[EDITORIALS]College Test Fails the Course

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[EDITORIALS]College Test Fails the Course

College-bound high school students and their parents are in shock because this year's College Scholastic Ability Test was more difficult than last year's and the average score was expected to fall greatly. A significant number of students walked out in the middle of the test. Even instructors at preparatory institutions had difficulty solving some of the questions, suggesting how hard the test was. Due to the difficulty of the test, high school teachers say they will run into problems when counseling students about university choices. Parents of high school juniors worry that private tutoring will become rampant next year.

This year's test was expected to be difficult because last year's examination came under severe criticism for failing to discriminate effectively the level of students' abilities. Last year, 66 students recorded a perfect score. This year, the examiners' committee argued that it had done its best to capture both rabbits - difficulty, and effective discrimination among scholastic abilities of students. The committee said that by converting the total score into 100 points, the average score of the test takers would be 77.5, with adjustments of plus or minus 2.5 points. The unadjusted score is expected to go down 16 to 37 points from last year. However, the outcome of preliminary scoring at high schools nationwide shows that the average total test score plunged by at least 40 points to, at most, 70 points. Last year, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation said that the average would drop by 4 to 5 points, but the hike was 26.8 points.

When entrance examinations at specific universities were banned and high school grade reports turned unreliable, the CSAT became the key to measure a student's ability. Therefore, maintaining the difficulty of the test is indispensable. However, because the test fails to be consistently difficult each year, we wonder how students are able to prepare for it?

This year's test takers did not study as hard as students in the past because the former education minister, Lee Hai-chan, had promoted a policy that said if a student had a special talent in one field, that would guarantee him college acceptance. Supplementary classes were banned and the taking of mock tests were restricted. Despite that, the examiners increased the difficulty of the test without considering the lowered abilities of the test takers. Students probably felt that the test was much harder than it actually was.

It is inappropriate if the examiners used too many traps to heighten the test's difficulty. In this year's test, 35 questions asked the students to determine incorrect choices - up from 20 question last year. Questions were presented to intentionally bring mistakes and make the test harder. There are reasons why the difficulty of the test is not consistent. First, the examiners hade only 20 days to complete the questions and they found it difficult to develop various types of questions and adjust the difficulty. Secondly, it's wrong that the examiners' group includes only a few high school teachers. Although the government promised to increase the number of teachers included in the examiners' group, only 10 teachers, including six foreign language teachers, were included this year.The Education Ministry should adopt a questionnaires depository system which allow examiners to deposit questions all year long, and select questions after examining the level of difficulty and discrimination power. Furthermore, teachers of all subjects should be included in the group of examiners. The government should also consider adopting a standardized scoring system, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test used in the United States.
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