A total of 2.9 million Chinese will take the national entrance exam for postgraduate studies from Dec 22 to 24, according to the Ministry of Education, 520,000 more than last year.
A national survey has indicated that growing job market pressure was the main factor behind the increase.
A record 8.34 million college students are expected to graduate in 2019 and will face greater challenges in landing a job.
The survey, conducted by news website China Education Online, found that 36 percent of applicants were paying greater attention to whether postgraduate studies would give them a competitive edge in the job market.
About 20 percent of students will take the exam for the second time, and 6 percent third time or more, the survey said.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China resuming postgraduate studies, the survey noted, during which time the nation has awarded master’s degrees and doctorates to more than 8 million students.
Ding Xia, 22, a senior at Renmin University of China, said she decided to take the exam so she could get a better job.
“Nowadays, many jobs have higher academic requirements for students than before, and pursuing higher degrees has become inevitable if you want to find a decent job,” she said.
Liu Yue, 23, from Wuhan, Hubei province, said it will be her second time taking the exam. Last year, her score fell short of getting her admitted to her ideal school, so she has been preparing for the test.
“I think I have better chances to be admitted to a good university this year. If not, I’ll probably take the exam a third time,” she said. “It is really hard for graduates from second-tier universities to find a high-paying job, so I need to go to a good university for postgraduate studies.”
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said some students opt for postgraduate study to avoid working.
Having higher degrees can increase the chances of finding better jobs, but years of work experience will also help graduates land a high-paying position, he said.
On Dec 19, the ministry released telephone hotline numbers on its website where people can report postgraduate entrance exam cheating and other violations.
Cheating on national level exams will be treated as criminal offenses, the ministry warned.
A few suspects have been detained for exam-related fraud amid a nationwide crackdown ahead of the entrance exam, the ministry said.