Posts Tagged ‘Education’

BFD: Korean SAT

In November, every 3rd year high school student in Korea takes the Scholastic Achievement Test, or SAT. Their score on this test determines which universities students can even consider applying to. There’s already plenty of information out there about the significance of the Korean SAT, so I wanted to focus on how else the Korean SAT is a BFD (big f*cking deal).

  • Susi. It’s like Early Admissions in the US. High achieving students can apply to universities before the SAT date and get accepted based on their current grades and test scores. It’s beneficial to apply early since universities fulfill 30-50% of their admissions quota during early admission. If admitted, students don’t have to study as hard for the SAT. However, highly selective universities can retract their offer of admission if admitted students don’t meet the minimum SAT score.
  • Schools and businesses start later. To ensure that high school students make it to the testing locations on time, most schools and businesses start an hour later to minimize traffic congestion as high school students throughout the city travel to take the exam.
  • Gifts. Example of an SAT gift set. Students and their parents receive rice cakes and other gifts to wish them luck on the exam. Neighbors, co-workers and other people in the community pitch in to show their support. As one of the teachers at my school jokingly stated, “Mark next year’s test date on your calendars in red pen – My son is taking the SAT!”
  • 엿 Sticky grain/rice ‘cake’. There are various types of 엿. This sticky, taffy-like confectionery is a common gift for students taking the SAT. At first, I thought it was supposed to signify information sticking to your brain during the test. But, actually it’s supposed to help students ‘stick’ to a top university.
  • 찹쌀떡 Sticky rice cake. Similar to mochi, this rice cake is made from 찹쌀, which is a sticky variety of rice (glutinous rice). It is soft and doughy on the outside with red bean filling on the inside. 찹쌀떡 has the same significance as 엿. Gotta be extra sticky to get into Seoul University!


  • Toilet paper. Not as common as getting rice cakes, but it’s supposed to mean that the test will be so easy, the questions will simply unravel for you like a roll of toilet paper.
  • Fork. So you can ‘pick’ the right answer.
  • Toy axe. In Korean, you use the same verb for axe and fork so it’s like a play on words.

Candy companies and stores like Paris Baguette sell test gift sets to give to students taking the SAT. And I thought I left rampant commercialism behind back in the US.

My English Buddies asked me, “In the US, what do students get when they take the SAT?” uhh a little stressed?

We don’t take it nearly as seriously as they do in Korea. The systems are quite different. As I recall, we don’t get anything special when we take the SAT, especially since there are multiple test dates and the test isn’t mandatory. Did you get anything special whenever you took a test?

Photos from:  mykoreankitchen.com

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