Hundreds of thousands packed out schools and universities across China on Sunday to take the national civil service exam, with record numbers registering in search of a stable government job. More than 1.5 million people registered to take the exam, the Beijing Times reported, a record and more than 30 times the number sitting the exam a decade ago. This year test-takers are vying for about 20,000 government vacancies, state television said. The rapid expansion in recent years has been boosted by the perception that government jobs offer added stability and status, test-takers said. Outside the Hujiaolou middle school in Beijing, one of dozens of test sites in the capital, Liu Ting, a 24-year-old student, stood clutching a red revision book containing lists of “hot” political jargon to be used during the test. “I’m taking the exam because government jobs are more stable,” Liu said. “There’s basically no chance of losing a government job once you have one.” Most candidates are university graduates, part of a massive expansion of higher education in China with almost seven million new graduates set to hit the job-market this year, the state-run China News Service said. A 31-year-old woman surnamed Liu who worked as a quality inspector said she hoped to swap her private-sector job for a government post because “the benefits are better, and you don’t need to worry about pensions or health insurance”. Those who pass the exam will also have to pass a tough interview process before they can gain a government job. “It helps if you have family relations in the government, especially for getting central government jobs,” Liu said. China’s current civil service exam is a descendant of the ancient imperial examination system known as the Keju , introduced in the 7th century and often regarded as the precursor of China’s so-called meritocracy, or system of government based on merit. This year authorities are on the lookout for cheaters, with anyone caught breaking exam rules barred from sitting again for five years, the Beijing Times reported.