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College Entry Exam Cheaters Face 7 Years Behind Bars in China

BEIJING — From sending SWAT teams into exam centers to arresting rule-breakers, China's public security authorities have been cracking down hard on college entrance examination cheaters.

Students caught cheating risk going to prison for as long as seven years, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Image: SWAT team members in China
SWAT team members stand guard outside an education center during China's annual National College Entrance Exam in Beijing on Tuesday. CHINA DAILY / via Reuters

This week's university entrance exam, whose origins date back to imperial China, determines which university students will attend and what major they're able to select — and as a result, much of their future.

Known as the "gaokao," 9.4 million high school students are this year competing for few places in universities, state media reported.

Exam test papers were delivered by a police SWAT team in Beijing for the first time this year and at least eight police officers guarded each test center, according to state media.

Authorities are cracking down on wireless devices and substitute exam sitters in particular, Xinhua added.

Image: Students jump after completing exam in Beijing
Students jump as they pose for photos after completing the exam outside a school in Beijing, China, on Wednesday. Ng Han Guan / AP

Police in the central province of Henan nabbed 9 people for selling fake exams, according to a local media report this week. Dozens of others had been caught elsewhere in the country, state media said.

Most university hopefuls sit the two-day test simultaneously across the country. Chinese, maths and a foreign language are required.

For students from rural homes, the exam has been praised as a leveler of the playing field and a catalyst for social mobility.

Related: Iraq Blocks Internet to Stop Exam Cheating

Xiong Bingqi, an expert at China's 21st Century Education Research Institute, told Reuters that China would continue to hit back hard against cheaters and the scams that aid them.

"There's absolutely no doubt," he said. "Cheating on the gaokao exam diminishes the exam’s authoritativeness, and could even impact the credibility of the government.

Xiong added: "The government will take a whole series of measures to prevent that."