On November 16, South Korea held its annual College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), which was taken by hundreds of thousands of students nationwide. The test is often considered the most important exam in a Korean citizen’s life, as it pretty much decides their career trajectory well in advance.
Since 2006, this test has always been administered on Thursdays. But that was not been the case since the beginning. The first Suneung (the Korean term for the CSATs) was introduced in 1993, for the school year 1994. It replaced the College Entrance Strength Test after being criticized for focusing too much on rote memorization. In 1993, Suneung was conducted on a Friday. But from 1994 to 2005, the test was held on Wednesdays.
The distribution of examination papers to 84 cities, counties, and districts all over the country usually takes three days. The process includes the time required to transport the papers and the time involved in cross-checking by authorities to ensure all packages reach their destination without any intervention.
After arriving at the designated location in each region’s education office, the exam sheets are kept in a high-security facility until the early mornings of the Suneung day, when it’s sent to the test sites.
For Suneung to take place on a Wednesday, question papers must be transported on a Sunday. However, on Sundays, there are high chances of traffic congestion due to weekend travel. Friday, on the other hand, is avoided by the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) since the bad traffic during Friday afternoons makes it hard to collect the answer sheets after the exam and transport them back to the evaluation center for grading.
Eventually, Thursday was chosen as the ideal day to conduct the test since 2006, as it ensured the transportation of the exam sheets to and from the test centers on time. KICE makes the test schedule through consultations between the Ministry of Education and each education office to designate the best date for students to take the exam.
Another advantage to conducting the exam on Thursdays, as explained by KICE, is that students have the chance to review their test answers with peers and teachers the next day at school and get immediate advice on college admission chances by doing so.
The 2023 Suneung was held on November 16 Thursday, from 8:40 am to 5:45 pm at 1,279 test sites across the country. More than 480,000 students took the test, and around 31.7% are resits.