TPKH is divided into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels and covers Korean history from the Paleolithic era to contemporary history in politics, culture, society and economy. The exam tests the applicants’ knowledge on Korea history and their balanced perspective on historical consciousness.
The number of applications for the test has increased sharply, and about 60 thousand people have applied to take the 16th examination on Aug. 14, a 75 percent increase since the 15th examination in May.
“Students take the advanced level test to qualify for 5th grade level Public Administration Examination and Senior Foreign Service Examination,” said Jang Yong-kyung, one of the faculty members of the NIKH.
“However, recently, as the awareness and importance of Korean history education increased, more institutions and corporations require the test certificates of applicants, which expands the pool of the test-takers.”
From next year, the Teacher Recruitment Examination will require the intermediate level test as well.
Both public and private enterprises such as the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Korea Land Housing Corporation, Woori Bank and Lotte will give credits to applicants who had passed the test. The index showed the enrollment rate of students wishing to work in corporations had also reached a record level, with 19,617 people seeking such employment, showing a 94 percent increase.
However, the exam has been criticized for poor control of the level of difficulty and an inconsistent pass rate, which has led test takers who applied for the 13th advanced level examination to raise collective appeals last October.
A group of applicants consisting of approximately 500 people accused the NIKH of failing to control the level of difficulty of the test and asked to move up the test date one month earlier to meet the deadline for the application date of the 5th grade level Public Administration Examination. The NIKH accepted the appeal and held the test one month earlier on Jan. 14.
Depending on the level of the test, the pass-rate of the advanced level ranged from 4 percent to 70 percent, intermediate level from 18 percent to 73 percent and elementary level from 37 percent to 83 percent.
“The test is becoming a mandatory course you have to take in order to get employed. Thus, I hope they implement a more systematic and standardized exam for the test takers,” said Kang Sang-eun (Seoul National University, 4), a job seeker, who took the test last October.
In order to stabilize the pass-rate and improve the control the level of difficulty of the test, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology stepped in and conducted inspections on the management and operations of the NIKH in February 2012.
According to the investigation, the problems were caused by administrative issues of government officials.
“Failing to adjust the level of difficulty of the test caused the instability of the pass rate in the previous exams, but we are trying to stabilize the level of difficulty as much as possible. Recently held exams have managed to show a consistent rate of successful candidates,” one of the faculty members of NIKH said.
The pass-rate of the 14th to 16th test remained mainly around 60 percent to 70 percent, reflecting administers’ effort to provide level-adjusted exams.
“I think the test is going through a transition period, which is the reason for the changing pass rate. I hope the current level of the rate can continue in the future to avoid confusion amongst students,” said Yoo Su-hyun (Business, 4) who took the test last May.