The Korea Herald


Ministry promises ‘easy’ English tests on college entrance exam

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : July 6, 2014 - 21:01

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The English segment of this year’s college entrance exam will be relatively easy for test-takers, the Education Ministry said Sunday.

The policy plan, which was announced with other details on the annual Suneung exam, is in keeping with President Park Geun-hye’s goal of lowering the difficulty of English exams to reduce private education expenses for studying the language.

In the past, Sunueng tests for English, math and Korean were offered in two difficulty levels. Students who took harder tests got extra credit which is often crucial for entering top-tier universities.

According to the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, this year’s Suneung English tests will only have a single difficulty level and will be considerably easier. Two difficulty levels will continue to be offered for math and Korean, however.

“The trend of easy English on the Suneung will continue for now, in response to the government demands. As students face less pressure (to study English), we expect private education expenses for English will decrease soon,” said an official from KICE. Some 18.6 trillion won ($18.4 billion) was spent on private education in Korea in 2013, and English accounted for roughly one-third of this.

But there are concerns that having easier English questions on the crucial college entrance exam may weaken its capacity to correctly assess students’ English abilities. In the June mock exam, which adopted the “easy English” approach, 5.37 percent of the test-takers got a perfect score on the section.

In addition, experts have said that even if an easier entrance exam ends up reducing the demand for private English education, students and parents may still end up spending the same amount on private education, but just on different subjects.

It was also revealed Sunday that this year’s exam, scheduled for Nov. 13, will provide computers that will read test questions aloud for visually challenged students. Formerly, these students were offered braille exam papers, which often put them under time restraints despite the extended test time given to them.

By Yoon Min-sik (