The CSAT English Question So Hard It Made Korean National News

85% examinees got it wrong.

On November 16, South Korea held the 2024 College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), or Sunenung, nationwide. While the exam is notorious for its difficulty level, one particular problem from this year’s paper has made much noise among dissatisfied citizens.

Korean students taking their CSATs | Yonhap

Suneung is often regarded as the most important exam in a Korean person’s life, as it pretty much dictates their future direction. So, when a majority of the students who sat for the exam couldn’t answer specific questions correctly, it raised flags. According to the Ministry of Education, between November 16 and November 20, a total of 288 objections were raised against this year’s Suneung questions.

Image used for illustrative purposes only | The Korea Herald

These 288 complaints were made against different subjects’ questions, but the one question that received the largest number of complaints was question 33 from the English paper. It was flagged 13 times within five days.

Question 33 was a comprehension-type problem, where test-takers had to fill in an incomplete sentence from a passage through their understanding of the passage’s context. There were five options to choose their answer from.

| Reddit

When the question was posted on Reddit along with other problems from the English paper, most users criticized them for the vague and convoluted sentences. A user also pointed out that passages like these are quoted from scholarly essays or books that even native speakers learn only in college or above. Expecting high school students to understand their meanings while sitting in an examination hall is impractical.

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Apart from this particular question, the English paper received 41 more complaints, while the other objections filed included 69 in Korean, 67 in social studies, and 62 in scientific studies.

Though compared to last year’s 663 complaints, this year’s CSAT paper has had fewer problems, the appeals were still reviewed by the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation before the results were published on November 28.

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