Students wishing to enter university took their Korea’s College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), also known as Suneung, on Nov. 18, akin to the American SAT exam. Test-taking is the most popular method to evaluate students’ readiness for college. However, the examination systems vary around the world. Ewha Voice interviewed a Korean student attending Ewha and exchange students from South America and Europe to find out how their national college entrance systems differ.
Give it your best, and don’t look back
#Korea #CSAT #CollegeScholasticAbilityTest
Lee Yun-jin, a sophomore majoring in English Language and Literature at Ewha, has experienced Suneung twice before entering university.
In South Korea, there are generally two major approaches when applying for college, jeongshi and sushi. Jeongshi is a process of being evaluated solely based on the students’ grades on Suneung, which is only held once a year. On the other hand, sushi is an evaluation based on students’ high school transcripts culminating in their grade point average (GPA) and extracurricular activities in school. Unlike jeongshi, there are various types of applications within sushi, taking the university’s individual essay test being one of them.
According to Lee, students’ high school GPA and school extracurricular activities related to their field of interest are vital when preparing for college.
“It is good to be strong at both,” Lee said. “But if your high school GPA is exceptionally high, even if your extracurriculars are a bit weak you still have a high chance of getting accepted, and vice versa.”
Schools in Korea, including Lee’s former high school, Ewha Girls’ Foreign Language High School, are also very cooperative in fostering an optimal study environment for students.
“Seniors were always granted the right to be first in line at lunch time before any students,” Lee said. “So they could quickly finish lunch and spend the rest of lunch time studying without interruption.”
It is well known that many Korean students take education very seriously. They push themselves to the limit to get into their dream universities. Lee goes as far as to refer to students as “studying machines.”
“A typical day of a Korean high school student is going to school early in the morning and heading straight to academies or study rooms after school until late at night,” Lee said.
The unbalanced lifestyle, though, has its consequences. Lee emphasized that health concerns are a common issue for students. Looking back at her own time preparing for college, she recalls frequent visits to the doctors due to sitting for long hours, lack of sleep and exercise, and the pressure for good results.
“At times when we feel too sleepy during class, we would go study at the standing desks in the back of the classroom to wake up,” she said. “But my friends and I often spotted each other dozing off no matter what, and we would laugh not only because it was funny, but also because we felt sorry for each other.”
Based on her own experiences, Lee gave a word of advice to students currently experiencing the same intense years preparing for college.
“Try your hardest until the very last day of the time given, harder than you have ever tried in your life,” she advised. “But once your time is up, do not dwell too much on the results.”
Preparing for Suneung can be daunting for the youths in South Korea. But Lee promises that in the end, having gone through Korea’s tough college entrance process itself will work as a motivation to overcome any hardships in life afterwards.
Trust yourself, for it is not the end of the world
#Chile #PSU #PruebadeSelecciónUniversitaria
Now majoring in Civil Industrial Engineering in Chile, Raimundo José Völker del Campo is in his fifth year of university as an exchange student at Ewha. For many Ewha students interested in college entrance exam systems in South America, he shared his experience in entering college.
For Chilean students, the Prueba de Selección Universitaria (PSU) is their ticket to further studies at university. The exam lasts for two days, covering four independent subjects: math, Spanish, science, and history. While math and Spanish are mandatory, students can choose between science and history, or both. The test consists of 80 questions, each of them multiple-choice, and the scores determine students’ choices of schools and majors.
“Your condition on the two days of PSU has a strong influence on the result,” Raimundo said. “Also, the high school you come from is important, too, because the gap on the quality of education in Chile is large between private and public schools.”
Students can enroll in an afterschool institution called “Preuniversitario” that helps students prepare for the exam, but because of its costs, those who cannot afford to enter are often excluded. Fortunately, most students find the materials for studying on the Internet. This somewhat levels the playing field, eventually making the results mainly depend on the time invested in preparing to sit the exam.
“In my case, the exam was not such a bad experience besides the noise from the construction site near the testing ground,” Raimundo said. “I prepared a lot, and the result proved it. I was able to enter the university and the major that I wanted with a scholarship.”
Chile’s testing methods have their downsides, and Raimundo agrees. For him, time, costs, and question formats are the biggest shortcomings. Every year, there is only one opportunity to take the exam. If a student, for any reason, fails to attend the test, they must wait another year with no refunds on enrollment costs. Raimundo also thinks that the test based solely on multiple choice fails to consider writing and speaking abilities.
Overall, Raimundo thinks that there is a golden rule for any student preparing for their final exams: to be confident in yourself.
“If you have prepared for it, then take a leap of faith,” he said. “It is not the end of the world. You have other opportunities in life. Do not think that one paper is going to determine your worth.”
Survive tough times by finding mental comfort
Austrian student Sophie Marie Hennerbichler, majoring in MultiMediaArt with a focus on Media Design, is now in South Korea on an exchange with Ewha. For students unaware of the college entrance exams in Europe, Hennerbichler gave an explanation with her own experience.
In Austria, the entrance test for public universities is considered fairly easy among students. Contrary to other university systems worldwide, Austria's challenge lies at the end of the first semester of university.
The Studies Introduction and Orientation Phase (StEOP) exam, taking place after the first semester, is extremely challenging. It is the main reason why many students who are not cut out for their fields drop out.
The students' saving grace, however, is that they have three chances to pass. As long as they do not flounder the third time around, their grades are not affected.
Hennerbichler is a student at the University of Applied Sciences Salzburg, with a limited number of free spots every year. Since StEOP exams are not applied in universities of applied sciences, she has gone through a unique process in college entrance. For art majors, the faculty posts four different tasks, one for each department in her major. Students can choose the task of the department they want to enroll in and hand in a project.
“My task was to submit a graphic design project about the theme of ‘Filter Bubbles’ by Eli Pariser,” Hennerbichler said. “After succeeding in turning in a project of three interactive posters, I was invited to the next step of the exam, which was writing two essays, one in English and one in German.”
Moreover, Hennerbichler had to present her portfolio and convince the head of the department of her potential in an interview. Soon after, she was accepted into her dream university three years after her first attempt.
For Hennerbichler, making the StEOP exams more manageable and increasing the difficulty of the initial university exam would be ideal. On the contrary, she likes how her department, MultiMediaArt, is handling the entrance process.
“Entering college is a stressful period for most people, but students should try and find a way to relax,” Hennerbichler said. “In my case, I like reading for fun to get my mind off things.”