South Korea students sue after important exam ended 90 seconds early

Originally published at: South Korea students sue after important exam ended 90 seconds early - Boing Boing


Depending on how the test is scored, I can see this being a problem. If it’s the kind of test where wrong answers aren’t penalized, you’re going to want to spend the last minute or so just filling in random guesses. The test ending 90 seconds early could easily impact those students’ scores.


We had an invigilator who seemed to be in his early twenties and always seemed to be wearing a Dennis the Menace outfit.

Extremely distracting in a maths a level



I was going to ask WTF kind of off-brand Dennis the Menace that was supposed to be, but after Googling to make sure my rusty old brain wasn’t just mis-remembering things I found my answer. I was somehow never aware of that. (Or maybe I was and, you know, rusty old brain…)


I remember as a kid, in Britain, the invigilators always used to wear squeaky boots and walk without rhythm.

I mean, you kind have to do that if you wear squeaky boots, else you might attract the worm…


I was trying - and failing - to understand how the last 90 seconds of an 8 hour test could be significant, but that actually makes sense. (I never actually used that strategy on any tests, so it didn’t even occur to me.)


Two Dennis the Menaces and both published around the same time. People in the UK seem to not be aware of the US one and vice versa

One of those genuine parallel thinking incidents


so upset that they could not focus on the rest of the exam

Umm - does the eight-hour stint have breaks?

I mean, if it was at the end of the 8 hours, where is this ‘rest of the exam’ that they could not focus on? And if it was before a break (e.g. at the 4-hour mark) why not add 90 seconds to the second half?

ETA: RTFA explains it thus.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday by at least 39 students, claims that the bell rang earlier at a test site in the capital Seoul during Korean - the first subject of the exam.

Some students protested immediately, but say the supervisors still took their papers away. The teachers recognised the mistake before the start of the next session, and gave the one and half minutes back during the lunch break but they could only mark blank columns left on their papers and were not allowed to change any existing answers.

The students said they were so upset that they could not focus on the rest of the exam,

But they were given the chance to complete the blank bits, so …


Yeah, they got back the 90 seconds to put in those random answers, but what they had to go through to get that time back upset them for the rest of the test (and probably left them unsettled that they couldn’t count on accurate timekeeping thereafter either). So it makes a certain amount of sense, especially given the enormous pressure and importance of the test (where you’d want to be as mentally composed as possible, and anything that threw you off would put you at a disadvantage compared to other test-takers).


More than that- both comic strips were first published on exactly the same day- 12th of March 1951.

Back on topic- these ultra high stakes exams are another symptom of South Korea’s dysfunctionally hierarchical and ultra-competitive society. These 90 seconds matter because it’s the only chance to get into the “best” universities, which are crucial because they’re the door to employment with the Largest companies which dominate the country.


I think the SAT was like this when I took it forever ago. You got points for correct answers, but didn’t lose points for wrong answers, so if you were running out of time, there was no penalty for just guessing. You at least had a 20% (or 25%? I don’t remember if it was ABCD or ABCDE) chance of getting it right, where leaving it blank had a 0% chance of getting it right. I don’t remember needing to resort to that strategy, but I remember them telling us about it.


Ha, back when I took PSAT/SATs, a wrong answer was worse than a blank one, so the strategy was answer the ones you can quickly first, then go back and do the ones that you can answer but take time next, then look at the ones you’re not sure of. If you could eliminate at least two answers to a given question, it was to your advantage to guess, but if not, just leave it blank.

I think the newer system is better, and certainly would make test-taking less stressful.

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Yeah, I do remember being told the strategy, but if I did any sort of guessing, it was based on my gut feeling (and having eliminated possibilities) after having just read the question, not a random, cold guess later.


In high school, we had one materials science teacher who would set his chair on his desk and watch us from that seated location during tests. We called him Gargoyle Jim.

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I spent 3 months working in Korea and from what I saw the work/life balance there is even more out of whack than it is in the U.S. Working at least half days on Saturdays is the norm, even when there’s no important work to be done. And those guys are serious drinkers of coffee in the morning and of various strong libations in the evening, with folks frequently being pressured to go out drinking with the bosses and coworkers after work. Even the housing at the place I was working was company-owned, so if you did something at home that was against the rules (like have friends of the opposite sex come to visit) your boss would hear about it.

As far as these high-stakes tests go, I’ve read that the Gaokao test in China is even worse. 12 hours long, with extreme pressure put on students to do well.


It’s actually more like eight hours of tests in different subjects.


I hope it wasn’t raining during any of your tests - that would have been very distracting! Or maybe he was actually a grotesque? :thinking:,has%20no%20functional%20architectural%20purpose.


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