Chinese university exam question: why do cats chase mice if fish are plentiful?

China’s university entrance exams for 2010 contain a diverse range of essay questions – from the one-word topics like “morning” or “participation” to the more direct question “Why chase mice when there are fish to eat?”

Tuesday is the day that every Chinese teenager dreads, when some 9 million students file into examination halls across the country to compete for a limited number of coveted university places.
The experience, according to an old Chinese saying, is like “an army of ten thousand horses trying cross a single log bridge”, with the successful candidates having to find answers to questions that would make the average British A-Level student blanche.

The elliptical nature of such questions attracts great interest on the Chinese internet, where every year furious debates rage about the true meaning of the questions, with leading bloggers and writers posting their own efforts at answering them.
Other prompts this year included “Looking at the stars with your feet on the ground”, a line from a poem written by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in 2007; “The world I live in” and “recovering childhood”.
Observers looking for themes in this year’s tests noticed that sustainability and the environment recurred in several of the questions set by provincial examining boards.
In Shanghai, the essay question was titled “Danish Fisherman”, accompanied by a quotation from the Chinese philosopher-sage Mencius: “If fine nets do not enter the pools, there will be more fish and turtles than can be eaten.”
The numbers of Chinese graduates has risen sharply in recent years – from 1.5m in 2002 to an estimated 6m this year – as the country seeks to improve skills and technological innovation in a bid to move up the manufacturing value chain.
– News Story


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ammara said,

    heheheheheheeehehehhee only the chinese eh 😛

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