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All or Nothing for Iranian University Applicants

Report source: Mianeh; photos by various photographers


Feverish preparations to sit entrance exams reach peak over summer.

An exam gets under way at one of hundreds of locations across Iran.
(Photo: Hadi Abyar, Fars News Agency)

For school-leavers planning to go on to higher education in Iran, summer is a nerve-wracking time as they cram for entrance examinations.

There is fierce competition for places at state universities. This year, the education ministry said around 1.3 million applicants signed up to sit the exam known as the "concours", 60 per cent of them female. Organisers estimate that at least half those who sit the test will be offered places.

Competition for university places is fierce and applicants have to study hard to get through the
 entrance exam.  (Photo: Mansoreh Motamedi, Fars News Agency)

The exams, held from July 1 to 3 in 390 locations across the country, were divided into categories - mathematics, science, humanities, arts and foreign languages.

Applicants will have spent the past year preparing, providing a good income to tutors and cramming services. As the concours draws closer, the pressure really piles on to memorise as much as possible, and many take stimulants such as methylphenidate pills to maintain the pace. Their families also feel the strain.

Families are sucked into exam fever. These mothers are sitting outside the exam hall praying for those sitting the test.
(Photo: Hassan Ghaedi, Fars News Agency)

As state university places are limited, many also revise for the separate examinations run by the Islamic Azad University, a private institution with a large network of educational centres across Iran.

Those who are unsuccessful either steel themselves for another attempt the following year, or give up and try to get a job.
The final results will be announced in mid-September.

Students hard at work on park benches are a common sight over the summer.
(Photo: Mansoreh Motamedi, Fars News Agency)

Girls sit the exams at segregated venues.
(Photo: Mohsen Razaei, Mehr News Agency)

These young women are crying because they did not make it to the exam centre in time and
found the doors locked.  (Photo: Javad Moghimi)

The exam is so hard that some give up in despair.
(Photo: Hadi Abyar, Fars News Agency)

Makeshift provision for a disabled applicant.
(Photo: Raouf Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)

Clerics who want a university degree must also sit the exam.
(Photo: Raouf Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)

Parents continue to wait for the exam to end and the return of their children.
(Mohammad-Reza Abbasi, Mehr News Agency)

The exam is finally over and the first students emerge.
(Photo: Meghdad Madadi, Fars News Agency)

Students receive final notification a few days before the exam. The young men here are checking
the address of the exam venue.  (Photo: Javad Moghimi)

The exam papers are kept under lock and seal to prevent cheating. The authors, too, are effectively
quarantined to prevent them selling the content.  (Photo: Hossein Salehi Ara, Fars News Agency)

Test papers are sent out nationwide from Tehran in sealed packages.
(Photo: Hossein Salehi Ara, Fars News Agency)

Postal trucks deliver the exam papers.
(Photo: Hossein Salehi Ara, Fars News Agency)

Despite tight security measures, there have been prosecutions and trials of individuals accused of
leaking test questions in recent years.  (Photo: Ali Agharabi, Fars News Agency)



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