Pandemic must not Disrupt Launch of New University Entrance Exam

A new university entrance examination will be launched in the midst of a tense situation over the coronavirus pandemic. The utmost efforts must be made to avoid confusion by implementing thorough preventive measures against infections at the test sites.

The Common Test for University Admissions, which replaces the conventional National Center University Entrance Examination, will be held on Jan. 16 and 17. The implementation of this new university entrance examination comes as a state of emergency has been declared in 11 prefectures due to the spread of the coronavirus. Examinees must be very anxious. It is hoped that they will be successful.

In order to give consideration to third-year high school students who have been delayed in their studies due to long school closures in early spring, a second common test will be set on Jan. 30 and 31. There is also a makeup exam for special cases. Examinees who are not in good physical condition should not push themselves too hard, and they should consider taking the test on one of these different dates.

Infection prevention measures are important at the test sites. It is necessary to have enough space between seats, and also ventilate and disinfect the test sites frequently. It is also important to have doctors and nurses present and prepare for examinees in poor physical condition.

Infected people are not allowed to take the test, but those who have had close contact with infected persons are allowed to take it in a separate room if they meet such conditions as being confirmed to be negative in a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test and also being asymptomatic on the day of the test. In order to avoid confusion, it is important for examinees and staff members in charge of the test sites to confirm the procedures in advance.

Public health centers are expected to be busy with the increase in the number of infected people. It is hoped that PCR testing will be implemented as soon as possible to prevent a situation in which examinees who have been identified as having had close contact with infected people will not be able to take the test.

A total of about 530,000 people applied to take the common test. It is essential for all examinees to cooperate in order to prevent the occurrence of coronavirus clusters through such measures as thoroughly wearing masks except at lunchtime.

From now on, separate examinations will be held at private universities and national and public universities. Some universities have canceled interviews due to the spread of the virus, while others have canceled individual examinations and will only select students based on the results of the common test.

If the infection situation worsens further, a series of universities may take such measures. If the content of these separate examinations is to be changed suddenly, necessary information must be provided promptly.

After many twists and turns, the use of English tests prepared by private entities and the introduction of descriptive questions in the common test were canceled. However, it is likely that the questions will still place more emphasis on thinking, judgment and other abilities than in the conventional national center test.

In order to cope with the rapid changes in society, future human resources will need the ability to discover and solve problems by themselves. The shift to the common test will be an opportunity for university entrance exams to shift their focus toward thinking ability.

Subjects for the common test will be reorganized from 2025 as high school curriculum guidelines will be updated. First of all, the common test will hopefully be implemented without a hitch so that discussions on further reform will be fruitful.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 15, 2021.