The results of the preliminary university entrance examinations held each January will be valid for two years, the Education Ministry has said.

The state-administered exams are held by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations before the school year starts in April.

Public and private universities use the results of the machine-tallied tests as a basis for selecting students to take second-stage exams. Most of the latter are held in February and March.

It will be up to individual universities to decide whether they will accept exam results from the previous year, the ministry said Monday.

The change was introduced following a report submitted in November by the University Council, an advisory panel to the ministry.

The panel recommended that universities treat the results of the state-run preliminary exam as a kind of certificate. This is to ensure that the system is fair to all applicants in light of the fact that the difficulty of the exams varies from year to year.

High school graduates who take the preliminary exam twice can submit their better results, while universities can select applicants using the average scores from the exams taken over two years, the ministry said.

State-run Shizuoka University said it will accept applications for some of its second-round entrance exams for the 2002 academic year from high school graduates whose scores in the preliminary entrance exams held this year exceed the pass mark.

Beginning next year, the government will also start releasing the results of the state-run preliminary entrance exams to individual applicants upon request.

The exam data have thus far not been made public, with applicants having to calculate their scores based on a list of correct answers released by the national exam center.

The ministry said the results of the first-round entrance exams will be kept at the center for one year and universities that utilize the exam data from the previous year will be required to make inquiries to the center.

Some 479 universities nationwide are expected to use the results of the state-run exams next year, according to the ministry.

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