According to Yi-Lin Chiang, a professor of Sociology at National Chengchi University, China’s educational system is centered around tests. 

Consequently, students are classified with different titles based on their test scores. These titles reflect their status at school and the treatment they can expect from their classmates. 

Spending seven years following up with students at five of Beijing’s top high schools, Yi-Lin found that all these schools applied an identical grades-based status system. 

At these schools, students are evaluated according to national standards. Therefore, the classification is determined based on how easily they can pass the test with four main ranks. 

“Xueshen,” or “study gods,” marks the top ranking. It demonstrates those who earn their high scores effortlessly. 

Meanwhile, “Xueba” takes the second tire, referring to study-addicted students who must work harder for their grades. 

“Xuezha,” in third place, describes those with low scores due to insufficient effort. 

“Xueruo” takes the last position in the status ranking, aiming at those who earn bad results despite their hard work. Therefore, “Xueruo” are also considered “losers.”

Almost no student wants to admit to being a Xueruo or loser because Xueruo has no friends. 

This four-tier system significantly affects students’ daily lives. 

Shiying is a Xueshen who passed the entrance examination of Tsinghua University, a top university in China. Shiying’s classmates expressed their desire to be like her.

Like Shiying, another Xueshen named Claire has received huge admiration from her friends and fellows. Her friends even memorized her SAT scores and academic results at Yale University (USA). People kept telling her story for many years, even after she graduated. 

Contrary to what “Xueshen” and “Xueba” receive, students with lower status earn almost no support from peers. 

Her classmates scolded a Xuezha named Sarah for doing her homework wrong. At the same time, a Xueruo named Kangwei was shunned; most students even declined to reply to his greetings. 

According to Chiang, a classified social status right from school will affect the students’ perception for a long time, even after they leave school or get a job. 

Although nicknames Xueba or Xuezha no longer exist, they tend to maintain a similar hierarchy based on work results instead of test scores. 

Chiang supposed that although the adult world and adolescent world are not the same, this type of status hierarchy will follow these students from high school to the end of life.

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