The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has launched a drastic review of the National Center Test for University Admissions apparently by taking seriously criticism that Japanese university entrance exams are too heavily leaning toward assessing the levels of knowledge and skills acquired by applicants to the point of neglecting assessment of their ability to think, judge and express themselves.
In the existing National Center Test, multiple choice questions are used for all subjects. Students choose what they think is a correct answer from multiple choices and blacken a mark corresponding to it with a pencil so that the scoring can be processed by computer. A new unified university entrance test will replace the center test in the 2020 academic year. Although details of the new test system have not yet been worked out, it appears almost certain that for the subjects of Japanese and mathematics students will be required to write their answers in a descriptive manner.
A sample problem for Japanese, which was disclosed in May last year, goes as follows: Students are asked to read a guideline drafted by municipal authorities for protection of the landscape in areas designated for preservation of the appearance of houses and stores on streets and a script of conversation between a father and his daughter on the guideline. They are then asked to answer four questions in a descriptive manner. But they are only required to answer by writing short sentences, like "within 20 characters" and "between 80 and 120 characters."