civil service exam been increasing in recent years? (The growth rate of postgraduate candidates is even more astonishing. Back in 2018, when I took the postgraduate entrance exam, there were 2 million applicants; now it’s over 4 million.) Although the number of postgraduate candidates has declined for the first time this year,

there are still over 4 million applicants!

So, I’d like to ask how much the number of admissions has increased in recent years?

The acceptance rate has been decreasing in recent years, but why does the number of candidates keep rising?

Experts say we shouldn’t turn it into a “second college entrance exam.”

But does that mean we can find a job right away after graduating from college?

Every year, more than 10 million fresh graduates enter the job market, but can society accommodate employment for so many people?

How many graduates face unemployment immediately after graduation?

Or, they get laid off right on schedule at the age of 35, making way for younger employees (in reality, it’s to reduce costs), and these young individuals have to endure pickup artist (PUA) tactics.

Have you noticed how difficult it is for today’s youth?

If you don’t work diligently, don’t buy a house, and don’t have children, but instead go to temples to pray, they say you’re embracing “lying flat."

If you want to prepare well for the postgraduate entrance exam to secure a good job in the future, they say you’re stuck in rote learning, lack innovation, and are following the trend of a “second college entrance exam."

It’s too hard, truly too hard.

Worshipping the Doctrine of Problem Solving Has Taken Root in People’s Minds, Making Everything Seem Like the College Entrance Exam. Even if you don’t make them take the college entrance exam, they’ll find all sorts of “college entrance exams” themselves and try to “pass” them, just like Don Quixote charging at windmills.

In fact, so many people in our nation are “on tenterhooks” because our national religion is the worship of problem-solving, and we are all believers. This religion can make believers adapt to a mechanical and numb life, diminish their courage, stifle their learning abilities, and harm their health.

Just as the Old Testament cannot explain evolution, the worship of problem-solving cannot explain why people study for over a decade and still don’t know anything.

Don’t rush to argue with me when you see this, saying things like “The only way out for the poor is the college entrance exam” or “The college entrance exam can change one’s destiny,” or that “education makes people ‘cultured.’ “I can only say that I’m not interested in debating with you on religious matters.

Doing problems as a nationwide phenomenon can actually correspond to fasting in many essential aspects:

  • Routine and low-risk
  • Mild and enduring pain
  • Requires patience and has a sense of practice
  • There is no direct practical significance, but meaning is presented through vision
  • Meaning is highly constructed within the group, and outsiders find it hard to understand
  • Members guide and supervise each other
  • Individuals can complain about the hardship of the process but do not question the activity itself

—Excerpt from Ciszewski’s answer to “How do you view the claim that Chinese people lack beliefs?”

Schools are monasteries, teachers are priests, doing problems is chanting scriptures, “educational investment” is buying indulgences, students are both believers and sacrifices, and studying abroad is a pilgrimage.

Successful postgraduate candidates often refer to it as “making it to the other shore,” and this saying is extremely apt and clever because in reality, **the bridge between the two shores in the worship of problem-solving is the exam itself.**By passing the exam, you can leave behind the pain, boredom, and limitations of this shore and proceed to the great, beautiful, and bright other shore. In the eyes of believers, the transition from elementary school to middle school, the secondary school entrance exam, the college entrance exam, the postgraduate entrance exam, and the civil service exam are all like the 81 trials on the path to enlightenment. As long as you pass these exams, your soul ascends, and you attain Buddhahood.

However, even if you really pass the exam, life won’t necessarily become perfect. At this point, these believers will reflect once again, “Maybe I haven’t transcended enough tribulations?” So they start arranging exams for themselves, or they pray for the arrival of the next exam as if they were praying for the Messiah.

Yet, they will never understand that there is no such thing as an exam that leads to the other shore in this world.

Alas, worship of problem-solving:

Dozens of postgraduate students at a university in Henan study under streetlights on cold winter nights to stay alert. How do you view this effort?

First, the phenomenon of second and third attempts at the postgraduate entrance exam is becoming increasingly common. In a nutshell, it’s just too competitive. Even though the number of postgraduate admissions has increased, the sheer volume of candidates remains vast, leading to low acceptance rates at prestigious universities. Consequently, some students aiming for top-tier universities like Tsinghua and Peking often need to make second or even third attempts, with a few determined individuals going for a fourth try. For instance, from what I understand, in recent years, the proportion of candidates successfully entering the Tsinghua’s Master of Management program on their first attempt might be only around 50%. If you’re a full-time postgraduate candidate, the time investment over multiple years can be substantial.

Second, candidates' expectations for the returns on a master’s degree have declined. According to information from a December 2023 symposium by the Ministry of Education, China has trained over 11 million postgraduates to date. Combined with the recent economic downturn, employers have become more cautious about recruitment quotas. This has resulted in greater difficulty for master’s graduates in finding jobs, with compensation not as favorable as before. Consequently, candidates have lowered their expectations for the returns on a master’s degree, and some students view pursuing a master’s degree as a haven for delaying their entry into the workforce.

China has trained over 11 million postgraduates - Xinhua News Agency

Third, there’s a noticeable extension in the preparation period for the postgraduate entrance exam. Due to intense competition, some students aspiring to enter prestigious universities begin preparing for the initial postgraduate exam very early, with some even starting their preparation as early as their freshman year. When I took the postgraduate entrance exam, even for those preparing for Tsinghua or Peking University, the majority of students had a preparation period of just 10-12 months. However, in recent years, many students seeking advice about Tsinghua and Peking University’s postgraduate entrance exams opt to begin their preparations during the summer vacation before the start of their junior year. The extended preparation period for the postgraduate entrance exam can lead undergraduate students to overly focus on exam preparation, neglecting the development of other essential skills.

Regarding the notion of a “second college entrance exam,” I believe it’s more of a psychological refuge for candidates who feel their undergraduate competitiveness is lacking. However, if candidates wish to enhance their employability, in addition to pursuing postgraduate studies or civil service exams, it’s crucial during their undergraduate years to comprehensively improve practical skills and professional competence.

If every candidate has hopeful choices and plans for the future, then the postgraduate entrance exam will only become a possibility rather than a necessity.

According to a survey, more than 60% of the candidates taking the postgraduate entrance exam are doing so to improve their job prospects rather than for research or a genuine interest in studying.

I’ll say it again, nobody is foolish. The reason so many people choose to take the postgraduate entrance exam is not without merit. It’s a decision made by weighing the pros and cons from their own perspectives.

In a certain sense, taking the postgraduate entrance exam can be seen as a beneficial “exercise” for students. In fact, those who have successfully passed the postgraduate entrance exam understand that it is fundamentally different from the college entrance exam. People who claim it’s like a second college entrance exam probably haven’t taken the postgraduate entrance exam themselves. While on the surface, both exams involve several years of preparation followed by taking a test and going to school, their essence is vastly different. The true challenge of the postgraduate entrance exam lies in the mental endurance it demands. This is something the college entrance exam cannot compare to. The college entrance exam propels students forward through the education system, while the postgraduate entrance exam doesn’t. The postgraduate entrance exam requires students to carry themselves forward. That’s why postgraduate candidates often seek companions to go through this journey together, supporting each other. Sometimes, it’s hard for an individual to endure alone. It’s not that the postgraduate exam questions are necessarily more difficult than those of the college entrance exam, or that it requires more time and effort, but rather, it’s the all-encompassing psychological pressure that sets it apart. This includes pressure related to employment, family, peer competition (such as when other classmates are working or starting families while you’re still toiling away at the postgraduate exam), and various other temptations.

Of course, I must emphasize that whether it’s “educational anxiety” or “employment anxiety,” the blame does not lie with the students or the postgraduate candidates. Official media should not just lightly mention what “shouldn’t” be done but should also provide solutions.

This question is quite interesting.

The discussion around this issue has gained momentum because it involves two significant selective exams, the postgraduate entrance exam and the college entrance exam. Many people have analyzed it from different perspectives, which I also find intriguing. Let’s analyze it.

Firstly, let’s not discuss whether the postgraduate entrance exam is a second college entrance exam. Instead, let’s consider whether the postgraduate entrance exam, like the college entrance exam, is something that many people attach great importance to. There are many coaching institutions, and various industries related to this exam have emerged, right?

The answer is yes.

More than ten years ago, when I took the postgraduate entrance exam, there were only a few materials available from renowned teachers like Xiaoxiu Rong for subjects like politics. Many so-called key-point teachers didn’t even exist back then. Over the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of renowned teachers producing coaching materials. Not only do we have materials, but we also have renowned teachers giving video lectures and emphasizing key points. In recent years, there has even been the emergence of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) who help students memorize difficult materials (since there is so much to memorize, these KOLs emphasize the most important parts of the study materials).

With so many people involved, it’s unlikely that they are doing it just out of sheer passion, right? So, these related industries are not operating solely on passion. Are students taking the postgraduate entrance exam out of sheer passion? Definitely not. From the current perspective, the reason people are willing to take the postgraduate entrance exam is that it’s useful, and a postgraduate diploma is valuable. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” After all, whether it’s large companies recruiting or government agencies conducting exams, a significant number of positions require a postgraduate degree. While a diploma doesn’t necessarily represent individual competence, without a diploma, one may not even have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. Therefore, apart from advocacy, the fundamental solution to prevent the postgraduate entrance exam from becoming a second college entrance exam is to remove many of the benefits associated with having a postgraduate diploma. If the postgraduate entrance exam “isn’t as useful,” the enthusiasm for it will naturally decline.

Looking at the issue from a developmental perspective, the postgraduate entrance exam is unlikely to become a second college entrance exam. Currently, it serves as a screening mechanism due to the associated costs. However, when everyone competing for a job holds a postgraduate diploma, what then? I once made a prediction in a previous response:

“It’s precisely because of the willingness to screen based on qualifications that has led to the era within the next five years. Five years from now, it’s highly likely to evolve into a situation where, without reliable recommendations (letters of recommendation from influential individuals, referrals from acquaintances, recommendations from senior colleagues within the organization), even the best resumes may not pass the initial screening.”

Since the trend in the next few years is that qualifications will depreciate, is it necessary to take the postgraduate entrance exam in the future?

Because everyone will have a postgraduate diploma, it’s challenging to gain a comprehensive and short-term understanding of an individual solely from the recruitment process. If the person recruited is not suitable, it can be troublesome, whether it’s within the system or outside of it. The cost of rehiring is also significant. At this point, these recruiting organizations will likely prefer to find reliable individuals for internal recommendations rather than conducting open recruitments with low controllability.

In other words, for a position that doesn’t require high qualifications and offers decent compensation, the competition will revolve around factors beyond qualifications.

Teacher Hua once joked that this is just like the United States, and she’s absolutely right. It’s not wrong. When society develops to a certain stage, this is how things work. The United States has merely advanced a few versions ahead of us. We used to ridicule the U.S. for relying on recommendation letters and how many things were unfair. But aren’t we walking down the same path? Over the past couple of years, I have received requests from friends asking me to recommend suitable individuals for positions in their organizations that are in high demand. This year, many of my friends have also encountered such requests.

What’s difficult to say is that we once ridiculed the U.S. for its recommendation system, and now we’re gradually understanding it and may eventually adopt a similar recommendation system in the future.

As for how to take away many benefits associated with having a postgraduate diploma and make the postgraduate entrance exam “less useful,” I believe this is a question that the entire society should contemplate. No matter how much we discuss it here, it’s challenging to influence the current enthusiasm for the postgraduate entrance exam.

Whether “postgraduate entrance exam fever” naturally fades away after five years or if there will be any other changes, we’ll have to wait and see.

I wish all the students reading this article success in the postgraduate entrance exam!

Questioning the Fairness of the Postgraduate Entrance Exam? I Just Want to Say: Complainers Complain, the Strong Keep Silent, and the Wise Think About Change!

The 2024 postgraduate entrance examination has just concluded.

However, many candidates have raised numerous questions: Compared to the college entrance exam, which is fairer, the postgraduate entrance exam or the college entrance exam?

01 Candidates: There Are Secrets Behind the Postgraduate Entrance Exam!

Doubts about the fairness of the postgraduate entrance exam have existed for a long time, and candidates often focus on the following aspects.

Focus One: “I spent over a year preparing, but I didn’t get admitted in the end, while some people only spent two months preparing and got into a good school. Is this fair?"

You should know that whether someone gets in after two months or someone fails to get in after two years, it has no relevance to fairness; it’s simply a logical concept of imposed causality from a logic class.

For those who get in after two months, how do you know if they were underachievers who made a comeback or high achievers who performed consistently?

Some students have a solid foundation in their major subjects and strong English skills, so they don’t need as much time for preparation. On the other hand, some students have a mediocre grasp of their major subjects and can’t even pass the English CET-4 exam, so preparing for them is naturally more challenging, and it’s normal for them not to get in after two years.

Therefore, the length of the preparation time does not necessarily determine fairness or unfairness!

Focus Two: “I had a higher score than another student in the initial test, but I still didn’t get admitted."

Is it unfair to be rejected despite having a high initial test score?

You should know that competition for prestigious schools is already very intense. If your initial test score doesn’t have an overwhelmingly competitive advantage and your performance in the subsequent interviews is average, it’s difficult to maintain your advantage, and being rejected is not unusual.

Just like this year, a student who ranked first in the initial test for the Master of Accounting program at Jiao Tong University was rejected and publicly questioned the existence of secrets. However, it was only after understanding the facts that it was revealed that the difference in scores between the first and last candidates to enter the interview stage was only 12 points.

A slight initial test advantage can be easily erased, and given the fierce competition at top schools, the risk of being rejected is naturally high.

The reason the postgraduate entrance exam includes an interview process is that it’s not like the college entrance exam, which solely relies on test scores; it considers comprehensive abilities, including research skills.

To question the fairness of the postgraduate entrance exam just because some high-scoring students with mediocre overall abilities are rejected is to question whether there are hidden manipulations by the schools.

Regarding the issue of whether to eliminate the interview process, during the more severe period of the pandemic, some experts suggested eliminating the interview and directly confirming admission based on initial test scores.

However, People’s Daily subsequently expressed its opinion: “We do not support eliminating the interview process in postgraduate entrance exams."

The article pointed out that if the interview process were eliminated, only written test forms of evaluation would remain, which would be no different from the middle school and high school exams, lacking in variety. Such an approach contradicts the goal of selecting talents for graduate studies.

Focus Three: “As long as I study diligently, I can definitely pass the postgraduate entrance exam."

Not necessarily!

You should know that studying diligently ≠ efficient exam preparation ≠ guaranteed success!

If that were the case, all those who retook the exam two or three times would have succeeded because they studied more diligently than anyone else. But in reality, many of them still failed to get in!

When it comes to the postgraduate entrance exam, efficient study habits and effective exam preparation strategies are just as important as diligence.

In summary, objectively speaking, the postgraduate entrance exam may not be entirely fair, but it is generally free from conspiracies or secrets.

02 There Are Indeed Unfair Aspects of the Postgraduate Entrance Exam

From the perspective of the postgraduate entrance exam itself, there are certainly unfair elements, mainly reflected in the following aspects.

First, excessive competition and a large number of admitted students after adjusting scores in the initial test.

This rarely happens because once discovered, it often tarnishes the school’s reputation and makes postgraduate admissions difficult in the following years.

For example, in 2020, the difficulty of the electrical engineering subject test at Guangxi University was on par with the top 985 universities. Less than 20 students from the first-choice applicants passed, and most students couldn’t even pass the subject test.

Candidates' evaluation was that the overly difficult subject test was designed to screen out most students and receive transfers from top universities.

The high difficulty of the subject test led to no one registering in 2021. Therefore, Guangxi University released a notice stating that the first year would protect first-choice

Diligence in Tactics Cannot Replace Laziness in Strategy.

Many of us are accustomed to following the strong inertia of nine years of compulsory education, naturally sliding along the trajectory of high school, college, and graduate school. Unless one truly cannot pass, as long as there is a chance to study, most people will continue their education. This is closely related to the societal environment shaped by our cultural tradition of valuing knowledge and culture, as well as the significant protection and support policies for students. The college entrance exam is a battlefield where the vast majority of students are passively pushed onto, while the decision to pursue postgraduate studies should be a mature and conscious choice.

However, in reality, many people have never seriously considered: what is the purpose of education? During the period when children do not yet fully understand the world, external forces, inducements, or even coercion are indeed needed to prevent them from succumbing to their wild instincts. But after acquiring a sufficient foundation of knowledge and thinking ability, one cannot continue to approach education like a child, confined to the narrow path of studying, taking exams, and advancing academically. This is because the real world and life are incredibly rich and complex, with a stark contrast between theory and reality.

In simpler terms, life boils down to working to earn a living, eating, sleeping, and pursuing various interests and desires to varying degrees. Discovering what one truly enjoys and desires to do, finding the path to achieve personal goals, and moving towards those goals is the road that can span a person’s entire life. Whether those goals are lofty and noble or mundane and worldly, the principle remains the same.

I still remember during my university years, the overall atmosphere at the school was shifting from “those who work right after their undergraduate studies are mediocre” to “those who work right after their undergraduate studies are geniuses.” Although this statement may be overly general, it at least indicates that students' perspectives have shifted from an exclusive focus on academic qualifications to a more practical approach to career development. The fact that this year’s civil service exam registration exceeded the number of postgraduate entrance exam registrants also suggests a changing mindset among the public, one that is more aligned with reality.

During university, in addition to mastering professional knowledge, it is essential to gain a comprehensive understanding of society, oneself, and the industry. The world is much richer than what textbooks can offer. For instance, a major in “chemical industry” at university corresponds to countless industries in society, such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, daily chemicals, fast-moving consumer goods, clothing, interior decoration, quality inspection, and so on. Each of these industries has numerous positions, and these demands and skills cannot be taught in school; they require hands-on experience, research, and self-learning.

On the other hand, both research-based master’s and doctoral degrees involve working externally, not just internal learning. After obtaining a graduate degree, one should become a professional or even a seasoned expert in a specific field, with capabilities comparable to those with the same years of work experience. If a student only reads books for the sake of reading, takes exams for the sake of certificates, and remains a blank slate with no practical skills three to five years later, graduation becomes nothing more than a dream during a time of idealism. The longer one takes to wake up, the greater the loss.

Today’s businesses are becoming increasingly mature and practical. They hope to hire employees who can generate results and profits for themselves, rather than just possessing an impressive diploma (except for decorative positions). Although not possessing an impressive diploma, professionals in the workplace with industry experience and skills are far more valuable than high-achieving students who lack practical skills. As for terms like “comprehensive qualities” and “growth potential,” they are mere empty words used when there are no substantial strengths to present and are deployed to save face.

Although both are exams, the college entrance examination (gaokao) and the postgraduate entrance examination (kaoyan) are fundamentally different in my view. Exiting the examination room at 18 is like leaving in the midst of summer, while at 21, it’s like stepping out into the winter cold. At 18, it’s all laughter and playfulness, but at 21, it’s a hurried pace. At 18, it’s filled with youthful exuberance, while at 21, it’s accompanied by confusion and hesitation. Exiting the examination room at 18 is stepping into the future, while at 21, it’s facing reality.

However, it must be said that the postgraduate entrance examination is the most systematic and comprehensive learning experience for ordinary people after going through the college entrance examination. Moreover, it is a self-motivated learning process.

The postgraduate entrance exam must have a clear purpose. Generally, this goal is to secure a good job. Therefore, the choice of major, location, and university requires careful consideration. It is worth noting that many positions, especially many established positions, require a postgraduate degree. Therefore, pursuing postgraduate studies is essential, especially at reputable institutions, where being a postgraduate student can significantly boost your prospects (of course, this is often more applicable to male students due to marriage and childbirth reasons). If your undergraduate degree falls into the B+ or lower category, the chances of landing a top job are even slimmer. Therefore, it is crucial to use postgraduate studies at a reputable institution to compensate for any deficiencies in your undergraduate education.

Furthermore, many students from prestigious undergraduate institutions also choose to pursue postgraduate studies, often through the (tuīmiǎn) or “recommended admission” route…

This explains why many people choose to pursue postgraduate studies after working for a while. It’s because they can’t secure promotions, the job market has high entry requirements, and having a postgraduate degree is crucial. Especially in recent years, the impact of the pandemic has made it extremely difficult for many small companies to survive, leading to numerous cases of layoffs.

The job market is truly more ruthless than you can imagine (wiping away tears).

However, I strongly oppose pursuing postgraduate studies multiple times, such as second postgraduate entrance examination or third postgraduate entrance examination, and so on. Remember, youth is priceless!

Question: What are the characteristics of the current postgraduate entrance examination (kaoyan)? Why do some people refer to it as the “second college entrance examination”?

When I see this question, it frustrates me.

Why Can’t It Be a “Second College Entrance Examination”?

When Did “College Entrance Examination” Become a Pejorative Term?

Before understanding the characteristics of the postgraduate entrance examination and why it’s called a “second college entrance examination,” shouldn’t we first consider what makes the college entrance examination unique?

Speaking of the college entrance examination, the first word that comes to mind for me is “fairness."

Although the content of the college entrance examination and the nature of the questions themselves involve completing test papers, this in itself may not fully reflect comprehensive abilities.

However, behind the college entrance examination, every student uses their comprehensive abilities to provide support for themselves to ultimately submit their college entrance exam papers.

If someone believes that the postgraduate entrance examination should not be considered a “second college entrance examination,” is it equivalent to saying that it should not offer “a second chance at fairness” to every student?

Speaking of the college entrance examination, the second word that comes to mind for me is “choice."

After all, before high school, everyone receives a general education.

Once in college, the first thing is to select a major or adjust to one when you are uncertain about your choice.

Some argue that the postgraduate entrance examination should not be a “second college entrance examination.” Does this imply that it should not provide “a second opportunity to choose a major” to every student?

Speaking of the college entrance examination, I also think of “seeking gain and avoiding loss."

As for other factors, such as recent years' employment pressures, economic conditions, the higher treatment of postgraduates compared to undergraduates, and the differences in graduation certificates among various universities…

To be honest, when it comes to actual job positions, these disparities can still be overcome through individual efforts.

There are undergraduate students who accumulate experience and perform excellently, and there are postgraduates whose starting salaries are becoming less competitive.

No matter how you choose, it’s not always satisfactory.

Undergraduates enter the workforce early and face the challenges of society, but they can quit or switch jobs.

Postgraduates fall under the control of their advisors, experiencing a form of servitude. After spending two or three years in this environment, it might not necessarily be a good thing.

Speaking of the college entrance examination, I also think of “three years of high school."

This is actually a disaster for universities themselves.

To prepare for the college entrance examination, what do high school students do?

Basically, in the first year, they cover most of the high school curriculum, and in the second and third years, they intensely prepare for the college entrance examination.

The entire person becomes an exam-preparation machine.

The same applies in college.

If a college student wants to prepare wholeheartedly for the postgraduate entrance examination and treats it as a “second college entrance examination,” they will inevitably approach the first three years of college in the same way they approached high school.

In that case, they won’t care about the arrangements made by university professors, various university exam courses, rankings, and rewards.

For university courses related to the field they want to pursue in the postgraduate entrance exam, they will certainly study seriously. But if a student intends to switch to a different major for their postgraduate studies, then the four years of undergraduate teaching resources will mostly go to waste.

Students will focus on postgraduate courses relevant to the new major they intend to pursue.

Abandon the slogan of a “second college entrance examination.” There are too many issues that need to be addressed behind this.

Let’s First Talk About “Fairness”

If the postgraduate entrance examination were directly canceled and all postgraduate quotas were based on recommendations, claiming that the recommended rankings are calculated based on various undergraduate factors.

Let’s be honest, would this approach be fairer than the postgraduate entrance examination?

Next, Let’s Discuss “Choice”

A person’s understanding of the world at the age of 18 or 19 is undoubtedly very different from their understanding at the age of 23 or 24.

If someone’s life goals change, without the option of taking the postgraduate entrance examination, how can they switch majors or transfer to a different university?

There’s nothing more to say; this would require a complex systemic overhaul to achieve.

Lastly, Let’s Talk About “Seeking Gain and Avoiding Loss” Again

This one leaves me speechless.


I don’t advocate for a “second college entrance examination” or for everyone to study “lucrative majors.”

I hope for comprehensive societal development, and I hope that all challenges are faced head-on.

No problem.

Let’s do it.

In Conclusion, Let’s Go Back to “Three Years of High School”

In reality, this ties into the discussion about “seeking gain and avoiding loss.”

No one is a fool.

The money for university education is hard-earned by one’s family.

If completing the university curriculum guarantees a high-paying job after graduation, who would be foolish enough to go through the “second three years of high school” for the postgraduate entrance examination?

This entire argument avoids the hard-hitting issues that need to be addressed by both universities and society.

Blaming the excessive number of postgraduate entrance examination candidates solely on the candidates themselves is akin to blaming a herd of sheep for rushing and overwhelming the grassland.

If you don’t address the issues affecting the grassland’s ecological balance, and you don’t say that the sheep are too disruptive, it won’t solve the problem.

That’s all.

Millions of labor force in the prime age range of 22-25, not working and instead focusing on full-time exam preparation; this would feel extravagant in any country worldwide…

Now, there are at least 2 million people preparing full-time for postgraduate entrance exams, civil service exams, or professional qualification exams. They are all among the best labor force, having graduated from universities and aged between 22 and 27.

In 2022, the total number of births in the country was only around 8 million. This comparison alone illustrates the alarming extent of human resource wastage in our country.

A sluggish job market has forcefully led to such wastage of human resources, resulting in significant losses for our country.

Whether it’s the “second college entrance examination” or the “first college entrance examination,” it can be said that young people today have it tough. We initially thought that after the college entrance examination, there would be fewer exams to worry about, but then comes the postgraduate entrance exam. We thought that after postgraduate studies, there would be fewer exams, but now there’s the civil service exam. Youth passes by amidst exams. Society demands “achievements at a young age,” even recruiting positions have age restrictions. Emotionally, the pressure to “start a family early” leaves no time for dating and marriage, making it difficult to have children! In summary, don’t confine yourself to one circle, because there’s more to life beyond it!