Mainland authorities have tightened security for this year's university entrance exam, which started yesterday, installing hi-tech monitoring gear and deploying more guards. The measures come after a spate of violent attacks on children across the country and amid widespread concern over cheating. Ten big screens at the National Education Examinations Authority have been linked to nearly 80,000 mainland exam venues and will be able to monitor emergency situations, Xinhua reports. Separate provincial online monitoring systems will cover another 110,000 of the total 320,000 exam venues. 'All the relevant departments and local governments are prepared to react to emergencies during the exam,' Liu Junyi, vice-director of the Ministry of Education's exam centre, was quoted as saying. 'The security force in Beijing combines traffic police, security guards and volunteers to tackle emergency situations.' Attacks on children at schools this year have left 17 dead and more than 50 injured. Beijing has vowed to make school safety a top priority and President Hu Jintao called early this month for greater efforts to protect children. Thousands of extra security guards have been deployed around exam venues in big cities such as Shanghai and Jilin . Foshan in Guangdong has deployed more police, traffic police and administrative forces to patrol and guard 31 exam venues. The No 1 High School has doubled the number of guards to around 30 and has asked physical education teachers to join patrols. The No3 High School had installed an alarm linked to the police station, a local website reported. Guangzhou's Tianhe High School had prepared riot shields and tear gas to fend off attacks, the Guangzhou Daily reported. Nearly 9.6 million are sitting this year's exam, 650,000 fewer than last year. They are competing for nearly 6.6 million university spots, more than last year's quota. The exam lasts for between two and three days. The number of registrations for the exam fell for the first time last year. Competitive exams have given rise to increasingly sophisticated cheating. Items confiscated in recent years have included glasses with earpiece attachments, vibrating receivers and rubbers, and watches able to receive short messages. Measures to prevent cheating have been upgraded, with most exam venues having installed devices to block wireless signals, state media have reported. Strict security precautions are also being taken when dealing with exam papers. They are being transported around Beijing in armoured vans with armed guards. A total of 2,600 security rooms used to store exams papers across the mainland are monitored by closed-circuit television equipment.