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Ministry to correct faults in college admission test

South Korea’s Education Ministry said Friday it would not challenge the recent ruling on a flawed question on the college entrance exam last year and would take measures to adjust the affected students’ scores, a move that is likely to have an impact on thousands of students’ college admission results.

Everyone who took the world geography test that contained the cited question will get credit for it, Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea said in an emergency briefing at the Government Complex in Sejong City.

As a result of the unprecedented decision by the ministry, thousands of students who were not admitted to the school of their choice due to the flawed question are expected to gain admission for the 2015 school year.

Seoul High Court recently confirmed that the question had a fundamental defect, and ruled in favor of four test-takers who challenged it.

“The government decided not to appeal the court ruling concerning the question. The specific plans for compensating them will be announced by mid-November,” Hwang said, expressing regrets about the hardship suffered by the affected students.

The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which is in charge of making the questions for the Suneung college entrance exam, said it would “humbly accept” the court order along with the public criticism it has received. It vowed to recalculate the actual grades for last year’s Suneung and to alert students and colleges as soon as possible.

The impact of Friday’s announcement is expected to be near cataclysmic, considering that this is the first time a Suneung question has been found by a court to be flawed since the state-run exam was introduced in 1994.

Further complicating the situation, it has been nearly a year since college admissions took place, and most of the students who ended up with a lower score on account of the question are already attending college.

Since 2000, a question has been challenged and proven to be flawed on three other occasions. But the authorities admitted their mistake within two months in these cases, well before the end of college admissions.

Roughly half of the 37,684 students who took the geography test got the question wrong. Up to 4,800 students could have their overall scores changed.

All affected students will get a chance to see if they can gain admission to a school that they failed to enter based on the previous results. The ministry said it would discuss with colleges whether the students already attending colleges can transfer to schools that they applied for but were unable to enter because of the flawed question.

There were some who had been admitted through early admission programs but were denied entrance because they failed to receive the minimum required scores. These students will be admitted by the cited colleges if the change raises their overall grade above the cut-off point.

Because the Suneung is based on a curved grading system, some students’ scores will drop as a result of the recalculation. The ministry and KICE said they will not receive any disadvantages.

“In order to minimize the confusion of this year’s college applicants, we will make sure that the additional admissions programs are completed before Dec. 19,” a ministry official said. “Students accepted via the additional program will be able to start school in March next year as freshmen.”

He added that the ministry would confer with members of the National Assembly to devise a special bill providing legal grounds for the unprecedented measure.

Due to the magnitude of the incident, several officials ― especially those responsible for writing the questions ― are expected to face disciplinary actions. “Officials responsible for the incident, both in legal and administrative terms, will be severely questioned,” said Minister Hwang.

By Yoon Min-sik (
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Korea Herald daum