Test-takers cry foul over CSAT questions, answers

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Test-takers cry foul over CSAT questions, answers

The results of the dreaded, all-important college entrance exam were announced yesterday. But rather than breathing a sigh of relief, some students and their parents are up in arms about test questions on the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) they allege are controversial.

In the English segment, some have claimed, two reading passages and some test choices overlapped with those in the material offered by a large private academy, or hagwon.

The allegation put the Ministry of Education in the hot seat following its pledge to help reduce reliance on after-hours lessons at hagwon.

One of the measures aimed to base 70 percent of the exam’s content around Education Broadcasting System (EBS) courses and workbooks. EBS, a state-run educational television channel, broadcasts supplemental learning material and makes workbooks for the CSAT.

The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), a government body in charge of administering the CSAT, said that the reading passages are from the EBS workbook. However, it did not explain how the test choices on the entrance exam remained the same as those provided by Daesung Mimac, an online education service website run by Daesung Hagwon, one of the largest cram schools in Seoul.

But the controversy is not confined to the English segment. About 50 test-takers are planning on filing a lawsuit over a question on the geography portion of the social science segment.

One of the answers to the question says that the total GDP of the European Union is larger than that of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But according to data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the GDP of the North American economic bloc surpassed that of the EU in 2012.

However, KICE defended the answer, saying it is correct based on the content of the textbook.

“It’s very regrettable that some questions on the college entrance exam caused controversy,” said Sung Tae-je, chief director of the KICE. “[Administrators] said that the question required textbook-based knowledge.”

He refrained from mentioning the possibility of changing the answer.

The education institute’s website has been flooded with enraged posts over the decision.

A total of 626 complaints have been reported, up from 598 last year. Concerned parties were particularly focused on this year’s exam because it was the first time the Korean language and English sections were split into an A test and a more difficult B test.

The ministry said it will return to the former unified system, beginning with English in 2015, followed by Korean language and math in 2017. It cited the complexity of the two-track system as the reason for the decision.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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