College Scholastic Ability Test

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College Scholastic Ability Test
Hangul 대학수학능력시험
Hanja 大學修學能力試驗
Revised Romanization Daehak suhak neungnyeok siheom
McCune–Reischauer Taehak suhak nŭngnyŏk sihŏm
College Scholastic Ability Test
2013 date November 7
2014 date November 13

College Scholastic Ability Test or CSAT (Korean:대학수학능력시험, Hanja:大學修學能力試驗 also abbreviated as Suneung (수능)) is a type of standardized test accepted by South Korean universities. It was made official in 1994. CSAT is managed by the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation(KICE).[1][2] The test is offered every November, but the exact dates may annually change.[3] CSAT plays an important role in the Education in South Korea. It is commonly believed that the CSAT will determine which university the student will enter. CSAT is even described as ‘the chance to make or break one’s future.’ Of the students taking the test, the percentage of re-takers are about 20%.[4]

On the test day, the stock markets open late and buses and subways are increased to avoid traffic jams that could prevent students from getting to testing sites. In some cases, students are also escorted by police officers. Younger students and the members of the students' families gather outside testing sites to cheer on the students.[4]

CSAT has been praised for its efficiency, meritocratic factors, and high international results.[5]


Since the Liberation of Korea, South Korea has changed the methods of university and college admission several times. It has changed at least twelve times. Some argue the number of changes can be extended to sixteen.[6] The policies ranged from sometimes allowing colleges to choose on their own to outlawing hagwons. Because of this, parents and students had difficult times in adjusting to the changes.[7] Some argue that the constant changes show an instability of the system as well as the sensitivity of the admission process to public opinion.[8]

The very first methods of university and college admissions were left to the choice of the university. Each university was allowed to do as they like. The first form of CSAT appeared in the beginnings of 1960. The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction established an early form of CSAT from 1962 to 1963. It served as a qualification test for the students. However, due the small number of students passing the tests, the colleges soon had a shortage of students. The process was also criticized to have led to an inefficient selection of students, Due to this, the government scrapped the policy from 1964 to 1968. A similar policy was adopted in 1969 by the Third Republic of South Korea. The new test was called Preliminary College Entrance Examination (대학입학예비고사). This policy continued mostly unchanged until 1981.[7][8][9]

In 1981, the policy was significantly changed. The test name was changed to Preliminary College Preparations Examination (대학예비고사). The cutline policy was scrapped. At this time, hagwons, or cram schools, were also outlawed. In 1982, the test name was changed to College Entrance Strength Test (대입학력고사).[7][8]

The current system of CSAT was established in 1994, although it went through several revisions since then.[2][10] In 2004, the government of South Korea introduced a policy called ‘2008 College Admissions Change Proposal’ but failed to bring about significant changes.[7]


The test material is based on nation-standard textbooks and designed to prompt thinking skills. The KICE is officially in charge of making the problems, printing the tests, correcting the tests, supervising the test-making processes, setting the test fee, and admitting the tests. The problems are created by members of the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation, university-level professors, and high-school teachers. There are two groups involved with making the problems, the ‘creating problem’s group and ‘checking over the problems’ group. The former group is mainly made out of professors, though high-school teachers have been included in the group since the year 2000. The latter group is composed only of high-school teachers. Those involved in making the problems sign non-disclosure agreement directly with the KICE. As of 2012, there were a total of 696 staff members involved in making the problems. A member of the problem-making group is paid around $300 per day.[11]

The subjects of 2014 will be: Korean, Mathematics, English language, Social Science/Science/Vocational Inquiry, and Foreign language/Hanja. Students can choose from all or some of the subjects. The subjects Korean and Mathematics is also divided into type A and type B. Students can choose from which test to take. However, students can only choose 2 B tests to take out of a possible 3, and taking the Korean B test with the Mathematics B test is restricted.[10]

The subject Social Science is further divided into Life and Ethics, Ethics and Thought, History of Korea, Geography of Korea, Geography of the world, History of Eastern Asia, World History, Law and Politics, Society and Culture, and Economics. Students can choose two subjects out of those. In the Science section, students can choose from Physics 1, Chemistry 1, Biology 1, Earth Science 1, Physics 2, Chemistry 2, Biology 2, and Earth Science 2. Students can choose two subjects out of those. Vocational Inquiry is divided to Agricultural Science, Industry, Commerce, Oceanography, and Home Economics. Students must choose one subject. However, the subject Vocational Inquiry can only be taken if the student had completed 80% of the expert studies. Foreign Language is divided into German language, French language, Spanish language, Chinese language, Japanese language, Russian language, Arabic language, basic Vietnamese language, and Hanja. Students can choose one subject.[10]

After the test, the administrators gather the test, scan the image, and correct the test. The correction of the test, including confirming the documentations and the grades, and printing of the results take around a month [10]

The test is taken extremely seriously and other day-to-day operations are grounded and delayed on the test day.[4] Neither the students or the administrators of the test could bring in cell phones, books, newspapers, foods, or any material that could distract the other test-takers in any way. Most of the complaints after the test had been involving the actions of the administrators, involving: talking, opening the windows, standing in front of their particular desks, sniffle, clicking the mouse, and eating chocolate. Test administrators are warned to not do anything that could distract the student in any way.[12]


Pressure to perform well in CSAT has been linked to stress, psychological depression and suicide.[13][14]


Contents on the CSAT
  • Korean, 45 questions, 100 points total, 80 minutes (08:40~10:00)
    • Type A: Literature 1, Reading and Grammar 1, Speech & Writing 1
    • Type B: Literature 2, Reading and Grammar 2, Speech & Writing 2
  • Mathematics, 30 questions (include 9 subjective questions), 100 points total, 100 minutes (10:30~12:10)
    • Type A: Math 1, Basic calculus and Statistics
    • Type B: Math 1, Math 2, Geometry and Vector, Integral calculus and Statistics
  • English, 45 questions (include 17 listening questions), 100 points total, 70 minutes (13:10~14:20)
  • Social Studies/Sciences/Vocational Education, 20 questions each, 50 points each, 62 minutes (14:50~15:52)
    • Social Studies (select max: 2 subordinate subjects)
      • Ethics & Thought, Ethics for Daily Life
      • Korean History, World History, East Asian History
      • Korean Geography, World Geography
      • Law and Politics, Economics, Society and Culture
    • Sciences (select max: 2 subordinate subjects)
      • Physics 1, Chemistry 1, Biology 1, Earth Science 1, Physics 2, Chemistry 2, Biology 2, Earth Science 2
    • Vocational Education (select max: 1 subordinate subjects)
      • Agriculture (Understanding of Agriculture, Techniques in Basic Agriculture), Industry (Introduction to Industry, Basic Drafting), Commerce and Information (Commercial Economy, Principles of Accounting), Marine and Shipping (General Oceanography, Fishery and Shipping Information Processing), Household affairs and Business (Human Development, General Computers)
  • Foreign Languages or Chinese Characters and Classics, 30 questions, 50 points total, 40 minutes (16:20~17:00)
    • Arabic, Chinese, Chinese Classics, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese (1 subject selectable)


Number of applicants[edit]

  • 1993 ~ 1997 (5th Education Curriculum)
Year 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Applicant 784,850 781,749 840,661 824,368 885,320
Examinee 741,538 753,586 822,540 792,554 853,554
  • 1998 ~ 2003 (6th Education Curriculum)
Year 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Applicant 868,643 896,122 872,297 739,129 675,759 673,585
Examinee 832,223 868,366 850,305 718,441 655,384 642,583
  • 2004 ~ 2012 (7th Education Curriculum, 2007 revision)
Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Applicant 610,257 593,806 588,899 584,934 588,839 677,834 712,227 693,634 668,527
Examinee 574,218 554,345 551,884 550,588 559,475 638,216 668,991 648,946 620,723
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Applicant 650,747 640,619
Examinee 606,813

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Member Research Institute". NRCS. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "대학⌒수학⌒능력⌒시험大學修學能力試驗". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  3. ^ "2017년 대학수학능력시험부터 문과 • 이과 구분 폐지 검토…한국사 필수". Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "South Korean students' 'year of hell' culminates with exams day". Cable News Network. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  5. ^ "The One-shot Society". The Economist Limited Newspaper 2013. December 17, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ "수능 대박나세요!". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d "대입제도 변천사, 4년마다 손질… 입시현장 혼선 초래". Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c "입시제도". Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ "대학입학예비고사[preliminary college entrance examination,大學入學豫備考査]". Doosan Cooperation. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "대학수학능력시험[大學修學能力試驗]". Doosan Corporation. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  11. ^ "대학수학능력시험 문제 출제과정". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ "수능시험일 감독관도 `조심 또 조심'". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  13. ^ The Psychological Well-being of East Asian Youth. V 2. Quality of Life in Asia. Yi, Chin-Chun. Academic Achievement-Oriented Society and Its Relationship to the Psychological Well-Being of Korean Adolescents. 2013-01-01. A Ahn, Sun-Young. Baek, Hye-Jeong. P 265-279
  14. ^ Liang Choon Wang, The Deadly Effect of High-Stakes Testing on Teenagers with Reference-Dependent Preferences, [1]

External links[edit]