Entrance exam system faces review

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

The education ministry on Monday ordered a review of how the nation’s unified college entrance exams are managed after delays and slipups affected more than 4,500 test-takers over the weekend.

According to the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, which administers the tests, examinees across the nation faced various problems ranging from noisy heating systems and improper handling of tests, to IC recorder shortages that hampered the execution of English listening tests.

The technical errors caused delays of up to 40 minutes at 58 test sites, NCUEE said.

“We feel sorry for the applicants,” NCUEE executive Hiroshi Sowaki told reporters Sunday night after all the scheduled tests had ended. He noted that although all the test sites had the necessary manuals, his organization must study how to prevent mistakes in their handling.

The National Center Test for University Admissions, more commonly known as “center shiken” (center exams), are administered in mid-January to students applying to state-run and municipal universities. The exams, commonly the initial stage of the screening process, are also required by a number of private institutions.

A number of multiple-choice tests are given in five major subjects: Japanese, social studies, science, mathematics and foreign languages.

This year many examiners failed to hand out the test sheets for the geography, history and civics tests simultaneously, as required.

“Some of our students said they were ignored despite requesting that the test sheets be handed out at the beginning,” Yumiko Takase, a spokeswoman for Kawai Juku, one of the three largest cram-school chains in the country, told The Japan Times Monday. “They’ve told us they felt agitated during the test because of that.”

In another blunder by the NCUEE, examinees at a test site in Miyagi Prefecture were asked to wait for up to two hours after organizers discovered that 200 IC players required for the English listening tests had yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, a noisy heating system at a test site at Iwate University resulted in 49 applicants being asked to retake the exams later this month.

“Such mistakes, especially the technical ones, are very regrettable,” Takase said. “It should be handled properly so that the applicants can take the test in a fair environment,” she added.

The standardized exams were given at 709 sites across the country this year. Some temporary locations were set up for test-takers from the Tohoku region to accommodate those affected by the March 11 disasters.