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Recently, I decided to apply for a driver’s license in China. Since I
already have onethe U.S., the main thing I had to do was pass a
computerized test on the rules of the road here. I figured it would be a


Drivingcar ownership have taken off in China. Last year, the country
added nearly 18 million drivers. There is so much demand for licenses
that I had to wait a month for the first available testing date。


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The night before my test, I decided to take a practice one online. There
were 100 questions drawna pool of nearly 1,000. You had to get 90
correct to pass。


I got a 65started to panic. On the way to the testing center the next
day, I crammed on my iPad, but still only scored a 77.


Why is the Chinese driver’s test so hard? For one thing, it requires a
ton of memorization. Consider this yesno question, taken verbatima test:


“If a motorized vehicle driver has caused a major traffic accident in
violation of the traffic regulations which has caused human death due to
his escaping, the driver is subject to a prison term of 3 years to 7


The answer, it turns out, is “no.”I eventually answered this correctly,
but still have no idea what the actual prison term is。


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The other reason the test is difficult for foreigners is some of the
translations are, well, challenging. Take this question:


“When theres [sic] a diversion traffic control on the expressway, a
driver can stop by the side to wait instead of leaving out of the
expressway, for continually running after the traffic control.”


I don’t know what that means, but apparently under Chinese law, you
can’t do it。


‘There’s Something Wrong With That Test’


I wasn’t the only foreigner who struggled with the questions. Others
left the testing center shellshocked。


“It’s impossible to understand what they’re trying to say,”said Hugo
Ulloa, an international traderChile, as we commiserated after he’d
failed a second time。


A man takes a computerized road rules test at a driving school in Jinan,
in eastern China’s Shandong province, in 2011. Most Chinese people —
accustomed to an education system that emphasizes rote memorization —
don’t find the test as difficult as foreigners。


“I’ve been studying for two days,”Ulloa continued, shaking his head.
“Last night, it was three hoursI still cannot pass this. I’m getting
really frustrated.”


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Jeffrey Kelsch, an American who runs a market research firm in Shanghai,
applied for a license last year because he wanted to be able to take his
dog, Dash, a West Highland white terrier, on driving trips out of town。


Most foreigners here can’t read Chinesepeople appreciate that the
government offers the test in translation. In Shanghai, you can take it
in English, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Italian, German, French,
SpanishArabic. (Foreigners must have a Chinese license to drive in


Kelsch took the English version of the test, but it didn’t help much.
After he flunked the first time, “I went outcomplained,”Kelsch recalled.
“I said, ‘There’s something wrong with that test. I’m sure I got all of
them right.’ “


A traffic bureau official assured him he had not, but allowed him to
take the test again on the spot. Kelsch, 46, failed again. Then he
studiedtook it a thirdeven a fourth time。


“And I actually did worse,”Kelsch said, laughing in disbelief. “So, at
that point I decided, ‘OK, I’m giving up on this.’ “



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