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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Chinese police probe exam scam
College students
Students face intense pressure to pass entrance exams
Police in southern China are investigating an exam cheat racket which used pagers to pass on answers to the crucial national college entrance exams.

China's entrance exams
Test comes in five parts
Every candidate must take Chinese, English and maths
They can then opt to take either science, with tests in chemistry and physics; or arts, with tests in politics and history
According to state media, police are holding a dozen suspects after it emerged that students in Guangdong's Dianbai county were paying teachers to have answers transmitted to their pagers.

Some students were paying as much as $361 in return for guaranteed qualifying scores in each portion of the test, the China Daily reported.

Among those arrested was a teacher who admitted to police that he had passed all the answers of the maths exam to all the students who had paid up front for them.

Beijing students
In Beijing students took to inhaling pure oxygen to calm their nerves
The case is one of a number reported to have taken place during the intensive annual exam period nicknamed Black July.

In Hunan Province China Central Television reported that students in one exam centre were openly passing answers to each other as supervising teachers looked on.

High pressure

Pressure on China's youngsters to pass the three-day-long entrance exams is immense - and for some it proves too much to bear.

Students have been known to suffer mental breakdowns as a result of failure and more extreme cases have involved suicide.

More than 3.9 million youngsters sat this year's exams, twice as many college places as are available across China.

Anxious parents wait for their sons and daughters to emerge
Added to that is the fact that the generation currently approaching exam age is the first to have been born under China's strict one-child policy.

For their families the exams represent the one and only opportunity to get their child into college and, ultimately, a high paid job.

With only limited retirement income to look forward to, many parents will rely on their child to care for them in later life.

As a result many families take time off to coach their children in the run-up to exam time, often digging deep into their savings to ensure they have the best opportunity of passing.

Even now, with the exam period ended, the pain is still not over - results don't come out until early August.

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