The people who failed repeatedly to study for the exam: struggling on the road to the inner volume

People who keep taking exams have different purposes. Among the people interviewed by our reporter, some use the exam as a springboard, while others see it as a proof of their self-worth. Year after year, some people go ashore, some leave, and some are stuck in the same place

The winter in the north is cold and sluggish. Walking in the hazy days of several degrees below zero, Leo was not excited and relaxed for a long time, but a bit mute. He remembered that the day he finished his exams at the end of 2020, he sent out a microblog with just six words: “Do your best and listen to God’s fate.

The same day a year before, he also just finished the study, wrote in Weibo: “liberated, wish yourself luck. “

It’s not just time that passes, but also enthusiasm, hope and courage. The great loneliness and nervousness of preparing for the exam was replaced by a sense of emptiness and confusion after the exam, and Leo felt that he “really had nothing to lose.

According to the book “China Undergraduate Employment Report 2020″, from the analysis of the unemployed population in recent years, the proportion of those who continue to prepare for graduate school is on the rise, from 1.9% in the 2016 class to 4.0% in the 2019 class, with more and more former graduates choosing to ” The second war” or even “third war” for graduate school, hoping to The number of former graduates who choose to “second” or even “third” battle for graduate school is increasing, hoping to leap to the track of higher education.

The purpose of the people who keep on studying is not the same. The people interviewed by our reporter, some use the exam as a springboard, while others see it as proof of their self-worth. Year after year, some people land, some leave, and some are stuck in the same place.

Is this track the only answer? I’m afraid no one can say for sure.

Seeking stability

Zhao Yang felt that the closest he came to success in graduate school was at the end of 2018. It was his second exam, and his target was the Department of Journalism and Communication at Nanjing University. He made it to the retest, but was still brushed off. “The passing score at NU is low, and the school likes to press the score. “In the end, his score did not pass the national line and he could not transfer.

After that exam, he took the test for two more years in a row and still didn’t win. 2021 National Master’s Degree Admission Test was scheduled for December 26-27, 2020, and Zhao Yang stepped into the exam room for the fourth time. In four years, his target changed from WOU to NTU and finally to Shanghai University.

The first time the idea of graduate school came to him, Zhao Yang was in his junior year. He was influenced by his teacher, who often emphasized the importance of graduate school in class, and took Wuhan University as his first choice for graduate school. The more important driving force is that he wants to do administrative posts in universities after graduation, but this “must have a master’s degree”.

In Zhao Yang’s career planning, “stability” is the first priority. In this guiding principle, leaving him with not too many options – civil service exams or universities, most of the people around his hometown are working in this direction. “Shandong people still look at this more. For example, if you work in a company and earn 10,000 a month, and another person is in the system and earns more than 2,000 a month, people will think it’s better to be a civil servant that. “He said.

According to data from the Ministry of Education, the number of applicants for the national master’s degree entrance examination reached 3.77 million in 2021, an increase of 360,000 compared to 2020, while the number of applicants in 2017 was only 2.01 million. In less than five years, the number of applicants for the exam has increased by more than 1.7 million, an 87.5 percent rise.

Meanwhile, according to China News Network, the number of applicants for the National Civil Service Examination (hereinafter referred to as “NCE”) has exceeded one million for 12 consecutive years since 2009. The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of products and services to the public.

When he was studying for his undergraduate degree, Zhao Yang had been doing education-related part-time jobs, and the path into colleges and universities seemed logical to him than a job in the system. However, he first had to obtain a master’s degree. After failing the Wuhan University exam in the first year, Zhao Yang had the opportunity to transfer to Shantou University, but he gave up, “I was a 211 when I was an undergraduate, and then go to Shantou University, am I worth it? “

At the end of 2018, he changed his target institution and came back, and failed. The third year continued, and failed again. In the fourth year, he simply changed to a school with a larger enrollment, and his hopes were still slim.

“It’s some kind of obsession, I guess,” a friend commented on Zhao Yang. He does not deny it, “psychological torture, can not pass. Of course you can attribute a lot of external factors, but a little more self-blame. “

The process of preparing for the exam is like inertia, year after year, trapped in the exam, repeating the monotonous, trivial details of study. It’s not that he didn’t think about escaping. in April 2019, after failing the exam the following year, he ran off to work in Shanghai for a while, working as a classroom teacher at an adult English training institute and also doing sales. The daily work started at 12 noon and lasted until 10 p.m., during which time he could not spend less than 90 minutes on the phone with parents, as well as coordinating classes, regular meetings and other elements of the job. “Many people find this line of work tiring, but I find it so easy. “Zhao Yang said.

At the training institution, each class teacher is responsible for 100 students, “at the beginning, call once a week, after a month it became once every half month. “The time and number of communication with students and parents are all entered into the system as the basis for staff assessment. Colleagues complained to Zhao Yang about the time overruns and endless tasks in his system, while in the system, Zhao Yang’s next work assignment was scheduled for three days later, leaving him with extra time at his disposal.

Despite his comfortable job and good salary, Zhao Yang quit his job after six months and returned to the city where he had his undergraduate degree to continue preparing for the exam. Quit without much hesitation, “(the job) is not a long-term plan. “A year after Zhao Yang left his job, that company merged with another online tutoring training provider, and there were many changes in management. “When you think about it, everything may have been replaced, that’s why I asked for stability, I can’t be 50 years old and still doing this. “

Is the pursuit of stability important to you? Zhao Yang is difficult to say clearly. Compared to that, when he opened various recruitment software, more confused, he did not know what he could do.


“My life started to go downhill with college graduation as the node. “Looking back today, Zhao Yang feels that he was too smooth when he was in college.

At the age of 18, Zhao Yang enrolled in a 211 college quite far from home thanks to his excellent results in the art exam and professional courses. During his four years at university, he actively joined the student union and had a good relationship with his college teachers. In his spare time, whenever he wanted to drink, he could find friends together, often feeling like a starry night.

This happiness turned sour after graduation, as friends around him were either distant or went their separate ways due to graduation. When the mood for exam preparation was dull, Zhao Yang took out his cell phone contacts and found that he could not find a person to drink with. This is what woke him up from his earlier hallucination and felt a hard fall to the ground.

The only person who finally got in touch was a roommate from undergraduate school. The difference is that the roommate accepted a transfer to a school in the northwest during the second war, while he was still unwilling to “bow down”. Some of his classmates who graduated in the same year as him have finished their studies and have found positions as counselors in colleges and universities with this.

Zhao Yang imagines how he would look like if he had successfully completed his graduate studies and entered a university. “But I’ll still lose out on the job,” he concludes with certainty. “Some roads others take first and some later, will always meet somewhere. “

In real life, he believes in the role of education, but also that “different schools, the circle of friendship is not the same. Four exams, the target institutions are constantly changing, but only from 985 to 211 schools, and then down, he will be reluctant, prefer to use another year to “bet”. In the past year, one of the words he heard the most was “in-roll”.

A teacher who has been working in a new biography research institution for many years told this reporter, “Everyone is not good at going out to find a job, it is a social problem. In today’s world of increasing numbers of graduate students and increasingly fierce competition, can education still promote social mobility for young people?

Lin Xiaoying, an associate professor at Peking University’s School of Education, believes that in the context of academic expansion, it is not enough for young people to demonstrate their ability with only their first degree; on the other hand, society provides young people with a single opportunity and upward path. With the limited choices, graduate school has become a path for a large number of ordinary students to reach their goals in full accordance with their personal efforts.

“I think it’s quite sad. Young people are a country’s most valuable resource, but they are confined to such few paths, killing each other. In fact, does everyone need that high level of education? What is actually examined for a country to reach the standard of a modern country is the degree of universal access to basic and undergraduate education. Who would measure a country’s civilization and affluence by how many people have gone to graduate school? “Lin Xiaoying said.

After failing twice in graduate school, Wang Han decided to change his mind and apply to study abroad.

“Stratification comes very early,” something Wang Han realized when he was an undergraduate. After failing to perform well in the college entrance exam, he entered an ordinary undergraduate college to study law. Studying for a PhD and taking an academic path, he made his life plan clear with his close friends around him when he was in high school. As a result, he set the goal of going to graduate school when he entered his freshman year.

With his undergraduate school closed, he did not dare to slacken off, fearing that he would fall behind his friends in high school. Before his junior year, although there was no direct pressure to study for the exam, Wang Han made a daily plan for the day and went through it item by item: studying English and German, reading professional books …… making plans allowed him to better plan his time and state, and to feel more secure.

The summer after his junior year, Wang Han stayed in school for the summer to prepare for his exams, his goal being China University of Political Science and Law. In July and August, when the heat was exceptional and it was supposed to be an important stage for revision, Wang Han’s state suddenly took a sharp turn for the worse.

At first, he had insomnia, then he lost all concentration, and at the same time, he started to have some negative thoughts. After an argument with his girlfriend, he realized something was wrong and went to see a doctor to receive antidepressant treatment and take his medication on time, which has been nearly three years now.

The biggest problem is that there is no way to understand how others are studying. The “atomized” preparation process is completely different from Wang Han’s high school life. “The actual fact is that you know very well what direction you are working in, and a group of teachers are scientifically analyzing the college entrance exam. “

He joined a number of exam groups, at first, the group was still very lively, but the closer to the exam, the more quiet the group was. He wanted to say something, but was worried that everyone else was studying and only he was slacking off. After hesitating, he blocked the group.

“Spending most of my time and energy on this exam thing, it feels like I have absolutely no way to distract myself from doing anything else. “After failing to study for the second year, Wang Han decided to work first.

However, the turnaround came suddenly. In April 2020, Wang Han started to study for IELTS. He paid a high price for the class, and it took him five months from the beginning to the test score of 7 (all the sub scores met the standard). “It was the happiest I’ve been in three years,” with no self-doubt and a clear goal, he felt a long-awaited relief.

A possibility

In January 2021, Wang Han received an offer from the University of Leeds in England. Not surprisingly, he will enroll in the university in late summer, but he is still waiting for an offer from the school of his choice.

After deciding not to sprint through the competitive track of graduate school, Wang Han’s depression eased and he was able to focus more on reading and thinking. However, not everyone is able to escape or shift tracks in the increasingly challenging wave.

In the summer of 2021, Zhen Xiaoqi will graduate from the journalism and communication department of a teacher training college. Four years ago, with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, she went to Beijing to work as a screenwriter’s assistant. After working for more than a year, she quit this “dream” job and went back home to study for the graduate school.

She still didn’t dare to tell her parents that she refused to be qualified for graduate school in her senior year because she had “no interest in the content of the classes, and she had to spend a lot of time doing experiments, and she was clumsy. “. As a freshman, Zhen Xiaoqi missed the only opportunity to change her major. Although she was always at the top of her class, she changed her major without a second thought.

After graduation, Zhen Xiaoqi found her first job as a screenwriter’s assistant, the company provided accommodation, and her monthly salary was only 2,000 yuan. 985 university undergraduate graduates, most of her classmates around her went into factories or training institutions, with monthly salaries ranging from 6,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan. At that time, she thought, “It’s okay to be poor, as long as I can do what I like”.

For Zhen Xiaoqi, the ideal work state is to follow the industry’s screenwriting seniors to write TV dramas, “to give a general direction, if I do not write the right, he will help me revise the whole or something. But she changed two jobs in a row, and although her salary went up by 3,000 yuan, her job became typing and cleaning rooms, getting further and further away from writing itself.

For a long time, she was reluctant to interact with her friends and classmates. Seeing that her classmates have embarked on the workplace one after another, sharing a vivid and lively dynamic in their circle of friends, she was too embarrassed to share her personal status with them, and too shy to talk about her career. “At least you (professional) to be slightly related to this area, others think you are engaged in this line is not strange. “

Occasionally, she is disgusted with her bizarre identity. When she couldn’t resist, she called home, and her father reassured her: “It’s no big deal, not trying to make much of you, being happy is more important than anything else. “But she was not satisfied and sobbed, “I want to prove my worth. “

“Value needs to be proved? “At that time, Zhen Xiaoqi did not think about this layer.

In July 2018, she quit her job and returned home to prepare for the exam.

According to data released by Chinese education data consulting firm McKeith 2020, the educational rewards of educational advancement emerge over time. In the case of the graduate school population, for example, those who obtained their master’s degree within five years of graduating from the 2014 undergraduate class earned a higher monthly income ($10,408) than those who did not study ($9,683), and their employment satisfaction was significantly higher.

Resignation from graduate school has become a way for some people to run to another possibility. At the time of this interview, Leo was preparing for his retest in April of this year. His sophomore year in Wuhan University, a minor in law, the idea of graduate school.

After his fourth year of study and graduate school, Leo spent a week looking for an internship in a beauty company and was successfully transferred. After one year of employment, Li Ao felt that she could not see the prospect of career development and could not let go of her plan to study law, so she resigned after only a few days of consideration.

“I wanted to give myself more possibilities,” replied Leo when asked by a friend why he resigned. Although Leo was comfortable with the job, there was not much room for upward mobility. “People still need to make a long-term plan. “

In the first year of full-time study, Leo’s target college was Huazhong University of Science and Technology, which scored 345 points and failed. Originally intended to give up, but under the persuasion of his family, decided to try again. After struggling for a long time, he changed his goal to Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

He told himself, “If I don’t make it this time, I’ll never touch this law thing again. “So determined, not only is “financially can not afford to spend “, but also because of age – three more years of graduate school, Leo graduated on 28 years old. He understands that he “does not have the advantage compared with the same graduates, physical function, reaction ability are different.

After failing to get into her target college, Zhen Xiaoqi accepted a transfer. Before she enrolled, she went to see her sister at her school of choice again. I can’t say I was relieved, but after hearing a lot of gossip and stories from her graduate school days, she finally felt a sense of identity that “I belonged here for a short time”. To this day, it is difficult for her to say exactly what it means to go to graduate school. But it is undeniable that she has more opportunities to choose in the media industry when she faces employment again compared to before.

The moment of giving up

Giving up came more calmly than expected.

When she stepped into the examination room of the graduate school for the fourth time, Zhao Yang thought that this time would be a turning point. After walking downhill for too long, he often reassured himself: “It will be fine, it will be fine soon. “

After the results came out, Zhao Yang was very frustrated. However, after several failures and facing several less-than-ideal results, he became more enlightened, “only to tell himself it’s all experience. “

Recently Zhao Yang in the driving test, but also in the review of the teacher’s qualification test. If it goes well, he hopes to teach at the private middle school where his college classmates are. “This is still quite regrettable,” he said in college, when people around him were taking the teacher’s license test. “At the time, I didn’t think I was going to teach, I didn’t need to. “Spent four years of youthful indiscretion, now equivalent to “make up for the previous debts The “National Teacher Certification Program.

The 2015-2018 National Education Development Statistical Bulletin shows that during these three years, the number of master’s enrollment grew from 570,000 to 760,000, rising far below the growth in the number of applicants, and the competition for graduate school has become more intense. The continuous tracking research of the 2015 and 2016 classes who continued to prepare for graduate school six months after graduation showed that the success rate of the second (third) battle of the entrance examination has decreased, from 55.4% in the 2015 class to 48.2% in the 2016 class.

The most direct reason for Liu Sijia’s insistence on WW3 is her own academic anxiety. The first time she felt anxious was when she was a junior in college, she joined an exam group, “I felt that the people inside were particularly good, and the views expressed were ones I hadn’t thought of. The first time I felt anxious was when I joined a group of people who had been studying for a job. “Her boyfriend at the time studied in a 985 school, although the other party does not care about education, but she always felt inferior.

The most hurt one or in the last year, the company leadership to talk to her, asked to graduate school, Liu Sijia frankly replied, “Changzhi Medical College. “The other party bluntly said, “There is no good school in Shanxi. “

In the three years after graduation, she has not given up on the exam. The company has been preparing for the exam full time and has also tried to work while taking the exam. For her, the pursuit of education is more like a re-writing of her fate of graduating from a second college, but unfortunately, she did not get the opportunity to rewrite.

In the first two years after graduation, her parents were very supportive of her going to Beijing to work and study. In the last year, she obviously felt a change in her parents’ attitude. In her hometown, she likes to use imaginary years to calculate her age, and her mother often chanted on the phone, “You are 26 years old, you don’t have a date, you don’t earn much money, and you may lose your job one day when you work for a private company. When she heard this, she almost had an anxiety attack.

A month ago the announcement of the exam results completely quashed the enthusiasm and persistence of Liu Sijia want to continue to study. “Year after year, the effort has not decreased, but the score is getting lower and lower. “Finally she figured out in a moment – after accepting the fact that she was just an ordinary person, she was much happier and no longer obsessed with the matter of studying for the exam. For her, the most important thing she wants to do now is to work well and try to jump into a big factory to earn more money.

“Which is more important, going into a big factory or going to graduate school? “

“The words before is to go to school, now the school can not go to school, so more want to enter the big factory, maybe after 30 years old I will go to the civil service examination. Maybe I will go to civil service after 30. “

(All names in this article are pseudonyms, except for Professor Lin Xiaoying. Thanks to the bloggers of PITD Asia, Scotland and Sun Yufan for their help in this article)