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Last Chance' for Many Postgrad Hopefuls

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The pressure is on for all concerned as applications for grad exam close.

It has been two years since Zhang Pingping graduated from university but she goes back to her old stomping ground every day of the week to continue studying.

The 24-year-old graduate from the University of International Business and Economics is busy preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination in January next year. It will be her third attempt at passing the exam.

"The first time, I didn't take it seriously. Almost everyone in the class sat the exam," she said.

When she learned she had failed the annual examination for the second time, she panicked. By then, she had been graduated for a year and had never worked a formal job.

"This is my last chance, I can't afford to fail," Zhang said.

However, as one of many people looking to get a well-paid job after an elite education, Zhang is facing an even tougher challenge this year.

Online applications to take the 2011 postgraduate entrance examination wrapped up last week after more than 1.4 million people applied to take the exam. The number was 13 percent higher than the figure for 2009.

Applications to study at Peking University reached a record of 30,000 people. The institution can only take 4,000 students. The admission ratio is about 10:1, Beijing Daily reported.

Other elite universities in the city are also crowded with desperate applicants.

According to the report, Tsinghua University's first ever master's degree in management attracted 200 applicants but could only accommodate seven students.

And Capital University of Economics and Business planned to recruit 760 students but 4,000 people applied.

Majors such as economics and management remain the most popular.

Zhang Pingping shovels stacks of books off her bed to make room to sit. Because she doesn't have a full-time job, she can only afford to rent space in a one-room apartment that she shares with three others.

Zhang's roommate, a woman surnamed Wang, is also trying to pass the highly-competitive postgraduate entrance examination.

She will take the exam for the second time next year after scoring 350 the first time.

Her score would have got her into many universities but she is hoping to do better and holding out for Peking University.

"If I don't pass, I will try again," Wang said. "Without a master's degree from a top-notch university, I won't have an edge in the gloomy job market. I will just have to do a 2,000-yuan-a-month job like most of my classmates."

She said focusing on the exam every day is also a way to escape from her difficult reality.

Wang Chen, from the admissions office at Capital University of Economics and Business, told METRO that some frustrated students might be pinning too many hopes on postgraduate studies.

Working experience, he said, can be even more valuable than a postgraduate certificate.

He said students should be cautious about putting their lives on hold to constantly retake the postgraduate admission examination.

Wang said there is no guarantee that students will score more in follow-up exams because the types of questions and the number of applicants will change from year to year.

"Some students only target Peking or Tsinghua University, but choosing a suitable and interesting major is more important for their future development."

(China Daily November 9, 2010)

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