It’s called “exam hell” for a reason


“They have studied for more than 10 years for these exams.”  It’s exactly like this in Japan too, except that in China, where most families have only one child, the pressure for that child to succeed must be all the greater.  Oddly enough, I spoke recently with a veteran mother of four who told me that she found it far easier to raise four children than only one, because she was able to diffuse all her attention, and therefore her stress, in different directions.  Families of her size are highly unusual in Japan now.  Roughly half of my kids are only children.


8 comments on “It’s called “exam hell” for a reason

  1. Karen says:

    In college, we called final exam week “Hell Week”. The week before, when we were supposed to be studying was “Dead Week”. I usually partied my way through that – and the final exams too, sometimes. But, I did get a degree in spite of my lack of attention to academic.

  2. Karen says:

    BTW, in the US, the standardized college entrance exam is the SAT. Most are given locally or in medium to large sized towns, and there are several dates available for testing. Colleges here also evaluate a student’s grades for entry. So, it’s a combination of SAT scores and grades that determine for which schools a student qualifies. The SAT is a bitch of a test.

  3. Karen says:

    Oh, crap, forgot the link. Senior synapse. SAT

    I didn’t take the SAT. Back then, the ACT (mentioned in the article) was pretty much interchangeable with the SAT, and most colleges accepted either one.

  4. Miko says:

    I am very impressed that critical thinking and essay writing are an important part of SAT! It sounds a lot like NZ education. This is not the case in Japan, where it’s almost all multiple choice and rote learning. In fact, the only thing you need to pass exams here is an extremely good memory and parents with deep pockets.

    I’m also impressed that the exam costs only $45. Over here you can expect to pay a couple of hundred bucks per exam (and most students sit for more than one school). Many “second choice” type schools also charge around $1,000 for holding a place for a student, in the event that s/he fails at first choice. Of course the money is non-refundable.

    Also, most students start attending cram schools in elementary school, in order to prepare for the college entrance exams. Cram school lessons can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 a month, depending upon the ambitions of the parents. (Sonbeam started when he was a pre-schooler, because I wanted to put him in an international school and I feared that his English wasn’t good enough to pass the entrance exam). Most Japanese public school kids start cram school lessons around the third grade, and quite a few of them take expensive lessons with private tutors as well, which is a nice sideline for me!

    Anyway, you can see why the birthrate is so low in Japan. Frankly most people can’t afford to have more than one kid.

  5. Miko says:

    Wow Karen, did you really drink alcohol during your exam season? Is that common? Over here most mothers make special efforts to ensure that their kids don’t catch cold during exam season, let alone hangovers. Some even insist that the school teachers wear masks, which I think is ridiculous.

    However, I still don’t allow Sonbeam to drink coffee, and get real pissy when I hear that he’s been spotted in Starbucks late at night (which my neighbours are all too keen to inform me of). I don’t know what I’d do if I heard that he’d been spotted in an actual bar, that served alcohol.

    Probably I’d join him.

  6. Karen says:

    Well, of course, I didn’t live at home during college, so the parents weren’t confronted with my drinking. And yes, I did party during finals week. I don’t know how common it was, but it wasn’t uncommon.

  7. Miko says:

    It certainly didn’t do you any harm. BTW, is it common for college students to live away from home? It’s quite common here, especially because colleges tend to concentrate in certain cities. Kobe has 18 universities and colleges, and Kyoto has 37! It makes for a lively atmosphere.

  8. Karen says:

    Yes, it’s quite common. I don’t know percentages or any of that, but I’d guess most college students do live away from home.

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