56-year-old self-made millionaire takes China's toughest university exam 27 times to fulfil his dream

A yearly event that is much feared in China by millions is the country’s nationwide university entrance exam, famously known as ‘gaokao’.

Taking the exam for the 27th time on Wednesday (Jun 7), Liang Shi, a 56-year-old self-made millionaire has been the garnering attention online for his persistent efforts to do well in what’s said to be the world’s toughest exam

In an interview with AFP, he shared that despite being a successful entrepreneur in the construction materials industry, he’d always dreamt of getting a high score in the notoriously difficult ‘gaokao’ exam and secure seats at his university of choice — Sichuan University.

“It’s an uncomfortable thought that I didn’t manage to get a college education,” Liang told AFP.

As the exam gets more competitive with a record 13 million attendees this year, Liang told AFP that he has been living “the life of an ascetic monk” for the past few months, furiously studying for 12 hours a day to prepare for the exam.

Liang shared with China Daily that he leaves home at 8am, takes the subway to study at a friend’s teahouse and returns home between 9pm to 10pm. 

Liang took his first ‘gaokao’ when he was 16 and despite failing, continued sitting the exam over the years despite getting married and working odd jobs. 

He stopped doing so in 1992, however, when he failed to meet the age limit of 25 years for those sitting the national exam. 

Instead, he took the adult gaokao and managed to get into Nanjing Forestry University but did not enrol as he wasn’t satisfied with it, reported China Daily.

Liang’s dream to attend a prestigious university was rekindled when the age limit was lifted in 2001 by China’s Ministry of Education.

However, as Liang was preoccupied with his business then, he only managed to sit the exam in 2002 and 2006, reported China Daily.

But he sat the exam for 13 consecutive years from 2010 to 2022.

Despite getting 467 out 750 — his best score yet — in 2018, and scoring 462 in 2019, he refused to apply to other universities as his goal was Sichuan University, a Double First-Class university.

Known in China as the the gaokao holdout, a nickname given by the local media, Liang has not been getting positive responses from the mainland public as expected. 

Even his son, who took the test in 2011 with him and has graduated with a master’s degree, does not want him to be in the spotlight.

Despite the mixed responses, Liang told China Daily that he does not care about others’ judgment.

“Everyone pursues different things. You can’t say who is right, who is wrong. As long as the law permits, it’s reasonable,” he said.

ALSO READ: Last go at exam success for China’s ‘gaokao grandpa’


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