수능 – The Number 1 Most Difficult Exam of the Year Has Arrived
It’s almost time for one of the most highly anticipated exams of the year for senior high school students, the 수능 (Suneung). Known as one of the most difficult exams in the world.
What is 수능 (Suneung)?
수능 (Suneung) is considered the most important exam for high school students since this exam determines to which university they can go. The students have a total of five subjects in one day. The exam therefore only lasts one day, which is always on the third Thursday of November. The exam exists out of the following subjects:
- Korean (국어), which has 45 questions
- Maths (수학), which has 30 questions
- English (영어), which has 45 questions of which 17 are listening questions
- Korean history (한국사), which has a total of 20 questions
- Social/Science/Career Exploration (사회/과학,직업탐구), which has a total of 20 questions
- Second Language/Chinese Characters (제2외국어/한문), which has a total of 30 questions
On the day itself, there is quite a tight schedule for the students to follow, to be able to finish all the exams in one day. The day starts at 8:10 AM, from this time onwards the students can go into the school. The first exam (Korean, also known as Language arts) starts at 8:40 AM and lasts until 10:00 AM. From 10:00 – 10:20 AM, the students will have a break. At 10:30 AM the second exam starts, which is Maths. This exam is until 12:10 PM.
After this, the students will have their long-awaited lunch for which they have a total of 50 minutes (12:10 – 1:00 PM.). Up next is the English Exam, with which they first start off with the listening questions, after that they immediately go into the reading questions. This exam is until 2:20 PM. Then they have a break again, for twenty minutes, and at 2:50 PM the Korean History and Social/Science/Career Exploration exam starts, which lasts until 4:32 PM. Now the students will have their last break until 16:50. Unless you have a second language, then the student will have their last exam from 4:20 pm until 5 pm.
Now that may sound confusing since the last exams overlap, but the students can choose the number of subjects in the Social/Science/Career Exploration part, which then determines the amount of time a student has. Therefore, the time is different for every person in this exam. See the photo for more explanation. (Click here for more information about the subjects)
After the last exam, the students can go home and the waiting starts. The results are announced the next Wednesday, so they luckily don’t have to wait for too long. This result determines if the student can go to their dream university or not.
What Korea does in preparation for 수능 (Suneung)
Korea takes very well care of their students on this day, as they make sure that no planes will fly over the schools during this day to make sure the students can fully concentrate on their exams, especially the English listening exam. Besides that, some shops are closed, construction work is halted, banks close, and military training ceases. People who walk past the schools will be quiet out of respect, so around the schools there will be no sound at all. All this is done to give the best exam setting for the students, and that they will have no distractions or any other worries except for the exam right in front of them.
Now you might think, what if you’re late for such an important exam? Well, no worries, if this happens, you can go to the nearest police officer and they will bring you to your school with sirens for free. If there are no cars left, they will bring the students on their motor, so they can pass through traffic easily, even if it’s rush hour. Anything to give the student the best chances at 수능 (Suneung). Meanwhile, the parents are often seen at a Buddhist temple (if they are religious), holding their children’s photos and praying for good results. It’s a day of anxiety, nervousness, stress, and silence in Korea.
Korea has a ranking when it comes to the universities, and the higher the ranking the less amount of mistakes you can make on the 수능. The university that is on number one, and therefore the most competitive, is SNU. Also known as Seoul National University. To get into this university you need to be in the top 0,5% of scorers of the 수능. And then still, there is a chance you wont get accepted.
The lower you go on the university ranking, the “easier” it is to get into the univeristy, but don’t expect too less. It is still competitive to get into a univeristy in -especially- Seoul. This has also been shown in the well-known drama ‘True Beauty’, where the main character had mostly B’s and C’s on her repport and the teachers weren’t sure if she could get into any university in Seoul with those grades, even if she scored okey in the 수능 exam. Eventually the 수능 exam has the last word, and will really tell you if you can go into a certain univeristy or not, regardless of the grades you got before the exam.
The top 10 universities of Korea are as follows:
- Yonsei University
- Korea Advanced Institute of Science and technology
- Korea University
- Sungkyunkwan University
- Hanyang University
- Pohang University of Science and Technology
- Kyung Hee University
- Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology
- Konkuk University
If you want to read more about the universities themselves and in what studies they rank the best click here
All in all, this exam is such an important event for not only the high school students, but also their parents and the whole of Korea. Let’s cheer for all the students to do well!
Click here if you want to learn more about the Korean culture