A female student meditates with palms together before the first session of the state-administered college admission test, Thursday at Yeouido Girls’ High School in Seoul. A mother in right photo also prays for her child at the gates to Seoul High School. / Korea Times photo by Oh Dae-guen
By Kang Shin-who
“Oh, my God! I am at the wrong place,” cried a male student who found himself at Pungmoon Girls’ High School, one of the state-administered college admittance test venues in downtown Seoul, Thursday.
The student, who had made a wrong turn at one of the most crucial times of his life, asked for help from a policeman near the school.
It was almost 8 a.m., just 40 minutes before the critical exam began. Considering his test venue was in Wangsimni, a 30-minute drive away, the college hopeful was in a very urgent situation, but fortunately he got a lift on the back of a police motorbike.
Every year at this time, the entire country goes crazy to make sure applicants for the test won’t be late getting to their respective venues.
Just a minute later, a fire engine came to the exam venue, bringing a female student and her mother. “We called the fire station for help, because we were likely to be late due to a traffic jam. Now, I am relieved,” the mother said.
Members of the Motorcycle Club, “Morning Calm,” also joined the mission to give lifts to students.
“Our members voluntarily give lifts to test takers across the country every year. I already took three students to exam venues today,” said Han Chang-soo, who is self-employed.
Han has been doing the voluntary activity for six years now. “We have about 3,000 members. We usually campaign for a better motorcycle culture,” he added.
The day of the annual state-run college exam is always cold and there was no exception this year. However, families and school friends of test takers gathered around test locations, cheering and wishing all the best for the college applicants.
“Go! Hyehwa Girls’ High School!” first and second grade high schoolers shouted, holding placards with various messages, such as “You are the heroines of today.” Others beat drums, supporting their seniors in the early morning near the entrance of the school.
“I didn’t’t sleep last night. I woke up at 3 a.m. to secure the best cheering spot,” said Choi Soo-kyo, a freshman of the Girls’ High School attached to the College of Education at Sangmyung University.
Some other students dressed as traditional Korean characters, such as a virgin ghost and a death angel. “We did this to relax our seniors,” said Na Il-jin, a second grade student at Daebum High School.
Another group of students brought food and a big urn to serve hot tea to test takers from their school. Some parents accompanied their children and tried to encourage and relax them.
“Relax. I believe you will do your best today, just do as you always did,” a mother told her daughter as she entered the gate of the exam venue. “I will stay here until a bell rings for the first exam,” she said.
Some other mothers and fathers also stayed outside after their children entered the building. Many churches and temples across the nation were also crowded with mothers praying for success.
Similar scenes took place at other exam centers across the country. Some 712,000 students, up 34,000 from last year, took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) at 1,206 examination sites nationwide.
The test, which takes almost 10 hours including breaks, consists of five sections — Korean language, mathematics, English, social and natural sciences, and a second foreign language.
Meanwhile, the committee in charge of the test said that it tried to match the level of difficulty of the test with that of last year’s to maintain consistency.