The protagonists of this film (which is subtitled "the smartest children in China") are five students in their final year at an elite secondary school in the Chinese megacity of Chongqing. Their efforts this year, and their final exams in particular, will decide whether they are able to get into one of the two most prestigious universities in the country in the capital city Beijing. Only the very best can succeed. Consequently, the students at the Chongqing school start tuition at 7 am and finish at 10:30 pm, every day, including Saturday. For many of these local students, who come from a poor rural background, success in their final exams, which gives them an opportunity to attend one of the universities, is one of the few ways in which they can climb the social ladder. Dutch director Marije Meerman follows the five students during the gruelling drudgery they endure at school as well as during their rare moments of leisure. She also accompanies Mei, who came second in a nationwide mathematics competition, on a visit to his poor parents in the countryside. "I'm going to use the first money I make to buy them new clothes," says Mei. He is well aware that being successful in his studies is the only hope his parents have of a better life.