• Jiji

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Annual two-day unified university entrance examinations began on Saturday, with the first test day marred by a stabbing near the University of Tokyo.

The exams, which also come as the omicron coronavirus variant spreads rapidly across the country, are being held at 677 venues nationwide. The first day is designated for the subjects of Japanese, foreign languages, geography, history and civics, and the second day for mathematics and science.

Applicants for the tests totaled 530,367, down by some 4,800 from the previous year, according to the National Center for University Entrance Examinations.

High school students numbered around 450,000, while the number of applicants who have already graduated from high school stood at a record low of about 70,000.

The unified exams help decide admissions at 864 national, public and private universities and junior colleges.

Coronavirus safety measures are being taken at exam venues, with test-takers obliged to wear face masks.

Those who had close contact with coronavirus carriers are allowed to take the exams in separate rooms if they meet certain requirements, such as having no symptoms. People with a fever, cough or other symptoms can apply for makeup exams slated for Jan. 29-30.

The unified exams, which replaced the National Center Test for University Admissions, are the second of their kind. The tests are designed to check applicants’ ability to think, make judgments and express opinions including by having them interpret information from multiple materials.

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