While her classmates are toiling away in preparation for the cutthroat college entrance exam, Chen Ruqian is sitting idly at home. Bored.
The 18-year-old from the famous Shanghai Foreign Language School was offered a full scholarship from Amherst College in the US last December, thanks to her outstanding academic performance and participation in community work.
"The entrance exam is so horrible and I feel so lucky I escaped that," Chen said.
"All the best students in our school go for American universities."
Last year, among the nearly 300 graduates at the school, 80 were accepted by American universities and 40 others are headed to the countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Japan, she said.
About 180,000 Chinese students went to overseas universities last year, nearly half of them high school students.
"Now my school has to combine two classes into one due to fewer students for the exam," she added.
In big cities across the country, famous local high schools have seen an increasing number of students head abroad, either for a better education or simply to avoid the make-or-break entrance exam.
Scheduled for June 7 and 8, the exam is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most Chinese students.
Because of limited admissions to the country's universities, the fierce competition has been described as "an army of soldiers trying to cross a thin log over a river".
The one-year preparation for the exam usually involves all-day study, endless tests and huge mental pressure for both students and parents.
About 10.2 million students were registered for the exam this year and the average college admission rate is expected to reach 62 percent, according to the Ministry of Education.
But in recent years, the rigid college entrance exam and poor quality of the higher education system have met with complaints from education-conscious Chinese parents, said Yin Kai, an education expert from Chivast Education International Company.
"As Chinese people are becoming more open and rich, many choose to send their children to study abroad for better education and all-round development," he said.
Since 2005, many overseas universities have lowered admission standards to attract more Chinese students.
Li Xin, Chen's mother, insisted her daughter study in the US because she is not satisfied with the Chinese higher education system.
"The classes are so big in Chinese universities and teachers cannot attend to all the student's needs," she said.
Li and her daughter have been preparing for six years, taking TOEFL and SAT as well as participating in various community activities. "But all those efforts are not as exhausting as taking the Chinese entrance exam," Li said.