CSAT greeted with bows, shudders

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CSAT greeted with bows, shudders

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Students get ready to take the once-a-year College Scholastic Ability Test as they listen to exam guidelines from a supervisor yesterday at Pungmoon Girls’ High School in Jongno District, central Seoul. Test-takers will receive their results on Nov. 28. [NEWSIS]


More than 660,000 students yesterday took the most important exam of their school lives, the College Scholastic Ability Test.

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As a testament to the importance of the exam in an education-crazy nation, all flights in the country were banned from taking off or landing during the listening parts of the Korean and English sections yesterday, which lasted 13 and 20 minutes each, to ensure students would not be disturbed by the noise.

The familiar scenes of younger students cheering on their nervous-looking schoolmates with drums and bowing deeply to them took place at the entrances of testing sites across the nation.

A total of 668,522 college hopefuls applied for the CSAT this year, a 3.6 percent drop from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), which is in charge of producing and supervising the CSAT, held a press briefing early yesterday and said the questions on this year’s exam were designed to discourage students from spending a lot of time and money on private tutoring.

“In line with the government’s efforts to discourage expensive hagwon [cram school] classes and private tutoring, over 70 percent of the exam questions came from lessons and books published by the government-run education television channel EBS,” said Kwon Oh-rang, director of CSAT writers.

“In an effort to maintain the consistency and continuity of the test, we tried our best to aim for around 1 percent of students achieving perfect scores in each subject.”

It was predicted that this year’s English section would be harder than last year’s, when 2.67 percent of the test-takers received perfect scores.

“The difficulty level of the Korean language and mathematics portions was lowered this year, while the English section could be felt to be a little more difficult,” Kwon said.

Experts predicted that less than 1 percent of students will get perfect scores in mathematics.

“Both A and B sections of the mathematics test came out difficult this year, and the number of students with perfect scores will be lower,” said Oh Jeong-un, assessment director at the private tutoring institution Etoos.

There were no age barriers to educational ambitions yesterday at the testing centers. A 78-year-old woman from Seoul surnamed Ryu took the day-long exam, and two 13-year-olds were the youngest test-takers, according to KICE.

With its five sections - Korean language, mathematics, English, social and natural sciences, and a secondary foreign language - the CSAT has been demonized for whipping students into ultracompetitive frenzies and forcing them to spend their youths studying through the night and at expensive cram schools.

The pressure has led to suicides by students before and after the test every year. This year was no exception. A 20-year-old man who was going to take the test for the third year in a row jumped off the 18th floor of an apartment building in Dalseo District, Daegu, Wednesday.

KICE said it will announce the answers to the test on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. Test-takers will receive their results on Nov. 28.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Lee Yu-jeong [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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