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KAIST Unveils Interview-Based Admissions System

Posted October. 17, 2007 03:20,   


“We want you to discuss the topic of aging in society with other applicants.”

“What do you think are the effective ways to cure people addicted to online games?”

“What would you say of the Shin Jeong-ah and Byeon Yang-gyun corruption scandal?”

Those are the questions applicants to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon (KAIST) had to answer in their admissions interview this year. 130 seniors from the Korea Science Academy in Busan took the interview on September 14.

The applicants underwent a three-tiered 75-minute long interview. First, they discussed certain topics in groups for 50 minutes, and had personal interviews for 20 minutes. Then, each applicant made a presentation.

The school now admits students based more on character and personality. Accordingly, it has revamped its interviewing methods, benchmarking those used by Korean chaebol corporations.

Admissions Procedure to Select Creative Students-

KAIST President Suh Nam-pyo announced back in April that the school would adopt an admissions procedure that would help it select more creative students.

Suh has stressed, “We have to change. We need creative talent who will advance this country in the future. The current GPA- and SAT-based admissions system is not sufficient.”

The September 14 interview was the first application of a new policy to a certain group of college applicants. Until last year, the school’s two-pronged interview was perfunctory at most. No one got rejected due to a poor interview.

The remaining 1,400 students other than those from the academy will undergo the same type of interviews for three days starting October 25.

In addition to the individual interview to test the creativity of each applicant, the school grouped the students and had each of the groups discuss certain topics. Then, each individual student made a presentation on the discussion.

An interviewee commented, “I titled my individual presentation, ‘An Organic Applicant without Tutoring Aid.’ As a scientist, I will discuss numerous issues with experts in other fields. Thus, I should be able to articulate my studies and ideas. So, I think the discussion-based interview is pretty good in that respect.”

How It Has Changed-

KAIST reportedly intended to measure each student based on the following categories: scholastic capacity; social capacity (showing the possibility of the future success in society); and internal capacity (indicating the ability of each candidate to overcome obstacles).

To see whether or not each student is eligible to take all the classes in the KAIST, which are conducted 100% in English, each interviewee has to present in English for three minutes. A student is allowed to take the liberty of choosing whatever means of expressing his or her individual assignment.

A senior KAIST officer further explained, “To fight any chance of bias, interviewers are not allowed to see the grades of the applicants.”

The pioneering admissions procedure is likely to sway other prestigious schools into making changes.

A Daejon Science High School teacher said, “We have adjusted our teaching methods to the new procedure. Our classes are now conducted mostly through discussion and debate. When the new procedure becomes more widespread, science high schools will have to follow suit.”

mhjee@donga.com doyoce@donga.com