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Unit 2: How Trade and Travel Changed the World

Lesson D: The Chinese Continent

Activity 2: Testing in Societies

In today's world, life is filled with tests of all types. This online activity will conclude with some type of test. At the end of the school year an examination will assess your learning from the entire semester or course. Graduation from high school requires passing state exams. These examinations impact your opportunities as a student and as an adult.

In order to consider the role of examinations in Chinese history, first consider the role of tests in your own life.

image of classroom blackboard with world history written on it

Classroom Activity - Tests

Discussion Icon Discussion

Directions: Read each of the newspaper headlines below, and the prepare a response to the discussion questions. Follow your teacher's directions to participate in your class discussion.

  • How do tests affect social status in today's world?
  • How do tests provide opportunity for people?

Download Icon Select the link to review the Discussion Scoring Tool (pdf).


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State Tests Now Required for Graduation Age Increase for Drivers License Tests
Record Numbers Take U.S. Citizenship Test High School Students Face Challenges with AP Tests
Future Lawyers Prepare for Maryland Bar Exam


Portrait of Jiang Shunfu

Ming Official Jiang Shunfu with 'Rank Badge' on Chest Indicating Civil Official Rank [1]

Tests in Ming Society

The role of testing in Chinese society steadily increased starting in the Han Dynasty. Imperial examinations were used as a basis for government hiring and allowed people in China to improve their social status. Those with the best scores were hired into the government as civil servants. Scholars and members of the land-owning class, called the gentry, who passed the exams, benefited by increasing their influence in local areas.

Publically Posted Exam Results Publically Posted Exam Results

Publicly Posted Exam Results [2]

The exam system had many political and cultural impacts. The greatest impact was the strengthening of acceptance of Confucian philosophy. Its role as a central force in society and politics was renewed under the Ming Dynasty using the exams. While many Chinese adapted Confucian ideals for their own purposes, and some even resisted its influence, the philosophy had a huge effect on daily life. The challenging examination process allowed many lower class Chinese to increase their wealth and status, and strengthened the standing of the upper class.

Notebook Icon

Written Activity - Notebook

In your notebook, respond to the following questions:

  • How did tests affect social status in the Ming Dynasty?
  • How did tests provide opportunity for Chinese living in the Ming Empire?


Page Notes:

[1] This image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portrait_of_Jiang_Shunfu.jpg is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

[2] This image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Civilserviceexam1.jpg is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.