Extreme Heat Lowers Test Scores of College-Bound Students in China

High temperatures affected the test scores of students taking the gaokao, China’s National College Entrance Examination, according to a working paper published this month.

Using data between 2005 and 2011, Chinese and American researchers examined the effect that the average daily temperature may have on the students’ gaokao scores, pairing over 14 million test results with meteorological data specific to the students’ locations on the days they took the exam.

Researchers found that for every temperature increase of 3.29 degrees Celsius (37.92 degrees Fahrenheit), test scores decreased by 1.12%.

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This also reduced their chances of getting into first-tier universities by 1.97%.

Image via Xinhua

The findings, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, emerged just before Chinese people welcomed sanfu, the hottest period of the year.

Also known as the “dog days of summer,” sanfu usually occurs between mid-July and mid-August, lasting for 40 days this year. The period is traditionally seen as an ideal time for treating illnesses, according to Xinhua.

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Image via Xinhua

Interestingly, authorities are believed to be aware of the effects of such temperatures on test scores, reportedly prohibiting the use of air conditioners in some regions to “ensure fair competition with regions in which AC is not available.”

Image via Xinhua

The findings are treated to be of significance as gaokao is considered a make-or-break moment in a Chinese student’s life.  The researchers described it as “almost the sole determinant for college admission in China.”

Image via Xinhua

They recommended moving the gaokao to the cooler months of March, April or May, installing air-conditioning systems in all exam rooms and adjusting test scores based on their estimates.

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“Temperature plays an important role in high-stakes cognitive performance using data from the NCEE, the most important academic examination in China. Our results also imply that students in hotter regions may have disadvantages compared with their peers in cooler regions, highlighting potentially important concerns about equitable access to higher education within China under the NCEE system.”

Image via Xinhua

Access the research paper here.

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