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CSAT: The most important exam for Koreans

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Education becomes increasingly important and complex because the demands that are made on us range from the institute in which we studied, the university degree we did, where we did it, and how remarkable was our academic process. Now, each country has its own requirements and the way of learning is not the same, since it is always influenced by local values and traditions.

However, something prevails, and it is that we must all go through tests that despair, stress, and even take away sleep because depending on the result, we can do or stop doing something. In the case of Koreans, there is one of the exams that we could consider as the strictest and most overwhelming at the same time as important because obtaining good results is summarized in being able to study at one of the best universities in the country, something that within the curriculum will make no company resist letting you go.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) https://www.gettyimages.fi/detail/uutiskuva/south-korean-students-take-their-college-scholastic-ability-uutiskuva/83668990

The Suneung (수능) or CSAT-College Scholastic Ability Test (대학 수 학 능 력시험) is the exam that defines, according to Koreans, success or failure, living in wealth or poverty, basically, life itself is put in its results. It is such the value that they give it, that many parents have their children prepare from a very young age in academies specifically created to help their members to obtain the best qualification.

The exam is divided into 5 parts: Korean 한국어 (45 questions), Mathematics 수학 (30 questions), English 영어 (45 questions -the first 17 are questions of listening comprehension), the History of Korea 한국사 – Social/Science/career Exploration 사회/과학/직업탐구 (20 questions) and second language (German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic or Vietnamese) 제2외국어/한문 (30 questions). 

Now that we’ve seen all the components they evaluate, the craziest thing comes up, and it’s the duration, with a total of 9 hours (entering at 8:10 a.m. and leaving almost at 6:00 p.m.), obviously, there are breaks and there is lunchtime, but still, it is quite a while, plus who could think of having a calm lunch when so much is at stake?

A parent prays for her children's success in the annual college entrance examination, at Chogye Buddhist temple. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

And the madness of this day does not end here, the exam is always the same day every year, that is, the second Thursday of November and it is very common for several companies to start working later, so there will not be so much traffic and students can arrive quickly; another peculiar thing is that in the listening comprehension part of English, no plane takes off and everything is in exaggeration quiet. At the entrance gates there will always be students from lower grades who go to support their classmates and encourage them, and this in itself is an effort, since all examinees are summoned to a different institution from the one they are studying at to prevent them from cheating.

It doesn’t matter the angle from which we look at it, it will remain a very hard test, many of the students spend almost their entire lives preparing, and if they do not achieve a good result, they are likely to wait a year, study much harder and take it again, after all, there is no limit to submit it. If it was you, would you let it go or would you wait to do it again? Even if that means pausing your life for maybe more than a year?

South Korean high school girls cheer on their senior schoolmates taking the College Scholastic Ability Test at a school on, 2008 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Education is very important, but not more than ourselves, and this type of examination helps us to reflect on it. We mustn’t let ourselves be consumed, it is good to have a balance, I think that is the true success of life and with clear goals, discipline, responsibility, and order, not only this exam but any that each of us must face achieving some academic or professional victory, will go from a longing to a reality.

Written by: Sara Varon

Reviewed by: Angie Salavarria

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