Executive Education

5 Things You Should Know About the Life-changing College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) in South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Many countries administer a nationwide entrance exam for future college students, and one of them is South Korea. College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), locally known as Suneung, is a prestigious standardized test that is accepted by local universities and determines the future of the students. The importance of this exam cannot be understated since it is actually a life-changing event among Koreans. So, every November, when young students go to test centers and write this exam, they know how much is at stake.

CSAT is an interesting area of study, and everyone should know about it. In fact, I have talked a little bit about it in this article. Should you be interested in knowing about that one day that changes the lives of half a million students every year, read along and update yourself with things you should know. Here are 5 things about CSAT everyone should know.

  1. Everything comes to a standstill
    It is the day that will decide the future of many Koreans, and the society as a whole comes together to ensure that they are given a conducive environment. Stock markets open late and the number of subway trains and buses is increased to allow easier access to test centers. In fact, extra measures are taken to prevent traffic jams which could affect students. In case you are running late to the center, police officers will readily provide you with assistance. You might even hear cheering sounds from outside the test centers aiming to motivate students. During the exam, all flights get grounded and the radio broadcasts are made about the test on EBS Radio.
  2. The Format
    CSAT comprises 6 sections including National Language, Mathematics and Korean History. Barring Korean History, all the sections are optional in nature. The paper also provides for Second Foreign Languages are one of the sections. This section covers German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and others. If you are aiming for a top-tier university, then you must check what combinations of sections you should be writing because different universities have different stipulations.
  3. When did it all start?
    Ever since the Liberation of Korea, major decisions were taken to overhaul the education system, particularly in higher education. However, initially, it was the universities and colleges which determined their own criteria and administered their own entrance tests. It was only in 1960 that the first form of CSAT came into being but under a different name. This exam was later scrapped because of the poor selection of students and was replaced by a new test called Preliminary College Entrance Examination in 1969 but was changed in 1981. Again, changes occurred and it was only in 1993 that the present form of CSAT came into existence. Even the current form has been subjected to many changes.
  4. KICE is the one which does the job
    The administering authority is the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE). It is the responsibility of the KICE to decide the questions, print the tests and supervise the evaluation process. All the questions are created by its members, generally university-level academicians, though high school teachers are often included. KICE holds the responsibility to make the members sign a non-disclosure agreement and provide them with remuneration for their services. The KICE is the authority that sets the rules for the test centers and undertakes strict actions against students as well as invigilators behaving in an unacceptable manner.
  5. Controversy
    Korean society is a conservative society where education is paramount. Considering the life-defining nature of this exam, it is natural for students as well as their families to bear the brunt of the pressure. Reports have found students suffering from stress and depression, Suicide cases have also emerged among candidates. While the paper in itself is not easy to crack and requires a lot of time and effort into successfully qualifying it, it is also the society that is responsible for aggravating the difficulty. Parental pressure is one of the most common forms of pressure faced by students of CSAT—and this has attracted a lot of criticism from domestic and international media.


Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj
Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj is the CEO and editorial director at CEOWORLD magazine, the leading global business magazine written strictly for CEOs, CFOs, top managers, company directors, investors, senior executives, business leaders, and high net worth individuals.