In the South Korean college scholastic ability test, or the Suneung test, on Nov. 17, a total of three testers scored the perfect score. They are all students of natural science who chose the science subject for the Suneung test.
In the briefing on Thursday to announce the test results, President Lee Gyu-min of the Korea Institute of Curriculum & Evaluation said a total of three scored the perfect, with two enrolled students and one repeater. There was only one perfect score from last year’s entrance exam, which was considered as one of the hardest Suneungs ever, and this time around, there were only a few perfect scores as well. The college entrance test for next year is considered challenging given that the Suneung tests in 2020 and 2021 each produced 15 and six perfect scorers, respectively.
Experts say natural sciences students must have fared better as math was particularly tricky this year. This year's highest standard score for math (145) was approximate to last year’s (147), but the number of perfect scores in math plummeted from 2,709 to 934. “It must have been very difficult for the students of liberal arts to get the perfect scores because there were many difficult questions, including Q. 22,” said Nam Yoon-gon, the head of the entrance strategy research center at Megastudy.
The harsh difficulty of social studies was another factor at play that prevented liberal arts students from getting the perfect score. The number of perfect scores in the subject of “Life and Ethics,” which was chosen the most (by 136,793 students) in social studies this year, dropped from 3,951 to 1,133. “The subject of social studies was more difficult this year while the science research subject remained as difficult, so the students of liberal arts must have struggled,” said Woo Yeon-cheol, the head of the entrance strategy research center at Jinhak.
The tipping of high performers toward the natural science track will likely continue as the integrated format of the Suneung test is more favorable for science students than it is for liberal arts students. “Many students in the natural science track choose calculus and geometry in math, and the standard scores for the two subjects were found to be relatively higher,” said Lim Seong-ho, the CEO of Jongro Academy. “Most higher-level universities refer to standard scores for their admissions, and many top scorers will go for the natural science department to leverage this,” he added.