Dispute escalates over college exam questions

Dispute escalates over college exam questions

SOUTH KOREA - Controversy is simmering over allegations that a question did not have a correct answer on the national college entrance exam, where even a one-point difference can make or break the fate of college applicants.

Students, parents and teachers have raised a number of complaints about an ambiguous or erroneous question and answers for the past three weeks. The dispute took a new turn Friday as a group of students filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education, claiming that they received incorrect scores.

Last Wednesday the ministry released the test scores of more than 606,000 students who took the College Scholastic Ability Test on Nov. 7.

The 38 students suing the ministry claim that the test organizers chose an incorrect answer to question 8 in the geography section.

The multiple-choice question asked examinees to choose the correct statement about the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement blocs. One of four examples given was that the EU's combined gross domestic product is bigger than that of the NAFTA members.

The problem was the year for the GDP data was not clearly mentioned. Test organizer Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation decided that the explanation on GDP was sufficient and gave three points to students who chose that answer.

Students and teachers claim that NAFTA's gross output is actually bigger than the EU's. In fact, according to the 2012 World Bank data, the output of the European Union was US$16.6 trillion (S$20.8 trillion), compared with $18.7 trillion for NAFTA members.

The test organizer, however, explained that the question was taken from textbooks and the books all stated that the EU had a larger GDP based on data from 2007 to 2010.

"I'm sorry to bring confusion to students. We, however, won't change our answer," Seong Tae-je, president of KICE, said in a news conference, insisting that the disputed question was not problematic.

Students wrote angry responses on the KICE homepage. One student noted: "The question itself is very misleading because it did not specify which year."

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