The education ministry plans to scrap the unified test for university admissions and instead establish a new achievement test for high school students, ministry sources said Thursday.

Currently, high school students who want to go to a university must take the exam known as the national center test. The National Center for University Entrance Examinations organizes such tests over two days each January. In addition, students need to take another round of tests at the university of their choice.

The education ministry plans to offer the new achievement test two or three times a year and allow students to pick their best results in applying for university admission, the sources said.

It plans to launch the new system in five years at the earliest, the sources said.

A 15-member government panel on education reform will soon begin discussions on the launch of the new achievement test, they said. Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata heads the panel.

The ministry plans to ask universities and colleges to add interviews and essay writing to the second of round of tests.

Responding to the falling birthrate, some universities have already scrapped achievement tests and enroll students on the recommendation of their high school.

National and prefectural universities began using the common first-stage test for university admissions in 1979. The first-stage test was changed to the national center test in 1990. About 570,000 students took the national center test last January.