||The paper examines the effects of secondary education tracking and family backgrounds on education attainment in urban China. Using the data of 2003 General Social Survey in urban China, our study reveals that having a highly educated father or having a father who is a professional is beneficial for getting into key-point senior high schools, while students are equally likely to gain admission of four-year universities regardless of their origins. The most important determinant of the two track placements is their previous key-point school characteristics. However, students begin to benefit from their family backgrounds, especially from parents’ high education level and socioeconomic status for university attainment when the opportunity for tertiary education gradually expands. Our findings suggest that the merit based tracking system in urban China provided some room for disadvantaged students to realize upward mobility when the admission process was governed by entrance exams. However, recent admission policy reforms render family backgrounds emerge as influential factors deciding tertiary education attainment and the education chances for disadvantaged students are further squeezed.