Imagine a test that lasts two days, effectively covers everything you’ve learned since grade school and determines your future at the age of 17.
According to PhD student Ming Jiang, this is common practice in countries like China, Japan or Turkey, where a single centralized test is administered to high school students in their senior year. This test effectively matches them with universities based on their exam scores.
If they don’t do well and want to retake it, the only recourse is to repeat their senior year. “Even if you are a good student, if you don’t do well on the exam, you will not be admitted to a top-tier university,” says Ming.
Ming, a native of China, is focusing his dissertation on comparing this method of college admissions with the American method of using grades, testing and college entrance interviews. “We’re exploring the advantages and disadvantages compared to the American way of college admissions,” Ming says. “Even if centralized tests can accurately reflect the student’s true abilities, they can only take it once.” Factors such as illnesses, stress related to such a high-stakes exam, or personal problems could impact their scores.
“In China the market is really large – one million students are matched to colleges each year,” he says. “Do those properties of the matching mechanism still hold true if we go into other systems?” By changing the matching mechanism, Ming posits, better students could be assigned to better colleges rather than only students with higher test scores.
Ming came to UMSI because of the strong mentoring program. “I got to choose a mentorship from the start,” he said. “Traditional economic departments only have advisors in the third year. It’s not as close a relationship as at UMSI. That’s a major advantage of this program.”
“I appreciate UMSI for giving me the ability to work with people in different areas, from social norms and human-computer interaction to social networking,” Ming says. Learning about cultural differences has expanded his horizons. “When I study a problem, I can understand the American system and I grew up in the Chinese system. Comparing them gives me a lot of research ideas.”
Ming’s dissertation features a large-scale school choice study. Instead of studying only a handful of human subjects, his group experiment with advisor Yan Chen also includes computer-generated people using real human strategies to make choices. “With this method, it’s as if we’re conducting experiments with real human subjects on a large scale.”
Ming received a BA in economics and BS in mathematics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and expects to graduate in the winter of 2015. His career goal is to combine research and teaching at a U.S. research university.