|College Scholastic Ability Test|
|Revised Romanization||Daehak Suhak Neungnyeok Siheom|
|McCune–Reischauer||Taehak Suhak Nŭngnyŏk Shihŏm|
The College Scholastic Ability Test or CSAT (Korean: 대학수학능력시험, Hanja: 大學修學能力試驗), also abbreviated Suneung (Korean: 수능, Hanja: 修能), is a standardized test which is recognized by South Korean universities. The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) administers the annual test on the third Thursday in November. In 2020, however, it was postponed to the first Thursday in December (December 3), due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the CSAT was originally designed to assess the scholastic ability required for college, it is currently a national graduation test for high-school students. By determining the university a student can enter, it plays an important role in South Korean education. The test has been cited for its efficiency, emphasis on merit, and good international results. Of the students taking the test, 20 percent are high-school graduates who did not achieve their desired score the previous year.
On test day, the KRX stock market opens late, and bus and metro service is increased to avoid traffic jams and allow students to get to the testing sites more easily. Planes are grounded during the listening portion of the English section so their noise does not disturb the students. In some cases, students running late for the test may be escorted to their testing site by police officers via motorcycle. Younger students and members of the students' families gather outside testing sites to cheer them on.
The CSAT is designed to test a candidate's ability to study in college, with questions based on Korea's high-school curriculum. It standardizes high-school education and provides accurate, objective data for university admission.
All questions are multiple-choice, except for the 9 questions in the Mathematics section, which are short answer.
|Candidates must enter the testing room by 08:10. For the second to fifth periods, students must enter 10 minutes before the test begins.|
|1||National Language||08:40–10:00 (80 min.)||45||100||Q1–17: Reading|
Q35–45: Elective (candidates must choose between Speech and Writing or Language and Media)
(2 or 3 points per question)
|Break time: 10:00–10:20 (20 min)|
|2||Mathematics||10:30–12:10 (100 min.)||30||100||Q1–22: Mathematics I, Mathematics II|
Q23–30: Elective (candidates must choose between Calculus, Geometry or Probability and Statistics)
(2 or 3 or 4 points per question)
|Lunch: 12:10–13:00 (50 min.)|
|3||English||13:10–14:20 (70 min.)||45||100||Q1–17: Listening (25 minutes or less)|
(2 or 3 points per question)
|Break: 14:20–14:40 (20 min.)|
|4||Korean history||14:50–15:20 (30 min.)||20||50||Mandatory subject
(2 or 3 points per question)
|Collection of Korean history question and answer sheets
Distribution of first subordinate subject papers
|15:20–15:35 (15 min.)||Candidates not taking a subordinate subject(s) return to the waiting room|
|First subordinate subject||15:35–16:05 (30 min.)||20||50||Candidates can choose up to two subjects from social studies, science or vocational education
(2 or 3 points per question)
|Collection of question and answer sheets||16:05–16:07 (2 min.)|
|Second subordinate subject||16:07–16:37 (30 min.)||20||50|
|Break: 16:37–16:55 (18 min.)|
|5||Second foreign language/Classical Chinese||17:05–17:45 (40 min.)||30||50||No listening test
(1 or 2 points per question)
This section has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)
The CSAT consists of six sections: national language (Korean), mathematics, English, Korean history, subordinate subjects (social studies, sciences, and vocational education), and second foreign language/Chinese characters and classics. All sections are optional except Korean history, but most candidates take all the other sections except second foreign language/Classical Chinese.
In the mathematics section, candidates are made to take Math I (which consists of Logarithm, Sequences and Trigonometry) and Math II (which consists of Limits and Calculus on polynomials), and allowed to select one among Probability and Statistics, Geometry and Calculus.
The subordinate subjects is divided into three sections: social studies, science, and vocational education. Candidates may choose up to two subjects, but may not select from different sections at the same time; Physics II and Biology I may be chosen for the subordinate section since both are sciences, but World history and Principles of Accounting may not – the former is in the social studies section, and the latter in vocational education. Only vocational high-school graduates can choose the vocational education section.
In the second foreign language/Classical Chinese section, the candidate chooses one subject.
Most high-ranked universities require applicants to take two science subordinate subjects and Geometry or Calculus in the mathematics section if they apply for a STEM major, and do not accept subordinate subjects in the same field (such as Physics I and Physics II).
In the National Language section, candidates are assessed on their ability to read, understand and analyse Korean texts rapidly and accurately. Its 45 questions of the subject are classified into four categories:
- Questions 1-17: Reading
- Questions 18-34: Literature
Elective topics (select 1 out of 2 options, Q35-45)
- Speech and Writing
- Language and Media
This category consists of four articles, from the topics reading theory, humanities/arts, law/economy and science/technology. Each passage has 3-6 questions. Candidates need to answer questions such as, "Of the five statements below, which one does not agree with the passage above?" or "According to the passage, which one is the correct analysis of the following example?"
|Reading theory||Article about the significance of reading or a reading journal written by a student (Q1-3)|
|Humanities||A passage about a thinker and their theories from the topics historiography or philosophy (Western and Eastern ethics, logic). The questions normally feature a single person presenting their opinions or two thinkers with opposing opinions.|
|Arts||Focus on an artist and their works in the fields of music, visual arts and architecture.|
|Society (Law/economy)||Common law topics are: Civil Code, Administrative law, Philosophy of law, Penal code, Commercial act and the Constitution|
|Science||Biology (especially physiology and biochemistry), astronomy, physics, earth science, chemistry and mathematics|
|Technology||Texts generally focus on how specialised machines and systems work. Recently texts have focused on newer technologies such as 3D modelling and the metaverse|
|Mixed||Some texts feature a combination of two topics. For example, in 2017 September mock exam, a question featuring both the arts and technology was about the scientific origin and the artistic use of concrete architecture. In the 2019 exam, science and the humanities was mixed in a text about the differing viewpoints of Eastern and Western philosophers regarding the universe.|
This category consists of texts from five categories: modern poetry, classic poetry, modern novel, classical prose and play/essay. Candidates may be asked to summarise a single passage or outline a common theme between multiple texts (sometimes of different text types), among many other question types.
Speech and writing
This category consists of 11 questions relating to three texts.
|Question||Text||Text types||Common questions asked|
|35-37||Speech||Transcript of a presentation/speech, negotiation, discussion/debate||Speaking style, content, audience response|
|38-41||Combination of speech and writing||One speech text and one writing text||Conversation style, context, possible issues or corrections, problems to add|
|42-45||Writing||A text written by a student or text outline||Associating the outline with the text, incorporation of various sources, correction, refuting|
Language and Media
Language forms questions 35-39 and relates to four topics: phonology, syntax, morphology and history of Korean. An additional topic may be used to complete the required five, or two questions are taken from morphology or syntax. Media forms questions 40-45 and relates to the characteristics of media and the creation of an online post or message.
All mathematics candidates take the Maths I and II and select one elective topic from three choices: Calculus, Geometry or Probability and Statistics. Calculus is most preferred by students applying for natural science majors, while Probability and Statistics are preferred by students applying for the humanities. Geometry is the least popular, with only 4.1% of students selecting it as their elective.
The Ga and Na type system was abolished from 2022 onwards, which means that students applying for the natural-sciences majors no longer have to study all three topics.
|Base subject||Math I||I. Exponential and logarithmic functions
II. Trigonometric functions
|Math II||I. Limits and continuous functions
|Elective subject||Calculus||I. Limit of a sequence
II. Methods of differentiation
III. Methods of integration
|Probability and Statistics||I. Number of outcomes
|Geometry||I. Conic section
II. Vector on a plane
III. Three-dimensional figures and coordinates
- Second foreign Language/Classical Chinese
- German I
- French I
- Spanish I
- Chinese I
- Japanese I
- Russian I
- Arabic I
- Vietnamese I
- Hanja I
Writing of the test
The test is written in September each year by about 500 South Korean teachers through a secretive process in an undisclosed location in Gangwon. The test writers are prohibited from communicating with the outside world.
High-school graduates and students about to graduate high school may take the test. After the KICE prints test papers and OMR cards, they are distributed three days before the test to each test area. In 2018, there were 85 test areas.
Test monitors are middle- or high-school teachers. Superintendents of each education office decide who will monitor and where they will go. There are two test monitors for each period, except for the fourth period (which has three, because of test-paper collection). Most testing rooms are high-school classrooms, and there is a 28-candidate limit in each room.
Except for the English and Korean-history sections, grades are based on a stanine curve. Grade, percentile, and a standard score for each section and subject are added to the transcript. The standard score is calculated by the following formula:
and are standard scores. is the standard deviation of the standard score, and is its average. In the national-language and mathematics sections, is 20 and is 100. For the rest, is 10 and is 50. is calculated by the following formula:
is the candidate's original score. is the average of the original candidate scores. is the candidate's standard deviation.
Although the CSAT is compared to the US SAT, their relative importance is different.
Since CSAT problems are designed for all high school students, its overall difficulty is not too high. But some of them can be very tricky, which are so-called 'killer problems'. Here are some killer problems that were on the test.
The 30th problem in type Ga of the 2017 CSAT was:
A function defined for , where is a constant, and a quartic function whose leading coefficient is satisfy the three conditions below:
A) For all real numbers , such that , .
B) For two different real numbers and , has the same local maximum at and . ()
C) has more local extrema than does.
. Find the minimum of .
The 29th mathematics problem in the 1997 CSAT had an all-time low correct-response rate of 0.08 percent:
If two equations and have 7 and 9 solutions respectively and a set is an infinite set, , the number of elements in 's subset, varies according to the values of and . Find the maximum of .
The 29th problem in mathematics subject type B (the former Ga) of the 2014 CSAT follows:
and are points on the sphere . and are the foots of two perpendiculars from and to the plane respectively. and are the foots of two perpendiculars from and to the plane respectively. Find the maximum of .
The 30th problem in type Ga of the 2019 CSAT was:
A function is a cubic function whose leading coefficient is , and a function attains local extrema at . List every with from least to greatest as . and satisfy the following:
A) and .
Let . Find the value of .
The correct answers are 216, 15, 24, 27, respectively.
The following question appeared on 2011 CSAT, and had a correct-response rate of 13 percent. The paragraph is excerpted from John Leofric Stocks' "The Limits of Purpose":
So far as you are wholly concentrated on bringing about a certain result, clearly, the quicker and easier it is brought about the better. Your resolve to secure a sufficiency of food for yourself and your family will induce you to spend weary days in tilling the ground and tending livestock; but if Nature provided food and meat in abundance ready for the table, you would thank Nature for sparing you much labor and consider yourself so much the better off. An executed purpose, in short, is a transaction in which the time and energy spent on the execution are balanced against the resulting assets, and the ideal case is one in which__________________. Purpose, then, justifies the efforts it exacts only conditionally, by their fruits.
- demand exceeds supply, resulting in greater returns
- life becomes fruitful with our endless pursuit of dreams
- the time and energy are limitless and assets are abundant
- Nature does not reward those who do not exert efforts
- the former approximates to zero and the latter to infinity
Preliminary College Scholastic Ability Test
The Preliminary College Scholastic Ability Test (PCSAT) is administered nationally. The relationship between PCSAT and CSAT is comparable to that between the PSAT and the SAT in the United States. The PCSAT is divided into two categories: the National United Achievement Tests (NUAT) and the College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation). These tests are more similar to the CSAT than privately administered mock tests, since the PCSAT's examiner committee is similar to that of the CSAT. The CSAT Simulation is hosted by the same institution as the CSAT, and is used to predict the level of difficulty or types of questions which might appear on that year's CSAT.
Although the NUAT and the CSAT Simulation are similar to the CSAT in their number of candidates, types of questions and relative difficulty, the NUAT is hosted by the Ministry of Education for high-school students. The CSAT Simulation is run by KICE and may be taken by anyone who is eligible for the CSAT. Both exams are reliable, official mock tests for the CSAT, and both are graded by the KICE.
National United Achievement Test
The National United Achievement Test (NUAT, Korean: 전국연합학력평가,; Hanja: 全國聯合學力評價) is administered in the same way as the CSAT, and was introduced in 2002 to relieve dependence on private mock tests. High-school students may apply to take the test, and local education offices decide whether it will be administered in their districts. Every office of education in South Korea normally participates in the NUAT to prepare students for the CSAT, and the number of applicants parallels the CSAT. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (freshmen and sophomores), Gyeonggi-do Office of Education, and Incheon Office of Education take turns creating the questions, and the KICE grades the test and issues report cards.
The basic structure of the exam is identical to the CSAT. For mathematics, social studies, science and second language, its range is determined by when it is conducted.[a] In the Korean and English sections, the questions are not directly from textbooks but are constructed in accordance with the curriculum.
As of 2014, there are four NUATs per year; it is not the same for every district, however, and some have only two exams per year for freshmen and sophomores. The NUAT for freshmen and sophomores is held in March, June, September and November; seniors are tested in March, April, July and October to avoid conflict with June and September, when the CSAT Simulation is given.
- 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)
- 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)
College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation
The College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation, Korean: 대학수학능력시험 모의평가) is given by KICE. Unlike the NUAT, anyone who is eligible for the CSAT may also take this test. The CSAT Simulation was introduced after the CSAT failed to set the proper difficulty level in 2001 and 2002.[clarification needed] First implemented in 2002, it was held only in September during its early years. The test has been given twice a year, in June and September, since 2004. It covers everything in the curriculum for the Korean- and second-language sections, and two-thirds of what the CSAT covers for the other sections. The September exam covers everything in every section, like the CSAT. The number of questions and test time per section is identical to the CSAT.
Since the liberation of Korea, South Korea has changed its methods of university and college admission from twelve to sixteen times. The policies ranged from allowing colleges to choose students to outlawing hagwons. Parents and students have had difficulty adjusting to the changes. The changes have been cited as evidence of systemic instability and the sensitivity of the admission process to public opinion.
University and college admissions were first left to the universities, and the first CSAT incarnation appeared at the beginning of 1960. The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction established an early CSAT from 1962 to 1963 as a qualification test for students. Due to the small number of students passing the test, colleges soon had a student shortage. The admissions process was criticized as inefficient, and the government scrapped the policy from 1964 to 1968. A similar policy was adopted in 1969 by the Third Republic of Korea, and the new test was the Preliminary College Entrance Examination (대학입학예비고사); it continued, mostly unchanged, until 1981. That year, the policy was significantly changed. The test name was changed to Preliminary College Preparations Examination (대학예비고사), and hagwons (cram schools) were outlawed. In 1982, the test name was changed again to College Entrance Strength Test (대입학력고사).
The current CSAT system was established in 1993, and has undergone several revisions since then. In 2004, the government of South Korea introduced a 2008 College Admissions Change Proposal; however, it failed to bring about significant changes.
The test, based on national-standard textbooks, is designed to encourage cognitive skills. The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation creates the problems, prints and corrects the tests, supervises the test-making, and sets the test fee. The problems are created by KICE members who are university professors and high-school teachers. Two groups make the problems: one creates them, and the other checks them. The creators are primarily professors, although high-school teachers have been included since 2000. The problem-checkers are high-school teachers. Both groups sign non-disclosure agreements with the KICE. In 2012, there was a total of 696 staff members involved in creating the problems. A member of the group earns about $300 per day.
The 2016 subjects were national language, mathematics, English, Korean history, social studies/science/vocational education, and foreign language/Hanja. Although students may choose all (or some) of the subjects, Korean history is required.
Social studies is divided into life and ethics, ethics and ideologies, Korean geography, world geography, East Asian history, world history, law and politics, society and culture, and economics; students may choose two subjects. In the science section, students can choose two subjects from Physics 1 and 2, Chemistry 1 and 2, Biology 1 and 2, and Earth Science 1 and 2. Vocational education is divided into agricultural science, industry, commerce, oceanography, and home economics; students must choose one subject. However, vocational education may only be taken if the student has completed 80 percent of the expert studies.[clarification needed] Foreign language is divided into German 1, French 1, Spanish 1, Chinese 1, Japanese 1, Russian 1, Arabic 1, basic Vietnamese, and Classical Chinese 1. Students can choose one subject.
After the test, the administrators collect, scan and correct them. The test correction (confirming the documentation and grades) and printing the results take about one month. However, test takers sometimes use unofficial websites to figure out how well they performed soon after taking the test.
The test is taken seriously and day-to-day operations are halted or delayed on test day. Many shops, flights, military training, construction projects, banks, and other activities and establishments are closed or canceled. The KRX stock market opens late. Neither students nor administrators may bring in cell phones, books, newspapers, food, or any other material which could distract other test-takers. Most complaints after the test involve administrator actions such as talking, opening windows, standing in front of a desk, sniffling, clicking a computer mouse, eating candy, and walking. Administrators are warned against doing anything which could distract students in any way.
Pressure to perform well on the CSAT has been linked to psychological stress, depression and suicide. The highly competitive exam is also cited as a contributing factor to South Korea's declining birth rate, as parents feel pressure to pay for expensive hagwon cram schools to help their children study. Critics also say that students from wealthier families have an advantage due to the prevalence of cram schools, and that the test detracts from students' education with its emphasis on rote memorization and topics that are distinct from the curriculum followed in schools.
Number of applicants
|5th Curriculum||1993 (1st)||742,668||716,326||96.45%|
- Education in South Korea
- List of universities and colleges in South Korea
- College admissions in South Korea
- Programme for International Student Assessment
- Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
- 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. After March, social studies include all subjects: geography of Korea, world geography, East Asian history, world history, law and politics, economics, society and culture, life and ethics, and ethics and thought; the science section covers level I subjects (Physics I, Chemistry I, Biology I, and Earth Science I).
- "Member Research Institute". NRCS. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "2017년 대학수학능력시험부터 문과 • 이과 구분 폐지 검토…한국사 필수". Sportworldi.com. August 27, 2013. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "The One-shot Society". The Economist Limited Newspaper 2013. December 17, 2011. Archived from the original on December 5, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- "South Korean students' 'year of hell' culminates with exams day". Cable News Network. November 10, 2011. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "The All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education". NPR. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Plan for 2019 CSAT". www.moe.go.kr. Archived from the original on May 9, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- "KICE's homepage introducing CSAT". www.suneung.re.kr. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- "대학수학능력시험/국어 영역 - 나무위키". namu.wiki. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
- "[2023 수능] 3월 학평 선택과목 응시자 비율 변화…수능 대비 방법은?". 에듀진 인터넷 교육신문 (in Korean). April 15, 2022. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- "Suneung: The day silence falls over South Korea". BBC News. November 26, 2018. Archived from the original on November 21, 2021. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
- "서울특별시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. Archived from the original on June 5, 2014. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
- "부산광역시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Busan Metropolitan Office of Education. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014.
- "경기도교육청 학력평가 자료실". Gyeonggi-do Office of Education.
- "인천시교육청 학력평가 자료실". Incheon Office of Education. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
- As of 2014, the Career Exploration and Second Language sections are tested only in the year's last exam: 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.
- The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education temporarily took charge of testing in 2005, and it was taken over by the Incheon Office of Education in 2007.
- It was a special occasion to take the exam in December instead of November. Sophomores took the NUAT prepared by KICE.
- 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
- "수능 대박나세요!". NAVER Corp. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "대입제도 변천사, 4년마다 손질… 입시현장 혼선 초래". Segye.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "입시제도". Academy of Korean Studies. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "대학입학예비고사[preliminary college entrance examination,大學入學豫備考査]". Doosan Cooperation. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "대학수학능력시험[大學修學能力試驗]". Doosan Corporation. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "수능시험일 감독관도 '조심 또 조심'". NAVER Corp. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- 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
- Liang Choon Wang, The Deadly Effect of High-Stakes Testing on Teenagers with Reference-Dependent Preferences,  Archived October 4, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
- "'It's destroying education': dissent over South Korea's 8-hour college exam". South China Morning Post. November 18, 2021. Archived from the original on October 4, 2022. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
- "한국교육과정평가원 대학수학능력시험 홈페이지".