The Education Ministry on Thursday said it would apply the existing cutoff score in deciding who would be qualified for admission to the colleges they had failed to enter due to a flawed question in last year's entrance exam.
The decision is likely to leave many students scrambling to add up the numbers to check whether they are qualified, but the actual number of students admitted to their original schools is smaller than expected.
Under the ministry decision, all the students are now given the same points for the flawed question No. 8 on the world geography section of the College Scholastic Ability Test, or Suneung. Those who got the question wrong would see their total scores go up slightly, but since South Korea's CSAT scores get converted into simplified grades, it remains uncertain how many of the students will see their grades go up a notch.
However, a changed grade will not be the deciding factor for admission, as many colleges take into consideration other qualification data aside from the state-run entrance exam scores.
"I don't think there will be a lot of students who narrowly missed the cutoff. I think there will be around dozens or hundreds at most who will be granted admission additionally," said an official from private online education school Etoos.
For students who got unfair scores and are now already attending college, the ministry is planning to allow them to transfer or reapply to schools they failed to enter because of the flawed question.
The ministry's move is an attempt to clean up one of the worst Suneung-related disputes in the test's history. Last year, four students challenged a flawed question, leading to a yearlong legal battle with the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which is in charge of designing test questions.
Last month, the Seoul High Court ruled in favour of the four students and said the question had a fundamental problem. The Education Ministry and the KICE subsequently said they would not appeal the case, and instead will tweak the results of college admissions for the 2014 school year to minimise the damage caused by the cited question.
As a result of the government decision, 9,073 students received a bump in their rating. The Suneung is based on relative grading system that divides all test-takers into nine groups. The ratings of test-takers who got the question right will remain unchanged.
Students can check their new scores on the KICE homepage.
The ministry said it would continue to hold discussions with universities to resolve further complications related to the score change. To provide legal grounds for the unprecedented measure, it will consult the National Assembly.
The Education Ministry is also planning disciplinary actions for high-ranking officials responsible for the fiasco.