Sunday 3 Jun 2001, High School Year 1, Shijiazhuang, China

The international education agent sat down opposite to me and handed me a large envelope. Inside, there was the entrance examination from a UK high school. As UK high schools, called A levels, were only two years and I had two years to go before university in China as well, it seemed a good fit. So my parents found an agency to guide us through the process and today one of its agent came to supervise me take the entrance exam. Before I started, I noticed he had another similar envelope with him, “Is that part II of the exam?”

“No, that is the entrance exam from another school, just in case you finish this one very quickly, then we can get that done today as well. Now, ready, set, go!”

I flipped over the cover page and the first question read: “小明现在有1块糖,小红又给了他1块糖,他现在一共有几块糖?”

What the hell was it asking? I could see there were two 1s in there, but what did it want me to do with them? Shall I add them, subtract them, time them, divide them or do something more complex given all those words there? I looked up at the agent and asked, “Is there a copy in Chinese by any chance or can I use a dictionary?”

“No, it is only available in English and you can not use a dictionary neither. It is fine if you don’t understand the question, just skip it and do as much as you can. The school will understand.”

Then it became a lot easier. The whole Maths section took me less than 10 minutes. There were only two questions whose expressions were self-explanatory enough that I gave them a try. For the others, why couldn’t they be like the other two instead of having so much words in them? The English paper was even more straight forward as the only place I might get some point was in the essay session. I followed the instruction, “please write no more than 400 words.” so well that I only about wrote 40 words and surely that deserved some extra points, right?

Overall, I set a new record in the time it took to finish that school’s entrance exam, and probably by a mile. And the agent was right, before he finished his cup of tea, I got through the other school’s exam as well and we called that a day.

Score: Me: 1, English: 1

PS: the question was just asking what was 1+1=?