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S. Korean gov’t apologizes for CSAT errors

November 26, 2014
Education Minister Hwang Woo-yeo apologizes for two flawed questions of the College Scholastic Ability Test during a press briefing in Sejong City, Monday. (Yonhap)

Education Minister Hwang Woo-yeo apologizes for two flawed questions of the College Scholastic Ability Test during a press briefing in Sejong City, Monday. (Yonhap)

Grades of some 7,000 students will be affected

By Jung Min-ho

The Ministry of Education admitted Monday there were two correct answers for two questions on the most recent state-administered college entrance exam, a decision that will affect the grades of some 7,000 test-takers.

Kim Sung-hoon, president of the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), which administers the annual College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), offered to resign immediately to take responsibility for the flawed questions.

This is the fifth time the government has admitted an error in CSAT questions since the relative grading test was introduced in 1994.

Monday’s decision followed a flood of complaints from students who claimed two questions from the English and biology II sections were flawed.–

The KICE said it has decided to take both multiple choice answers No. 4 and 5 as the right answers for question No. 25 of the English language section. Also, it will take both multiple choice answers No. 2 and 4 as the correct answers for question No. 8 of the biology II test.

The No. 25 English question asked students to choose one incorrect answer from the five listed, given a graph on the changing patterns of American teenagers’ social media use.

The No. 5 answer reads: “Compared to 2006, 2012 recorded an 18 percent increase in the category of cell phone numbers.” To be correct, it should have been read “18 percentage points,” not “18 percent.”

The No. 8 biology question about how enzyme combines in certain settings also includes two correct answers.

The education ministry and the CSAT administrator are facing mounting criticism for errors on the test. An appeals court earlier ruled in favor of students who challenged the accuracy of one question in last year’s world geography test. Offering a public apology, the ministry said it would revise scores, which affected the grades of about 5,000 test-takers.

On Monday, Education Minister Hwang Woo-yeo apologized for this year’s test errors, pledging to reform the CSAT to make it “more reliable.”

The ministry will form a committee to find problems with the CSAT and come up with solutions, which will be announced in March.

This year, about 640,000 people took the CSAT, which is considered the most important factor in determining students’ college entrance.

Following the CSAT on Nov. 13, the KICE received more than 1,300 complaints from students through Nov. 17. After reviewing the disputed questions with experts, the KICE decided to recognize multiple answers for the two questions.

“We tried our best this time to prevent erroneous questions, one of which was included on last year’s exam. But we made the same mistake again, causing confusion and inconvenience among test-takers, their parents and teachers,” Kim said.

This is the third time a head of KICE has had to resign over problems with CSAT questions.

Analysts said the impact on the biology question will be much bigger than English question because more people will benefit from the correcting of the mistake on the former.

According to private institutions, the decision will likely raise the average score for biology by 1.3 points and will affect the grades of 5,000 to 7,000 exam-takers on a relative evaluating system, where scores on each subject divides into nine grades.

More than 60 percent of the test-takers selected the disputed answer on the biology exam, while only about 10 percent chose the correct answer initially presented by the KICE, they said.

“Those at the top grades will be affected most because high biology II scores are required to enter medical and dental schools,” a spokesman for Uway, a private education institute, said.

The impact from the English question will be limited as only a small percentage of English test takers chose the disputed answer, the spokesman said.

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