DONE with exams!!!

My entrance exams for grad school at East China Normal University are finally over. It’s hard to believe that I’d been preparing for them for eight months. I’ve been studying quite a bit harder this past month, I’ll admit. But what a weight off my shoulders!

I probably won’t find out the results until next week some time, but I feel pretty good about how I did.

Part I: Modern Chinese (2 hours)

I think I did OK. There were 10 questions, all asking for some kind of explanation, analysis, or comparison, and always with examples. (No multiple choice, no fill in the blanks.) Of the ten, eight of the questions concerned content which I pretty much fully anticipated. They weren’t tricky. A lot of regurgitation was involved for some of them. One of the unanticipated ones called for a full analysis of synonym groups. I had studied that a little and then decided that it probably wouldn’t be tested on, so I disregarded it. I probably got some partial credit there anyway, though.

I guessed correctly that there would be exactly one 修辞 (“rhetoric,” involving fancy topics like literary devices) question on the exam. That’s 10% of the exam. And yet the 修辞 section took up 100 of the textbook’s 500 pages. So I pretty much skipped it entirely, aside from briefly looking at the main terms. So I just BSed that one question on the exam. I bet I got a few points.

Overall, I think I got a B.

Part II: Composition (1 hour)

The topic was really general, like “do some comparisons of American and Chinese language and/or culture, based on your experiences.” Wow. They were obviously being nice to me. And it only had to be 700-800 characters instead of the 1000 the teacher had told me before.

Based on educated guessing, I had prepared for the topic “based on your experiences, compare and contrast the Chinese and American university systems.” So I was able to adapt that, as well as use some of the particularly well-crafted sentences and phrases that I recalled. I wrote about my experience of learning Chinese as an American, compared to the typical Chinese student’s experience learning English in China.

I’m sure there were mistakes, but my structure was solid and the conclusion is one the Chinese will like (basically 各有所长: “both have their strong points”), so I probably got a B overall.

So now I’m just waiting to be notified that I’ve been admitted to grad school and they want my tuition money.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Nice post. I haven’t had much to compare my experience to, so hearing about another university’s qualifiers is pretty interesting. I’m envious of your short essay (My writing analysis section had to be around 2000), but not of the factual knowledge requirement.

    BS I am well acquainted with – There was one question on my exam that asked me to compare two poets – I had read the first extensively, but of the second I had only read a single poem, and I must’ve overlooked his section in the textbook.

    I do recall thinking that the marks I got didn’t really seem to correspond to how difficult I felt the different sections to be – it was all rather arbitrary (but then grades on term papers have been pretty arbitrary, too).

    How did you make corrections on your paper? I’ve never gotten the hang of using scotch tape to rip off mistakes, and too much white-out clashes with the newsprint test papers. I ended up scratching out whole lines – I pity the instructors who had to grade the thing, especially near the end when my handwriting degenerated into jagged strokes crossed with wide curly-cues.

  2. zhwj,

    I’m glad I’m only studying linguistics in Chinese and not actual literature… [shudder]

    My “corrections” were all just scratched out. And by “scratched” I mean nicely circle-and-barred at the beginning (as my tutor recommended), but hastily scribbled out by the end. I never had to scratch out more than several characters at a time.

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