College Scholastic Ability Test

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College Scholastic Ability Test
Revised RomanizationDaehak suhak neungryeok siheom
McCune–ReischauerTaehak suhak nŭngryŏk sihŏm

College Scholastic Ability Test or CSAT (Korean: 대학수학능력시험, hanja: 大學修學能力試驗; also abbreviated as Suneung (Korean: 수능, hanja: 修能) 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 change annually.[3] CSAT plays an important role in 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 is 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, and planes are grounded so the noise does not disturb the students. 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][5]

CSAT has been praised for its efficiency, meritocratic factors, and high international results.[6]

Preliminary College Scholastic Ability Test (PCSAT)[edit]

The Preliminary College Scholastic Ability Test (PCSAT) is a preliminary examination for the CSAT that is hosted nationally. The relationship between PCSAT and CSAT is comparable to that of PSAT and SAT. PCSAT is divided into two categories: the National United Achievement Tests (NUAT) and the College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation). These two tests have more similar sample groups to the CSAT than private mock tests do. Moreover, the PCSAT’s examiner committee is similar to that of the CSAT, so the types of questions resemble those seen in the CSAT. In particular, since the CSAT Simulation is hosted by the same institution as the CSAT, it is being used to predict the level of difficulty or the types of questions that might appear in the same year’s CSAT.

Although both the NUAT and the CSAT Simulation are similar to the CSAT regarding the number of examinees, types of questions, and relative difficulty, the NUAT is hosted by the Ministry of Education targeting only high school students. On the other hand, the CSAT Simulation is run by KICE and can be applied for by anyone who is eligible for the CSAT. Nevertheless, both exams function as reliable, official mock tests for the CSAT and both are graded by KICE.

National United Achievement Tests (NUAT)[edit]

The National United Achievement Test (NUAT, Hangul전국연합학력평가,[7]; Hanja全國聯合學力評價) is administered in the same way as the CSAT. It was first introduced in 2002 to alleviate the dependency on private mock tests. High school students in South Korea can apply for this test, and local offices of education decide whether the test is administered in the district. Normally, every office of education throughout the nation participates in the NUAT to prepare the students for the CSAT; hence, the number of applicants is almost parallel to that of the CSAT. Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education,[8] Busan Metropolitan Office of Education[9] (for freshmen and sophomores), Gyeonggi-do Office of Education,[10] and Incheon Office of Education[11] take turns creating the questions. KICE is in charge of grading and printing the report cards.

The basic structure of this exam is identical to that of the CSAT. For mathematics, social studies, science, and second language, the range the exam covers is determined by when the exam is held.[12][13] In the case of the Korean and English sections, the questions are not directly from textbooks but still constructed in consonance with the curriculum.

As of 2014, there are four NUAT a year; however, it is not same for every district, and some have only two exams a year for freshmen and sophomores. While the NUAT for freshmen and sophomores is held in March, June, September, and November, seniors take tests in March, April, July, and October to avoid overlapping with months when the CSAT Simulation is held (June and September). These two tests are appropriate for relative evaluations such as measuring average score, percentage, or ranks since the PCSAT has more similar sample groups to the CSAT than private mock tests do.

Institutions in charge[edit]

  • March: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (seniors; freshmen and sophomores, 2006–2009, 2014), Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, 2010–2013)
  • April: Gyeonggi-do Office of Education (seniors, since 2003)
  • June: Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, 2014), Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, 2002–2004, 2010–2013; seniors, 2002), Incheon Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores 2005–2009)
  • July: Incheon Office of Education (seniors, since 2007), Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (2005)[14]
  • September: Incheon Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, since 2010), Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, 2004–2008), Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, 2009)
  • October: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (seniors)
  • November: Gyeonggi-do Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores, except 2003)
  • December: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen, 2003)[15]

College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation)[edit]

The College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation, Hangul대학수학능력시험 모의평가[16]) is hosted by KICE, and unlike the NUAT, anyone who is eligible for the CSAT can also apply for this test. The CSAT Simulation was introduced after the CSAT failed to set the proper difficulty level in 2001 and 2002. It was first implemented in 2002, and during its early years, it was held only once a year, in September. Starting from 2004, it is being held twice a year, every June and September. The exam covers everything in the curriculum for the Korean and second language sections; for other sections, two-thirds of what the CSAT covers. However, the September exam covers everything in every section just like the CSAT. The number of questions and test time per section is same as those of the CSAT.


Since the Liberation of Korea, South Korea has changed the methods of university and college admission at least twelve times. Some argue the number of changes can be extended to sixteen.[17] 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.[18] Some argue that the constant changes show an instability of the system as well as the sensitivity of the admission process to public opinion.[19]

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.[18][19][20]

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).[18][19]

The current system of CSAT was established in 1994, although it went through several revisions since then.[2][21] In 2004, the government of South Korea introduced a policy called '2008 College Admissions Change Proposal' but failed to bring about significant changes.[18]


The test material is based on nation-standard textbooks and designed to prompt thinking skills. 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 problems' 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.[22]

The subjects of 2016 were: National Language, Mathematics, English language, Korean History, Social Studies/Science/Vocational Education, and Foreign language/Hanja. Students can choose from all or some of the subjects. The subjects Mathematics is also divided into type Ga(가) and type Na(나). Students can choose from which test to take.

Korean History is Required subject, and if students do not take it, all the scores will be invalid.

The subject Social Studies is further divided into Life and Ethics, Ethics and Thought, 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 Education is divided to Agricultural Science, Industry, Commerce, Oceanography, and Home Economics. Students must choose one subject. However, the subject Vocational Education can only be taken if the student had completed 80% of the expert studies. Foreign Language is divided into German language 1, French language 1, Spanish language 1, Chinese language 1, Japanese language 1, Russian language 1, Arabic language 1, basic Vietnamese language, and Hanja 1. Students can choose one subject.[21]

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[21]

The test is taken extremely seriously and other day-to-day operations are grounded and delayed on the test day.[4] Neither the students nor 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 involved the actions of the administrators, involving: talking, opening the windows, standing in front of their particular desks, sniffle, clicking a computer mouse, and eating chocolate. Test administrators are warned to not do anything that could distract the student in any way.[23]

Listening components during the day of the test will also be broadcast nationwide at 1:10pm on EBS Radio. During these broadcasts, all flights will be grounded, and the general public is advised not to be alarmed by the changes in radio programming on EBS Radio since the programmes during the day of the test are subject to change.


Pressure to perform well on the CSAT has been linked to stress, psychological depression and suicide.[24][25]


Contents on the CSAT[21]
  • National Language (formerly Language), 45 questions, 100 points total, 80 minutes (08:40~10:00)
  • Mathematics, 30 questions (include 9 subjective questions), 100 points total, 100 minutes (10:30~12:10)
    • Type 'Ga': Differential and Integral Calculus 2, Geometry and Vector, Probability and Statistics
    • Type 'Na': Mathematics 2, Differential and Integral Calculus 1, Probability and Statistics
  • English (formerly Foreign Language), 45 questions (include 17 listening questions), 100 points total, 70 minutes (13:10~14:20)
  • Korean History & Social Studies/Sciences/Vocational Education, 20 questions each, 50 points each, 102 minutes (14:50~16:32)
    • Korean History (required subject)
    • Social Studies (select max: 2 subordinate subjects)
      • Ethics and Thought, Life and Ethics
      • 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: 2 subordinate subjects)
      • Understanding of Agriculture, Techniques in Basic Agriculture, General Industry, Basic Drafting, Commercial Economy, Principles of Accounting, Understanding of General Oceanography, Basic Fishery and Shipping Industry, Human Development, Understanding of Life Service Industry
  • Foreign Languages or Chinese Characters and Classics, 30 questions, 50 points total, 40 minutes (17:00~17:40)
    • Arabic, Chinese, Chinese Classics, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese (1 subject selectable)

Number of applicants[edit]

  • 1993 ~ 1997 (5th Education Curriculum)
Year 1993 1st 1993 2nd 1994 1995 1996 1997
Applicant 742,668 750,181 781,749 840,661 824,368 885,321
Examinee 716,326 726,634 757,488 809,867 795,338 854,272
  • 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 ~ 2015 (7th Education Curriculum, 2007 revision, 2009 revision)
Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Applicant 610,257 593,806 588,899 584,934 588,839 677,834 712,227 693,634 668,527 650,747 640,619 631,184
Examinee 574,218 554,345 551,884 550,588 559,475 638,216 668,991 648,946 620,723 606,813 594,617 585,332
  • 2016 ~ 2020 (2009 revision, 2011 revision)
Year 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Applicant 605,988 593,527 594,924
Examinee 552,297 531,327 530,220

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Member Research Institute". NRCS. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. 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 All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education
  6. ^ "The One-shot Society". The Economist Limited Newspaper 2013. December 17, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  7. ^ ko:전국연합학력평가
  8. ^ "서울특별시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
  9. ^ "부산광역시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Busan Metropolitan Office of Education. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "경기도교육청 학력평가 자료실". Gyeonggi-do Office of Education.
  11. ^ "인천시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Incheon Office of Education.
  12. ^ As of 2013, mathematics, social studies and science section on March exams covers the previous year's curriculum for freshmen and sophomores; in other months, the exams normally follows the curriculum. For freshmen, there are ethics, Korean history, geography, and general social studies in the social studies section; physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science in the science section. The categories are the same for sophomores only on the March exam. However, after March, social studies include all subjects—Geography of Korea, world geography, Eastern Asian history, world history, law and politics, economics, society and culture, life and ethics, and ethics and thought—and the science section only covers level I subjects (Physics I, Chemistry I, Biology I, and Earth Science I)
  13. ^ As of 2014, the Career Exploration and Second Language section are tested only in the last exam of the year: the November exam for sophomores and the October exam for seniors. The Career Exploration section covers every subject, and the Second Language section covers German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian, excluding Arabic and Vietnamese.
  14. ^ Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education temporarily took in charge of testmaking in 2005, and it was taken over by Incheon Office of Education since 2007.
  15. ^ It was a special occasion to have the exam in December instead of November. Sophomores took the NUAT prepared by KICE.
  16. ^ ko:대학수학능력시험#.EB.8C.80.ED.95.99.EC.88.98.ED.95.99.EB.8A.A5.EB.A0.A5.EC.8B.9C.ED.97.98 .EB.AA.A8.EC.9D.98.ED.8F.89.EA.B0.80
  17. ^ "수능 대박나세요!". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  18. ^ a b c d "대입제도 변천사, 4년마다 손질… 입시현장 혼선 초래". Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  19. ^ a b c "입시제도". Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  20. ^ "대학입학예비고사[preliminary college entrance examination,大學入學豫備考査]". Doosan Cooperation. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  21. ^ a b c d "대학수학능력시험[大學修學能力試驗]". Doosan Corporation. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  22. ^ "대학수학능력시험 문제 출제과정". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  23. ^ "수능시험일 감독관도 '조심 또 조심'". NAVER Corp. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Liang Choon Wang, The Deadly Effect of High-Stakes Testing on Teenagers with Reference-Dependent Preferences, [1]

External links[edit]