An Education Ministry advisory panel on Friday called for allowing university hopefuls to take the national entrance exam twice a year.

In a midterm report submitted to Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, the University Council recommended that the National Center Test for University Entrance Examination be held in December and January of the same school year and allow applicants to use the better of the two scores in their applications to individual universities.

Currently, the National Center Test is held only once a year, in January, and must be taken as part of all public and some private university entrance exams. Students then take exams designed by each university around February.

Under the proposed arrangement, applicants would be notified of their scores from the December test in time to decide whether to take the national exam again in January.

To make such an arrangement effective, the council urged universities to use the so-called center test as a preliminary exam and allow only applicants at a certain level to take school-specific tests. Schools currently combine the results of both tests in deciding admission.

The council said the center test can also be used to group applicants according to score, and universities can have each group take different entrance exams, such as one for essay writing and another for academic tests.

To reduce the burden on high school graduates who take entrance exams for a second year, the council urged universities to allow those applicants to use the standard test’s scores from the previous year.

Breaking a taboo, the council also called for the recycling of exam questions to maintain a standard of quality. It recommended the national exam center to make a database of past exam questions and use, if necessary, the same or similar questions.

The council also said universities should be allowed to increase the number of required exam subjects if they deem it appropriate. The ministry has long been calling for a reduction in the number of test subjects.

Other recommendations included introduction of a listening comprehension test for the English portion of the standard test, and applying autumn admissions for regular students as well as for foreign students and returnees.

The council has been discussing reform measures on university entrance exams since January. It will submit a final report in summer.