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Even an AI machine couldn’t ace China’s super tough college entrance exam

An AI machine that sat the math paper for China’s college entrance exam has failed to prove it’s better than its human competition.

AI-Maths, a machine made of 11 servers, three years in the making, joined almost 10 million high schoolers last week, in sitting for the country’s national exam.

AI-Maths scored 105 points out of the maximum score of 150 in the first version of the test, and 100 for the second version, not far above the passing grade of 90.

This was well below average of 135 that top scorers achieved in previous years for math.

At least the machine breezed through the test quickly. It took only 22 minutes for the first test, and 10 minutes for the second — far ahead of the two-hour allotted time.

The exams are part of the Gaokao, or China’s college entrance exams that are known to be infamously difficult.

Image: Sipa Asia/REX/Shutterstock

Every year, millions of students take the Gaokao— one of China’s most gruelling and difficult exams

Chinese users on Weibo, a social media platform, were pretty smug about the machine’s loss.

"Suddenly I feel like there’s still hope for humans," said one internet user on Weibo.

"You won at Chess, you won at Go, finally we won this," another chipped in.

"My math score last year was higher than this," one proudly said.

Still some way to go

The AI-Maths, which was developed as part of a project by the Ministry of Science and Technology, has been trained to tackle more than 10,000 math questions.

Though the machine can speed through numbers, there’s still a lot to be desired when it comes to understanding math problems.

For example, this classic Chinese math problem asks you to figure out how many chickens and rabbits there are in a cage, only giving you the total number of legs and heads as information. To process that, you need to know how many legs chickens and rabbits have.

The company that developed the robot, Chengdu Zhunxingyunxue Technology, added that the machine might have "had a problem in understanding natural language."

"I hope next year the machine can improve its performance on logical reasoning and computer algorithms and score over 130," Lin Hui, the company’s CEO told state news outlet Xinhua.

The company hopes that by 2020, such AI machines will be smart enough to gain admission to top universities in China.

So it looks like AI machines can’t win at everything — yet.