In the third month of quarantine, many of us are approaching finals or are ready for summer break. If you need help staying motivated for finals, or if you worry about being bored during break, I have something that may help.

Over the past few months, many Chinese study vloggers have adopted the schedule of students at 衡水中学 (Héng Shuǐ High School). HengShui High School is nicknamed the “Gaokao Factory” for its rigorous academic curriculum. The school is designed to give high school students everything they need to get a good Gaokao score. 90% of HengShui students score well enough on the Gaokao to get into top tier universities in China. Every year, over 200 of their students are accepted into Tsinghua University, the #1 Chinese university, ranked #36 globally.

For Chinese students, Gaokao is the most important exam of their academic career. This is the standard college entrance exam for all Chinese high school students. It has been described by Business Insider as “notoriously tough” with “punishing questions.”

So how exactly do you prepare for such a daunting exam? Let’s spend a day together and witness the schedule of a HengShui student.

5:30 a.m.

The alarm goes off  at 5:30 in the morning. You have fifteen minutes to make your bed, tidy your room, wash up and get dressed. At 5:45, you must be ready to start your morning jog. HengShui students usually jog in  groups on the school’s racetrack. You can choose to take a jog around your neighborhood or on a treadmill. 

6:00 a.m.

At 6 a.m. sharp, morning readings begin and last for 30 minutes. This is a “morning ritual” known as 早读 (zǎo dú) that you can find at any school in China. Students in the classroom read notes, textbooks, vocabulary or anything else of importance. They do this out loud together as a class. If you’re preparing for finals like me, go ahead and read over important notes. If you’re already on break, feel free to catch up with the news or read a book of your choice.

Now it’s time for a quick breakfast. Remember to be back at your desk before 7:00.

After returning to your desk, take the next 30-40 minutes to prepare for your morning classes. This can include getting materials ready, then setting goals and making plans for the day. With the remaining time, you can skim over your previous notes and jot down questions you still have. Also, don’t forget to prepare plenty of water and healthy snacks to feed your brain while you study!

7:45 a.m.

The first three classes go from 7:45 to 10:05. Since we don’t have actual classes now, take this time to focus on reviewing for your courses. For example, refer back to the questions you jotted down earlier and try to figure them out. If you’re likely to get bored or distracted, a tip is to alternate between different subjects. If you’re already on break, take this time to tackle a new subject you’ve always wanted to study or watch some TED talks.

After this, take a 25-minute break. This break is designated for physical exercises. Try to refrain from playing with your phone. The purpose is to let your mind take a break and loosen up your body a bit. Also, exercising is a good way to beat that morning grogginess. So if you’re feeling inefficient, take this time to wake yourself up!

10:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Time for the next two classes. We can take this time to continue studying.

It’s finally lunchtime. The official lunchtime for seniors at HengShui is 12:00 p.m., but many choose to eat later so they can cram in more time to study. The choice is yours. After lunch, it’s time to head back to bed for a quick noon nap.

1:55 p.m.

It’s 1:55 p.m., time to wake up from your nap. The next ten minutes can be used to wake your brain up, lay out study materials and prepare some snacks.

2:05 p.m. – 3:35 p.m. Time for more classes/studying! Let’s stay efficient!

3:35 p.m. – 3: 55 p.m. Now it’s time for another exercise. Let’s do a facial massage that soothes the eyes after long hours of studying. This is a massage done by students all over China. Afterwards, you can use the remaining minutes to take a quick break. 

3:55 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. More classes, more studying. You got this!

6:15 p.m.

Finally, it’s time for dinner. You have certainly earned it! During dinnertime, HengShui students also squeeze in twenty minutes to watch the news. Let’s do the same.

7:15 p.m. – 9:50 p.m. After dinner, it’s time for something called 晚自习(wǎn zì xí), or evening self-study. HengShui students use this time to complete homework and review for upcoming tests. For us, this time can be used for more studying. You can go over your notes for today and make them even more concise for future review. Or if you were reviewing your notes and textbooks during the day, take this opportunity to go over your homework problems instead. 

 9:50 p.m. – 10:10 p.m. Finally, our study day is over! Now is the time to clear your desk, wash up for bed and check your phone if you want. 

10:15 p.m.

Lights out! Good night, and I hope you had a productive day!



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Lisa Liang