Hawking wins more devotees

gaokao w

The National Higher Education Entrance Exam, or the gaokao, was held in China this week, with roughly 9.4 million students sitting the all-important test on Tuesday and Wednesday. The gaokao is a period of heightened stress for university hopefuls so many were elated when science genius Stephen Hawking took to weibo to remind them of its significance.

“This culmination of your hard work marks just the beginning of your very bright futures,” he wrote. “Be fearless in the pursuit of your aspirations. You are the next generation of big thinkers and thought leaders that will shape the future for generations to come.”

Hawking’s post was shared 125,000 times in 10 hours, and garnered 43,000 comments, two of the most popular being, “I feel like the whole universe is cheering me on” and, “With Stephen Hawking’s support I can already feel my IQ getting higher”.

Given the competition for university places (only 3.7 million available), inevitably there are some who rely less on their IQ and instead try to scam the system. As a result more advanced techniques were introduced to discourage cheating in the exams this year.

Standard procedure for this year’s candidates: passing facial recognition scans, fingerprint checks and metal detectors before being allowed entrance to the exam hall. Exam papers were delivered by a police SWAT team in Beijing. In Henan, wary authorities employed drones to hover above test centres to intercept radio signals that could be transmitting answers to students with concealed earpieces. Another popular scam in past years was to pay a more intelligent surrogate to take the test for you. To prevent this, the authorities in a number of provinces simply banned university students from leaving their campuses for two days to stop them from being hired as test-takers.

But perhaps the ultimate deterrent for cheats is that if they are caught, they face three to seven years in prison.

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