College Scholastic Ability Test
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College Scholastic Ability Test or CSAT (Korean: 대학수학능력시험, hanja: 大學修學能力試驗; also abbreviated as Su-neung (Korean: 수능, hanja: 修能)) is a standardized test accepted by South Korean universities. The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) administers the test every third Thursday of November. In 2020, the test was delayed to the first Thursday of December (December 3, 2020, KST).
|College Scholastic Ability Test|
|Revised Romanization||Daehak suhak neungryeok siheom|
|McCune–Reischauer||Taehak suhak nŭngryŏk sihŏm|
Though first designed to just assess scholastic ability required for education in college, it now functions as national graduation for those leaving high school. By determining which university the student can enter, the CSAT plays an important role in education in South Korea. It has been praised for its efficiency, meritocratic factors, and high international results. Of the students taking the test, 20% are re-takers, high school graduates who did not achieve the score they wanted the previous year.
On the test day, the stock markets open late, and bus and subway frequency is increased to avoid traffic jams and allow greater ease for students to get to the testing sites. Planes are grounded so the noise does not disturb the students. In some cases, students running late to the test may be escorted to their testing site by police officers. Younger students and the members of the students' families gather outside testing sites to cheer on the students.
CSAT is designed for testing candidates' ability to study in colleges, with questions based on the high school curriculum of Korea. It normalizes high school education, and provides accurate and objective material for college admission.
All questions are multiple-choice, except for the second part of the Mathematics section.
|Period||Subject||Time||Number of Questions||Points||Notes|
|Candidates must enter the test room by 08:10. For the periods from second to fifth, students must enter 10 minutes before the test starts.|
|1||Korean||08:40–10:00 (80 min)||45||100|
|Break time: 10:00–10:20 (20 min)|
|2||Mathematics||10:30–12:10 (100 min)||30||100||
|Lunch time: 12:10–13:00 (50 min)|
|3||English||13:10–14:20 (70 min)||45||100||
|Break time: 14:20–14:40 (20 min)|
Subordinate Subjects (Social Studies, Sciences, Vocational Education)
|14:50–16:32 (102 min total)|
|Korean History||14:50–15:20 (30 min)||20||50||
|Time to collect test papers for Korean History
and distribute those for subordinate subjects
|15:20–15:30 (10 min)||
|First subordinate subjects||15:30–16:00 (30 min)||20||50||
|Time to collect test papers for the first subordinate subjects||16:00–16:02 (2 min)|
|Second subordinate subjects||16:02–16:32 (30 min)||20||50|
|Break time: 16:32–16:50 (18 min)|
|5||Second Foreign Languages/Classical Chinese||17:00–17:40 (40 min)||30||50||
CSAT consists of 6 sections: National Language (Korean), Mathematics, English, Korean History, Subordinate Subjects (Social Studies/Sciences/Vocational Education), and Second Foreign Languages/Chinese Characters and Classics. All sections are optional with the exception of the Korean History Section, which is required for all candidates. Despite this, most candidates choose to take all sections except for Second Foreign Languages/Chinese Characters and Classics. For the Mathematics section, candidates choose to take either 'type Ga(가형)' or 'type Na(나형)'. The former is more difficult than the latter. Subordinate Subjects is divided into three sections: Social Studies, Sciences, and Vocational Education. Candidates can choose up to two subjects, but can't select from different sections at the same time. For example, one can choose Physics II and Biology I for the subordinate section since both are in the Science section, but one can't choose World History and Principles of Accounting because the former is in the Social Studies section and the latter is in the Vocational Education section. Only candidates who graduated vocational high school can choose the Vocational Education section. In the Second Foreign Languages/Chinese Characters and Classics section, the candidate chooses only one subject. Most high-ranked universities require applicants to take two science subordinate subjects and type Ga in the Math section if they apply to STEM major. In this case, they don't also accept combinations of subordinate subjects in the same field, such as Physics I + Physics II.
In the National Language section, candidates are assessed on their ability to read, understand and analyse given texts written in Korean fast and accurately. The 45 questions of the subject are classified into four categories:
- Speech and Writing (10 questions)
- Grammar (5 questions)
- Reading (15 questions)
- Literature (15 questions)
Speech and WritingEdit
This category consists of three written passages with 10 questions. The first passage is the script of a lecture or radio program (Speech), the second one is the script of a debate about an article (Speech and Writing), and the last one is an argumentative essay (Writing). Although the name includes 'Speech', candidates do not really speak; they just read the written scripts.
This category consists of five questions, two of which relate to a given passage. Candidates are assessed on their ability to apply the knowledge of Korean grammar and Hangul. Knowledge of Korean history from the 15th century to the present is required as well. It is suggested to spend about 20 minutes on this and the Speech and Writing sections to save time for the longer Reading and Literature sections.
This category consists of three articles, each with 4, 5, or 6 questions. The given articles are notoriously long and are on the topic of abstract and complicated issues; Physics, Engineering, Economics, Law, Philosophy, or Aesthetics may be chosen for the topic. Recently, the topics have often been presented in fusion with each other. 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?". Many students lose the most points here.
This category consists of four texts, each with 3, 4, 5, or 6 questions. The first text is a comparison of modern Korean novel and scenario or Play script. The second one is a comparison of two modern Korean poems. The third one is part of Korean novel or Pansori and the last one is a Korean poem, both of which were written between the Silla and Joseon eras (Middle ages in West). Candidates must determine which answer is the most accurate impression of the given text.
The mathematics section is divided into type Ga and type Na. Type Ga, usually taken by students applying for natural sciences majors, is based on Calculus, Geometry, Vectors, and Probability and Statistics, all of which are subjects taught in High school in South Korea. Type Na, usually taken by students applying for the humanities, is based on Probability and Statistics. Most candidates choose to take type Na when they apply to CSAT. Below are the contents of base subjects.
|Ga||Calculus||I. Limit of sequence
II. Limit and Continuity of Function
III. Derivation of Polynomial Function
IV. Integration of Polynomial Function
VI. Trigonometric function
|Geometry and Vector||I. Curve on plane
II. Vector on plane
III. Three-dimensional Figure and Coordinate
IV. Vector in Three Dimension
Operations of the vector in three dimension, Equation of a plane
|Both||Probability and Statistics||I. Permutation and Combination
|Ethics||Life and Ethics||Philosophy||Introduction to Ethics, Teleological / Deontological Ethics, Aquinas, Stoicism, Kant, Utilitarianism, Virtue ethics, Rawls, MacIntyre, Habermas|
|Ethics and Thoughts||Eastern philosophy: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Korean philosophy
Western philosophy: Sophist, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Hellenism, Christianity, Scholasticus, Protestantism, Empiricism, Rationalism, Bacon, Hobbes, Hume, Descartes, Spinoza, Utilitarianism, Mill, Bentham, Kant, Practical ethics, Existentialism, Virtue ethics, Communitarianism, Democracy, Social contract, Natural law, Capitalism, Socialism
|Geography||Korean Geography||Geography||Geography, ecosystem and climate of the Korean peninsula, Korean industrial structure based on geography, Specialties of provinces and North Korea|
|World Geography||World map, Climate by latitude, Unique landforms in the world, Distributions of ethnic groups, languages, and resources, Globalization, Regional conflicts|
|History||East Asia History||History||History of Korea, China, Japan, and Vietnam|
|World History||History of the world, especially Eurasia|
|Political Science||Politics and Laws||Law||Political and legal philosophy, Electoral system, Constitutional law, Presidential / Parliamentary / Dual executive System, History of Korean Politics, Structure of Korean three offices, Civil, criminal and social law of Korea, International law|
|Economics||Economics||Division of labor, Supply and demand, Unemployment, Inflation, Trade, Exchange rate, Asset management, History of Korean economics, and plenty of graphs|
|Society and Culture||Sociology||Structural functionalism, Conflict theories, Symbolic interactionism, Social research methods, Socialization, Social group, Deviance, Anomie, Durkheim, Merton, Culture, Social inequality, Marxian class theory, Social stratification, Poverty, Gender, Welfare, Modernization theory, Cyclical theory, Evolutionary theory, Industrialisation, Unemployment, Globalization|
|Science||Physics||Physics I||Physics||Classical mechanics in One dimension, Theory of relativity, Electromagnetism: Electromagnetic induction and Faraday's law of induction, Properties of wave, Principles of semiconductor, Torque, Archimedes' principle, Pascal's law, Bernoulli's principle, Laws of thermodynamics|
|Physics II|| I. Classical mechanics: Classical mechanics in Two dimension, Harmonic oscillator, Laws of thermodynamics, proof of Ideal gas law
|Chemistry||Chemistry I||Chemistry||Chemical formula, Avogadro constant, Mole, Periodic table, Bohr model, Atomic orbital, Spin, Pauli exclusion principle, Hund's rules, Aufbau principle, Octet rule, Covalent bond, Ionic bonding, Coordinate covalent bond, Bond dipole moment, Acid-base, Reduction-oxidation, Structure of DNA|
|Chemistry II||Van der Waals force, Hydrogen bond, Ideal Gas equation, Mole fraction, Dalton's law, Cubic crystal system, Raoult's law, Vapor pressure, Heat of reaction, Hess's law, Enthalpy, Gibbs free energy, Chemical equilibrium: Phase diagram, Solubility equilibrium, ionization equilibrium, Buffer solution|
|Biology||Biology I||Biology||DNA, Gene, Chromosome, Structure of Cell, Cell division, Cell cycle, Mendelian inheritance, Anatomy, ATP, Ecology|
|Biology II||Deepened version of Biology I, Hardy–Weinberg principle, Evolution|
|Earth Science I||Geology||Spheres: Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Geosphere, Biosphere,|
|Earth Science II||Seismic wave, Gravity and Magnetic field of the Earh, Mineral, Magma, Sedimentary rock, Metamorphic rock, Hydrodynamic equilibrium, Adiabatic process, Ekman spiral, Sea water, Atmospheric circulation, Star, Milky Way, Big Bang, Dark energy|
|Basic Fishery and
- Second Foreign Languages/Classical Chinese
- German I
- French I
- Spanish I
- Chinese I
- Japanese I
- Russian I
- Arabic I
- Vietnamese I
- Classical Chinese I
One who has graduated high school or passed GED has the opportunity to apply for the test. Students about to graduate high school can apply as well.
Distributing test papers and OMR cardsEdit
After KICE prints all test papers and OMR cards, they are distributed 3 days before the test to each test area by Police and each education office. In 2018, there were 85 test areas.
All test monitors are either middle school or high school teachers. Superintendents in each education office decide who will monitor and where they will go. There are two test monitors for each period, with the exception of the fourth period which has three monitors because of the test paper collection. Most testing rooms are classrooms in high schools. There can be no more than 28 candidates in each testing room.
Except for the English section and the Korean History section, all grades are based on a curve, by Stanine. Grade, percentile, and a standard score of each section and subject are written in the transcript. The standard score is calculated by the formula below:
is standard score. is Z score. is standard deviation of the standard score. is average of the standard score. In National Language and Mathematics section, is set to be 20 and is set to be 100. For the rest, is 10 and is 50. is calculated by the formula below:
is the candidate's original score. is the average of the original scores of candidates in the subject. is the standard deviation of candidates in the subject.
The CSAT is often compared to the American SAT, though the importance in both countries is fairly different. SAT Math is generally thought of as easier than CSAT Math.
Below is the 30th problem in Mathematics subject type Ga of CSAT held in 2016.
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 .
Below is the 29th problem in Mathematics subject for all applicants of CSAT held in 1996 that had the lowest correct response rates of all time: 0.08%.
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 .
Geometry and VectorEdit
Below is the 29th problem in Mathematics subject type B, previous name of type Ga, of CSAT held in 2013.
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 .
Below is a notorious question that appeared in the English language portion of the 2010 CSAT. It had a correct response rate of 9.77%. The article is extracted from J. L. 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.
① demand exceeds supply, resulting in greater returns
② life becomes fruitful with our endless pursuit of dreams
③ the time and energy are limitless and assets are abundant
④ Nature does not reward those who do not exert efforts
⑤ the former approximates to zero and the latter to infinity
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, Korean: 전국연합학력평가,; 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, Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (for freshmen and sophomores), Gyeonggi-do Office of Education, and Incheon Office of Education 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. 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 the 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 chargeEdit
- 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 (CSAT Simulation)Edit
The College Scholastic Ability Test Simulation (CSAT Simulation, Korean: 대학수학능력시험 모의평가) 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 the 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. 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. Some argue that the constant changes show an instability of the system as well as the sensitivity of the admission process to public opinion.
The very first methods of university and college admissions were left to the choice of the university. The first form of CSAT appeared at the beginning 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 to 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.
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).
The current system of CSAT was established in 1993, although it went through several revisions since then. In 2004, the government of South Korea introduced a policy called 2008 College Admissions Change Proposal but failed to bring about significant changes.
The test material is based on nation-standard textbooks and designed to prompt thinking skills. The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation 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 KICE, university-level professors, and high-school teachers. There are two groups involved with making the problems, the 'creating problems' group and the '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.
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 subject Mathematics is also divided into type Ga(가) and type Na(나). Students can choose from which test to take.
Korean History is a 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.
After the test, the administrators gather the test, scan the image, and correct the test. The correction of the test, including confirming the documentation and the grades, and printing of the results take around a month.
The test is taken extremely seriously and other day-to-day operations are grounded and delayed on the test day. 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 involved the actions of the administrators, involving talking, opening the windows, standing in front of their particular desks, sniffling, clicking a computer mouse, and eating chocolate. Test administrators are warned to not do anything that could distract the student in any way.
Listening components during the day of the test will also be broadcast nationwide at 1:10 pm 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 programs during the day of the test are subject to change.
Number of applicantsEdit
- 1993–1997 (5th Education Curriculum)
|Year||1993 1st||1993 2nd||1994||1995||1996||1997|
- 1998–2003 (6th Education Curriculum)
- 2004–2015 (7th Education Curriculum, 2007 revision, 2009 revision)
- 2016–2020 (2009 revision, 2011 revision)
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- 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)
- 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.
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- It was a special occasion to have the exam in December instead of November. Sophomores took the NUAT prepared by KICE.
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