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Difficulty level drops in essay tests for early college admission

Difficulty level drops in essay tests for early college admission

Posted November. 18, 2013 06:02,   


The essay writing tests for the second early admission program to college conducted by major universities in Seoul have been finished as of Sunday. The number of test-takers who participated in the essay tests increased significantly from previous years. As questions in the tests were easier than in previous years, students will find it difficult to predict their chance to win college admission through the second early admission program.

Test-takers who participated in the essay writing tests increased en masse at Korea University, Sookmyung Women’s University, and Ewha Womans University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, and Hanyang University that conducted the tests on Saturday and Sunday. At Ewha, 6,208 students of the 8,772 students who applied for essay writing took part in the tests, to record a test participation ratio of 71 percent. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies saw the ratio stand at 71 percent in the Chinese and Japanese majors, and 68 percent in the English majors, up about 10 percent from previous years.

Hanyang University saw the ratio of essay test participation in the humanities, business and economics majors slightly edge up from 65 percent of last year to 67 percent. Sogang, Sungkyunkwan, and Chung-Ang universities, which conducted their essay writing tests Saturday and Sunday last week, also saw a slight increase from the past participation ratio.

The participation ratio of essay writing tests for the second early admission program, which is conducted after the annual Scholastic College Aptitude Test, had been generally low in previous years. The reason is that test-takers used to finalize their college application strategies, including giving up the early admission program depending on their preliminary CSAT scores. But this year is different given that it has become more difficult to predict college admissions result due to the selective CSAT program introduced this year. For this reason, test-takers tend to make the most of all opportunities available, including the essay writing test.

The characteristic of this year’s second early admission program is that top-level universities generally presented essay questions with a moderate difficulty level. This move apparently reflects the Education Ministry’s earlier announcement that it would conduct a post-test review of essay questions offered by all universities, and impose administrative and financial restrictions on universities whose essay questions deviate from the ordinary public curricula of high schools.

Major universities conducted essay writing tests by categorizing test-takers into the humanities and social studies field, and science and engineering field. Not a few mathematics and science questions were included in essay tests even for the humanities and social studies field in previous years. However, most universities faithfully focused on questions of humanities and social studies subjects in this year’s essay test for the field. Passages in most essay questions were sourced from school textbooks, or passages were designed in a way that provides test-takers with clue.

“Questions were easier than those presented in past tests,” read post-test comments uploaded on a college admission information website that is widely used by students with good academic performance. “Time was short to answer some questions, but few questions too difficult to answer.”

As a result, the essay test for this year’s second early recruitment program is highly competitive but poor in the function to assess students’ academic performance level. It means that test-takers will find it difficult to predict their chance for admission. Oh Jong-woon, evaluation director at Etoos Cheongsol, said, “The essay tests conducted on Saturday and Sunday were generally easy as passages in the questions and themes were sourced from high school curricula. The difficulty level was lower overall when compared with the essay tests conducted last year.”