On November 23, about 600,000 students in South Korea took the Suneung, a standardized college entrance exam accepted by colleges. This exam, also known as the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), is conducted every November. During their three years of high school, students prepare for this single-setting, nine-hour-long exam. This test is considered the most important exam in a Korean student’s life, for it determines which college they will get into.
During this season, it is common to see temples and churches full of parents praying for the success of their children even a hundred days before the test. Students apply to colleges according to their score results; and, if one does not get into the major or college of their choice, he or she may choose to retake the test, administered the next year.
This year’s CSAT was different from the previous years. Due to a massive earthquake that struck Pohang, a large city in the province of North Gyeongsang, the exam was unexpectedly postponed by seven days. Many students were frustrated at the unexpected delay, and students of Pohang were worried about the possible aftershocks that may occur on the new test date. However, amidst all the chaos, the test ended without further confusion.
“I’m so glad the test is over,” said Yunjae Suh, a senior in Suji High School, in an interview with JSR. “I wish I could have done better, but it’s okay, since I tried my best. Now that the test is over, I’m planning on going on a trip to Japan.”
Korean students prepare for this exam for 12 years, sacrificing most of their free time. Therefore, when the Suneung is over, many students feel a sense of freedom. Students take this as an opportunity to do what they want to do. Many restaurants, shops, and travel agencies offer discounts for these students, celebrating the end of their high school career.
“It’s kind of sad that many students think our past twelve years are determined by one test. Some will choose to study another year, and some will go on and enjoy college. Some may feel discouraged, while some may feel a sense of freedom,” said Sangwoo Park, a senior at Hyowon High School, in an interview with JSR. “As a senior who finished Suneung, I want to say that this single exam cannot determine our whole future.”
College is not everything; it is just a small part of one’s life. Every student has potential, and they should not limit their options based on Suneung or college.