Suddenly, the SATs seem like a leisurely way to spend a Saturday. Chinese students and their families have turned preparation for the country's college entrance exam into a national obsession. Some students study hooked up to oxygen tanks in an effort to improve concentration, girls take birth control to prevent getting their period during the exam, and parents routinely promise expensive gifts to kids who pass, reports the New York Times.
Results of the gao kao test are the sole factor for admission to nearly all Chinese colleges, and only about three in five students make the cut. One Chinese saying likens the exam to "thousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of horses across a single log bridge." Parents keep vigil during the nine-hour test, and some spend thousands on elaborate cheating techniques. One student says his mother ignored him for days following a poor showing. "She said, ‘All these years of raising you and washing your clothes and cooking for you, and you earn such a bad score,'" he says. “I cried for half a month.” (Read more China stories.)