Essays, preparatory courses and all-night study sessions: meet the 2018 Enem exam

. Nov 05, 2018
enem brazil exam 2018 Enem is Brazil's nationwide university entrance

Student Carla Soares turned up at the front door of her local school on a Friday night, in Santarém, donning a pointed black witches’ hat. “I thought a lot about what would be the best costume to wear,” she said. Although it might look like it, this isn’t a kids Halloween party. Carla is there to study.

Across Brazil, thousands upon thousands of students have pulled all-nighters in preparation for the National University Entrance Exam, or Enem, which began this Sunday all over the country. The exam is so comprehensive and challenging that an entire industry has sprung up solely to prepare teenagers for the Enem.

In Santarém, Carla attended the “Viradão do Enem,” or the Big Enem All-Nighter, at which students spent a whopping 24 hours revising material for Sunday’s test. With lectures on over a dozen different subjects, the organizers hosted live music events, dance displays, and other entertainment to keep the kids awake.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the coordinators, the intervals also serve to help the students relax during what is the most stressful period of many Brazilians’ school lives. “The idea of the Big All-Nighter is to break that pre-Enem tension and leave the kids more relaxed,&#8221; said organizer Rosineide Damasceno.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since 1998, the Enem has been used to measure the <a href="">quality of high-school education</a> in Brazil. In 2009, then-Minister of Education Fernando Haddad (and defeated presidential candidate in October&#8217;s elections) implemented a <a href="">change to the test</a>, making it the principal entrance exam for Brazil’s public and free universities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With over 7 million applicants, the Enem is the world’s second-largest higher education admissions exam, only behind China&#8217;s Gao Kao. The test takes a total of two days, administered in two blocks of roughly five hours, including 180 questions and an essay-writing section. The comprehensive nature of the Enem means that students need to have knowledge of every subject, requiring hours and hours of study.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Big All-Nighter is part of an industry of preparatory courses (known as </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">cursinhos</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">) for the Enem exam. The model has been widely criticized, however, as even though public Brazilian universities have no tuition fees, </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">cursinhos</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> can be expensive and are seen as necessary for achieving a good enough score in the Enem.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first half of this year&#8217;s exam took place this Sunday, where students faced 5 hours and 30 minutes of questions. The first block included 45 multiple-choice questions on languages and literature, another on human sciences (history, geography, philosophy, and sociology), followed by an essay question.</span></p> <h2>The 2018 Enem</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Next Sunday, applicants do it all over again with 4 hours and 30 minutes of 90 questions, this time on natural sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics) and then mathematics.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As it is such an important part of the educational lives of millions of Brazilians, the Enem has taken on extra significance in wider society and created a number of cultural quirks. The yearly essay question is seen as a photograph of the country&#8217;s social issues, as test-makers intend to pick a dissertation topic which represents the current moment of Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For instance, in 2012, the essay question concerned waves of immigration into Brazil in the 21</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">st</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> century, particularly from Haiti. Two years ago, Haiti had been hit by a massive earthquake which caused significant flows of immigrants to Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2013, the Enem question discussed the effects of Brazil&#8217;s drink-driving law, which had been made stricter and zero tolerance the year before.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There was an expectation that this year’s essay question would touch on the phenomenon of fake news, in the wake of the rise of the concept worldwide and the overbearing presence of false information in this year&#8217;s presidential elections. The reality was not too far away, and the official wording of the essay question concerned the &#8220;manipulation of user behavior by control of data on the internet.&#8221; </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The passages used as reference for the dissertation dealt principally with the presence of algorithms on social media.

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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