[EDITORIALS]Test too easy, test too hard

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[EDITORIALS]Test too easy, test too hard

The 2002 College Scholastic Ability Test has been graded and the average score this year dropped by 66.5 points on the scale of 400 ?a stark difference from the test administrator's promise that the adjustment would lower scores by 16 to 37 points. The panic and confusion of students, parents and teachers are imaginable.

It is commonly viewed as a failure of the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation, the test administrator, to control the level of difficulty. Last year the exam was so easy that 66 students got all the questions right and the average score rose 27 points from the year before. This year, no one was perfect. The institute can have no excuses for the failure. The education minister recently issued a public apology.

Making some questions difficult is a good way to compare test-takers' ability. Last year's questions were too easy, so making them harder this year is sound. But the extreme fluctuation in the difficulty of the exam and the ever-changing college admissions standards lower public trust in government education policy. High school teachers complain that they cannot properly advise their students on where to apply for college, since the ranking of individual scores has not been made public. Knowing what subjects different universities and their subdivisions will emphasize in evaluating the scores, where students fall among the nine scoring levels and the curved scores, however meaningful, are not enough for students and guidance counselors.

The Education Ministry's intent is to prevent colleges from lining up the students and making admissions decisions primarily a numbers game. Yet colleges apparently engage in the practice anyway. Instead of ignoring reality, the ministry should reveal the standing in the spirit of providing accurate admissions information to students who are already panicked by the difficulty of the test. What colleges do with the standings should remain up to them.

Revising the current college admissions regime would be a more fundamental solution. Locking up test makers for 20 days and favoring college professors over high school teachers in drawing up the questions should not continue. And a depository system for collecting questions should be introduced.
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