Court says CSAT geography question was wrong

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Court says CSAT geography question was wrong


An appeals court ruled Thursday that a grading mistake was made in the world geography section of last November’s annual College Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The move is expected to trigger a backlash from last year’s test-takers, in a country where getting a single exam question wrong can affect which college a student is accepted to.

The ruling was on the eighth question in last year’s world geography test, which asked students to choose whether it was right or wrong that the European Union (EU)’s gross national product (GNP) is larger than that of the combined GNPs of nations in the North American free trade agreement (Nafta). It didn’t specify which year it was asking about.

The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), a government organization that oversees the administration of the CSAT, said later that most geography textbooks say the EU’s GNP is greater than Nafta’s.

Statistics Korea says that the Nafta nations’ GNP has been larger than the EU’s since 2010. A group of students sued KICE and the Ministry of Education last year, but lost in a first trial held in December 2013.

At that time, the court ruled that “although the exam question is ambiguous and unclear [because no year was included in the question], it doesn’t mean it is incorrect.” It ruled that an “average-level student who studied a textbook would have been able to choose the correct answer.”

But the Seoul High Court inferred Thursday that the history textbooks were simply wrong.

“Restricting the scope of questions and answers on the CSAT to school text books is based on the precondition that those books contain truthful information,” the court continued. It further added that “the educational purpose to enable students to seek after the truth” requires test-takers to “select the answer that is in accord with objective facts.”

Around 37,000 students took the test last year, but the latest verdict will only affect the 22 who filed the lawsuit. Fifty-nine students had initially joined the suit, but most dropped out after the first ruling.

Neither the KICE nor the Education Ministry has yet to make an official statement about how the affected students could be recompensed.

KICE has said it will “look into the verdict and then decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.” An Education Ministry insider said it would “later design its stance, since the new ruling might have to wait for the Supreme Court.”


BY NOH JIN-HO [selee@joongang.co.kr]


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