Education in Japan (Natalie Collar)
The end of the calendar year is often thought to be a joyful season in Japan. New Year holidays are usually filled with family time, delicious food, and relaxation. While most people are optimistically thinking of what the New Year will bring, third-year high school students are in a different boat. It marks the beginning of the most difficult period in their lives: university entrance exam season. Almost as a rite of passage, exam season puts great pressure on students to perform well enough to get into a top university.
Most high school students will find themselves taking a general exam, similar to the SAT or ACT that many American students take, at a testing center. This exam is held once a year, and all students throughout the nation take the exam at the same time. This year’s exam will be held on January 14th and 15th. Over the course of two days, students will be tested on a variety of subjects such as math, Japanese, English, science, and history to name a few. Once the exam is over, answers will be published in the following day’s newspaper, and students are responsible for checking their own answers; the testing centers do not provide score reports.
Immediate access to test answers is so important to students’ abilities to accurately estimate their scores that Yomiuri Newspaper has created a webpage dedicated solely to providing the most up-to-date information concerning this process. The webpage will provide answers and explanations on the evening the final exam. Looking over the correct answers so soon after the exam will give students a very good idea of their overall score. Knowing one’s total score is important when deciding on which university to apply to, because most universities have a range of acceptable scores. Upon grading their exams, students can assess their performance with the universities of their choice and decide whether they ought to apply or not. Application deadlines for most public universities are usually about a week after the exams, so students have ample time to make their decision.
What is especially unique about this process is that there is only one chance per year for students to take the general exam. If they fail to attain a score high enough to apply to the university of their choice, they have two options. These students can either change their mind and apply to a less prestigious school, or they can become a “rōnin” for a year and dedicate their lives to earning a higher score on the next year’s exam. The latter option is a significant financial burden for the students’ parents, so it goes without saying that all involved parties would prefer students study hard and receive a sufficiently high score on their first try.
This process is the most basic of those students face during exam season. In some cases, there are second exams and even interviews that are required. For students applying to very prestigious schools, there is often a specific exam given by the university. These exams are usually much more difficult than the general exam. As one can imagine, this is a long and arduous process for students and their supporters, so having the correct information, studying hard, and planning ahead are essential to success. With these ingredients and a bit of luck, most students accomplish their dreams of getting into a good school and the next part of their future begins.
- YOMIURI ONLINE「大学入試センター試験、ＹＯＬで解答速報」, 2016/12/28. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/kyoiku/ichiran/20161228-OYT8T50114.html?seq=01
- 河合塾Kei-Net「大学入試の基礎知識」. http://www.keinet.ne.jp/basic/