Go to contents

[Opinion] Discrimination in the College Entrance Exam

Posted November. 15, 2008 09:41,   


Each year, high school seniors and parents alike grow nervous around the time the College Scholastic Aptitude Test begins. Joy and sorrow alternate as students check their exam results. Some say students who received tutoring will ace the exam, so they question the test’s ability to accurately assess true academic ability. Universities, however, put more reliance on the test than a student’s scholastic record. For the time being, there seems no better way to measure student scholastic ability. The test also offers an opportunity for students with mediocre grades.

The level of difficulty in this year’s test is said to be higher than last year’s. The cutline of the first-tier in the upper four percent bracket is expected to be around 78, down from 98 last year. Many say the exam will become more difficult. When the difficulty level of the test is high, it is easier to distinguish student academic ability because it clearly exposes the academic levels among high-ranking students. In other words, those who have studied hard are more likely to enter their chosen schools.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun kept lowering the test’s difficulty to control academic competition among high-ranking students. In the case of the college exam for the 2006 school year, the number of those getting a perfect score in the language section reached 10,000, rendering the test useless to distinguish academic competence. This year, a new system was introduced to reduce the weight of the test, replacing score marking with grading. The Korea Institute of Curriculum & Evaluation has pledged each year not to give a difficult test, while setting questions copying teaching materials from EBS reference books.

Even China strives to identify and nurture its most talented by encouraging competition among top students. Though not easy at the moment, nourishing capable people who can compete on the global stage should be the first and foremost task for a nation. The former Roh administration’s method is nothing short of negligence of this responsibility. When the test can distinguish scholastic ability, it will properly serve its role to reward students who studied hard. If the validity of the exam is in doubt, along with lack of reliance on school records, its main purpose to gauge academic ability will disappear. The phenomenon of raising the difficulty of the college entrance exam is the politics of the test’s discrimination.

Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik (chansik@donga.com)