China: COVID Policy Confusion Causes Students to Miss Their Postgraduate Entrance Exam
Postgraduate Entrance Exam

The 2023 national postgraduate entrance exam in China saw a record number of registrations, although a large number of candidates did not show up for the test’s first section, which was held in late December 2022. The significant number of no-shows is thought to be partly a result of misunderstandings over COVID-19 limits and associated quarantine precautions when traveling to exam locations.

However, a lot of candidates also expressed concern that the exam would be abruptly canceled due to an increase in COVID instances following the abrupt suspension of China’s stringent “Zero-COVID” restrictions in early December.

The government abruptly and without warning withdrew its “Zero COVID” policy on December 7, 2022, causing a significant increase in COVID cases, initially in urban areas. However, the size of the infection wave has not been made public.

China’s National Health Commission said on December 25, 2022, that it would stop publishing a daily update on COVID infections and fatalities. In its final daily report, the commission noted that no deaths occurred in the slightly more than 4,100 locally transmitted illnesses that were reported the day before.

A number of national-level tests set for late November and early December 2022 have been postponed, including the national civil servant exam, which had more than 2.5 million applicants registered for and was slated for the 3–4th of December. The exam will now take place in January 2023.

However, the ministry published detailed guidelines for handling applicants who tested positive at exam locations so they may take the exam since it was determined to move forward with the national postgraduate exam.

In December 2022, the postgraduate test was a big subject on multiple popular social media platforms, with discussions about students’ worries about getting COVID at exam locations, worries about travel delays when trying to get to exam venues, and skyrocketing accommodation rates close to exam locations. A lot of posts were promptly deleted.

Social media comments over whether the postgraduate exam should be delayed, in particular, were carefully moderated within hours of being posted.

Approximately 4.57 million persons officially registered for the postgraduate test, which is 170,000 higher than the year before. Unofficial statistics from various regions and internet users writing about the several seats left empty at specific exam centers when it was held from December 24 to December 26 in 2022, however, indicate a high “no show” rate.

Some estimations making the rounds on Chinese social media claim that close to a third of individuals who registered for the postgraduate exam did not show up. On the “abandonment” rate for the December exam, the ministry has not yet made any comments.

Following the December 2022 exams, social media users estimated the number of no-shows to be between one and 1.6 million based on compiled, internally available provincial estimates and other private data. It is impossible to independently verify such estimates.

Other candidates reported on social media that many hotels were still commandeered by the authorities as quarantine centers and could not be booked by exam candidates due to some provinces still enforcing lockdown policies after the official lifting of restrictions announced by Beijing on December 7, 2022.

Candidates wanted the exam postponed in the weeks leading up to it because they were worried they wouldn’t be able to get to testing locations or locate lodging.

The education ministry mandated that “utmost measures” in epidemic management be undertaken by regional exam authorities and universities prior to the exam in order to guarantee the security of postgraduate exam takers. For those who test positive for COVID-19, it requested that local authorities set up separate testing facilities.

According to the ministry, applicants were permitted to apply to take the exam in the region where they were presently residing if they were in a different provincial region from the test center and could have trouble traveling back.

In February 2023, the postgraduate exam’s second component is scheduled to take place.

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