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Students Are Trained to Get High Scores in English Test

Posted October. 23, 2002 22:45,   


“When you don`t know which to choose during a listening test?”

“Choose the one in present continuous tense.”

It`s a scene from a classroom at a private English institute located in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam in Seoul. Some 20 high school students are answering to the teacher as they learn how to get high scores in TOEIC test instead of learning to understand English. They are second graders who will go through a college entrance exam for year 2004.

English course at the institute is thoroughly oriented to the exam. Students will take a mock test for four hours a day over the next six months, which totals about 120 tests. Their goal is to memorize every pattern of some 100 listening and 150 grammar questions.

Since colleges decided two years ago to choose students who have a very good command of English as a special case, the so-called `pinpointing private classes,` have been springing up in Gangnam area. They offer students clandestine ways to get high scores at the expense of English study.

Prep Institutes Mushrooming

A private institute in Gangnam area hands out to their students a `secret note` filled with tips. They are supposed to learn such tips as “if-sentence in past perfect tense is always the correct answer.”

Those enrolled into a TOEFL class must memorize some 150 model essays released by ETS in the U.S., an organization in charge of the test, to get high scores in English writing.

Another language institute located in Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam urges students to take on post TOEFL questions circulated over the Internet, which came from those who actually took the test.

Lee, a 17-year-old high school student who is preparing for the English-only entrance exam, appears quite satisfied, “It`s not normal but my scores are improving.”

Volume Production of Test Machines

There are 7 to 8 English private institutes aimed at high school students in Gangnam area. Some even offer consulting for parents and students by specifying the target score, university and major. Some others prepare a `model self-introduction essay` for an interview test.

Since the English-only entrance exam was first introduced in 2000, the number of students selected as a special case has been rising. 71 universities nationwide, including Korea, Yonsie and Sungkyunkwan, has so far selected about 2,800 students with foreign language proficiency, and 60% of the total, or 1,700, are known to English majors.

University authorities know that `test experts` instead of `English specialists` have been chosen. They have yet to find an alternative to the current faulty system, however.

“As TOEIC and TOEFL have become a part of the entrance exam, we now see a number of scandalous teaching methods,” said Dr. Kim Dong-wook, English Language Professor at Sungkyunkwan University. “For now, however, there seems no alternative.”

In-Jik Cho cij1999@donga.com