Last year’s CSAT will be rescored

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Last year’s CSAT will be rescored

Three weeks after education authorities admitted that a question in the world geography section of last November’s annual College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) was misgraded, the Ministry of Education said Thursday that students who failed to be admitted to universities because of that question will be given a second chance at admission.

The announcement comes a month after a Seoul appeals court ruled that a grading mistake was made for the eighth question of the test, ruling in favor of 22 students who filed a lawsuit.

This was the first time since the test was introduced in 1994 that the judiciary determined that a CSAT question was graded the wrong way, and college admissions that have already been finalized will be altered as a result.

The latest CSAT was held just a week before on Nov. 13.

“It’s an unprecedented crisis in the history of the CSAT,” said Lim Seung-ho, head of Haneul Education, a leading private education institute in Korea.

He added that it’s “preposterous” that universities are reopening the admission process from a year ago.

The Ministry of Education and the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), a government organization that oversees the administration of the CSAT, said they have recently recalculated the world geography test scores of the 18,884 students who were graded erroneously last year.

Those affected can check their modified scores on KICE’s website through Nov. 26 until 6 p.m.

Authorities said that based on those results, universities that rejected those students last year will be ordered to reassess their eligibility for admission with the new, slightly improved score.

If the added three points on a scale of 50 for the world geography section would have qualified them for admission last year, the school will have to individually notify them starting next month and offer a slot next year.

That reassessment, officials said, will be made by comparing the scores of the affected students who weren’t admitted last year with the scores of students who were. Those who already are enrolled at universities will not be affected.

Students who are granted admission due to the extra points on the world geography section will have to decide whether they will enroll as freshmen or transfer from their current universities, if they are at another school.

In terms of punishment for last year’s grading mistake, the Ministry of Education stated that it “will take stern measures against relevant parties,” adding that more specifics will follow.

“I’m terribly sorry for causing so much pain to students and parents,” Kim Sung-hoon, the head of KICE, said during Thursday’s briefing.

In last year’s world geography test, the eighth question dealt with the relative sizes of the European Union and the countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) in terms of gross national product. It asked students to choose which of five statements was correct.

The answer considered correct by KICE stated that the EU was larger, as is written in some Korean textbooks and CSAT study guides. But the question didn’t specify any years.

A group of students sued KICE and the Ministry of Education late last year, arguing that the Nafta nations’ GNP had been larger than the EU’s since 2010.

There was no correct choice for the question saying that Nafta was larger. Authorities said on Thursday all test takers will be given credit for answering that question correctly.

It remains unclear how many students will gain admission to universities solely based on those extra three points as each school has a different set of admission processes.

In a country where almost everything in admissions procedures - from cover letters and essays to extracurricular activities - are scored by numbers, a recalculation is possible, which is why the announcement made by authorities is likely to cause a stir.

When asked whether the current college admissions system is too brutal, noting that a single exam question can affect which college a student is accepted to, Lim from Haneul Education said: “In a competitive society like ours, it’s inevitable. The real problem lies in the fact that the CSAT is simply too easy. Test takers aren’t assessed by their skills, but rather by whether or not they make cheesy mistakes.”


BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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