According to an announcement today on the Chinese government media site Xinhua [Chinese language], a specially-made artificial intelligence robot will sit the Chinese standardized college entrance exam in 2017 with approximately 9 million Chinese students. While the robot will need a proctor to translate the questions to digital form, the goal is to score well enough on the examination to qualify for admittance to university.

While the robot will not take the extremely challenging gaokao in its entirety, it will take three full sections, answering exactly the same questions as other students sitting for the exam. The gaokao robot will take the Literature/Language, Math, and Culture sections of the test while foregoing other sections including Foreign Language. The robot’s highest score to date was 115 of 150 on the maths section, arguably the easiest for an AI bot to navigate.

iFly Tek, the Chinese IT company that worked with the government to develop the gaokao robot, believes that taking the gaokao will provide the best proof of  the robot’s ability to think and reason. “Performing well in the gaokao requires advanced technology in human-machine interaction, knowledge management and inference-learning, which are the key technologies we are committed to developing through this project,” Liu Qingfeng, CEO of iFly Tek, said. He also believes that by 2020, the gaokao robot will score highly on the examination – highly enough to beat 80% of human test-takers. While recognizing that a computer has an advantage in memory and recall, “To beat 80 percent of students – which means it can enroll at a key university in China – is difficult,” Liu said.

A similar AI robot passed the Japanese college entrance exam in 2015, with an above-average score, high enough to gain entrance to university. That project’s goal is to continue making improvements with the expectation that by 2021 the robot will achieve a score high enough for admittance to Japan’s most prestigious school, the University of Tokyo.

The project has been developed in part by China’s Project 863, a governmental program started by Deng Xiaopeng in 1986 to support technological developments in China. Project 863 previously conducted much of the research and development that led to the creation of the Tianhe supercomputers and the Shenzhou spacecraft.