Preliminary university entrance examinations began Saturday with a record number of people taking the tests.

The exams are being held at 693 locations nationwide. Of the record 602,887 students registered, 552,700 showed up. Foreign language tests were the first of eight subjects tested in the two-day exams.

The number of applicants for the exams increased by 787 from the previous high of 602,100 registered last year. The ratio of those who actually showed up was 91.7 percent, up 0.3 percentage point from the previous year, according to the University Entrance Examination Center, which administers the exams.

The percentage of female applicants was 40.1 percent, the same as last year.

Applicants include 438,015 third-year senior high school students scheduled to graduate in March and 157,812 high school graduates.

A total of 518 universities — 167 public and 351 private — will use the exams as a basis for selecting students to take their own entrance exams later, center officials said.

The number of universities involved in the exams increased by 40 over last year.

Applicants are taking exams in foreign languages, geography and history and mathematics on Saturday. The subjects on Sunday will be the Japanese language, physics and chemistry and political science.

The ratio of applicants to those accepted is expected to be 4 to 1, down 0.1 point from last year’s 4.1 to 1, the officials said.

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