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2007/12/24 18:05 KST
(LEAD) S. Korean SAT under fire for having question with two correct answers

   SEOUL, Dec. 24 (Yonhap) -- Officials in charge of South Korea's college entrance exam announced Monday there were two correct answers for a physics question in this year's exam that should have had only one answer, sparking public criticism of the exam process.

   "We decided to allow two answers for question 11 in the Physics II section. Number 2 is also a correct answer, in addition to Number 4," said Chung Kang-chung, head of the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE), which administers and grades the exam.

   "I will resign from the post of chief of the KICE, taking responsibility for the incident," he said in a press conference held Monday afternoon.

   The Korean Physical Society publicly responded Saturday to an inquiry made by a student who took this year's state-run College Scholastic Ability Test, similar to the United States' SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, saying that one of the questions in the physics section has two correct answers.

   The South Korean physicists said the multiple-choice question on an ideal gas ought to have stated clearly that the question was based on a premise that the gas was made up of monatomic molecules.

   As the question did not clarify whether the gas was composed of monatomic molecules or polyatomic molecules, the answer originally provided by the exam administrators was not the only correct answer, they said.

   On Sunday, the KICE dismissed calls from the physicists and disgruntled students to allow two correct answers.

   It had said under South Korea's current high school curriculum, the physics textbooks only mention ideal gases with monatomic molecules, not with polyatomic molecules.

   However, according to local media later Sunday, it was discovered that ideal gases with polyatomic molecules were dealt with, albeit briefly, in most of the physics textbooks officially recognized by the ministry.

   "The most important thing was to meet demands of the students who took the exam," KICE head Chung said. "We will try to finish re-grading the exams as soon as possible so that the students with the correct answers will not suffer from point losses."
From the beginning of this month, there has been strong criticism over this year's college entrance exam, as the numerical scores were not released. Instead, hundreds of thousands of college hopefuls were grouped into nine groups, based on the ranges of the students' scores.

   Critics blasted the new system, which was set up to reduce an overemphasis on the exact scores by college admissions bodies, claiming it confused students.

   Further criticism had been expected when the authorities allowed the two answers in the physics section, as it is estimated to change the ranking levels of 19,597 exam takers.

   One correct or incorrect question can change a student's ranking and could result in a change in qualification for college admission.

   "I urge the colleges and universities to cooperate actively with the KICE's decision, so that all the applicants can be judged fairly," said Chung.

   More than 584,000 applicants took the exam at 980 venues across the nation on Nov. 15.

   The applicants were mostly third-year high school students and some high school graduates.

   The exam results were released on Dec. 7, and currently most colleges and universities are receiving applications.

   The KICE did not reveal the exact date when the re-graded exam results will be released.