Thursday 6 July 2000, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

The proverb “Where there is a will, there is a way” was (and is) very applicable in China. For most things, there was a backdoor way which promised to be way more customer friendly than the official bureaucratic way. So I was only a little surprised when I was asked whether I wanted to know my result for the Middle School Graduation Exams before the official result release date.
The agent of course was very secretive about his source. Beside saying it was someone in the education department, he would not disclose anything. “it is highly confidential!” But he promised the results will be 100% accurate or otherwise, I could have my money back.

So one week ahead of the release date, I got his call. He said I got 466 out of total 600. It was a little disappointing as I had been getting around 500 in all the mocks, but maybe one was supposed to do worse in the real thing? Anyway, the practical difference between 466 and 500 was small as the two best high schools in the city, conveniently named No. 1 High School and No.2 High School, both need 540+ for a place. If not being able to go there, I was just going to stay at my current school which I quite enjoyed. As a current student, 466 would be sufficient.

Then came the official release date, I called the result hotline and after giving my Student ID, I was given the result: Total 466, Chinese Literature: 108, Maths: 115, English: 114, Natural Science: 114 and Social Science: 115. “En”, wait a second, even though the exam was over now, and my general knowledge level had probably halved already, I could still tell the total seemed wrong. “Don’t they add up to 566?” “Ah, you are right, it must be a typo, let me correct it for you, 566 then, well done, that is a very good result.”

Next time I bumped into the agent, before I could ask for the refund, he gave the money back to me desperately and then asked: “How did you pull that off? I have never seen the results get changed afterwards, not by 100 points anyway! That made you the top of your school and within top 10 in the city, that is aggressive. Who did you ask in the department to make that happen, let me guess, must be the head of department himself???”

“Can not say, sorry, it is highly confidential!”