543,000 candidates take unified college entrance exams

Sunday 18th January 2009

TOKYO —

Two-day unified college entrance exams began Saturday with a record 797 schools taking part and a total of 543,981 candidates taking the tests at 738 sites across Japan. The number of candidates was up 596 from last year, and high school students scheduled to graduate in March account for a record 79.3% of the total applicants. Twenty more schools—both two-year and four-year colleges—are taking part in this year’s unified tests, operated by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, an independent administrative agency.

Exams in civics, geography and history, the Japanese language, and foreign languages are being held on Saturday. Exams in science and mathematics will be given Sunday. The exam in English, an option in the foreign language tests, includes a listening comprehension section introduced in 2006 to test the ability of Japanese to communicate in the language. As in the past three years, technical problems were reported with devices used for the listening test. Such problems affected 253 applicants, according to reports received at the center as of 10 p.m., of whom 249 were given a second chance of taking the test.

— Kyodo News

Entrance exams outside localities aim to increase applicants

The Yomiuri Shimbun

To attract top-tier students amid a continued decline in the nation’s birthrate, national universities have been holding entrance examinations outside their own areas in addition to those held locally.

By doing so, some universities have been able to increase their applicant numbers. But experts point out that these universities also should promote their academic merits and not focus solely on increasing the number of entrance exam host cities.

Muroran Institute of Technology in Hokkaido has found the approach to be effective after holding entrance exams outside Muroran. The university set up exam sites in Sapporo and Sendai in 2007 and added Nagoya last year. The university had averaged about 900 applicants in past years, but the number increased to 1,074 last year.

“We think this favorable result comes from our efforts to appeal to high schools and preparatory schools in areas where we’d seen interest from applicants before,” a university entrance exam department staff member said.

Hoping to attract more applicants from the Kansai area, Kagawa University will hold an entrance exam this year in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

According to a Kagawa University survey of the hometowns of last year’s applicants, 47 percent of its applicants were from Shikoku, 32 percent were from the Chugoku region and 11 percent were from the Kansai region.

The university decided to hold exams in the Kansai region because more than 20 percent of its past applicants were from the area and it has a relatively high number of alumni in the area who have children around the age of 18.

“We’re sure that applicants will consider choosing Kagawa University if we make it more convenient for them to take the exam,” said Michio Yamada, head of the university’s entrance exam department.

According to the Yoyogi Seminar cram school, 18 universities plan to hold entrance exams outside of their localities this year. This is an increase from 2007, when 11 universities did so, and 2008, when 17 schools did so.

However, increasing the number of entrance exam sites does not always increase the number of a university’s applicants.

Toyama University’s science and engineering schools held entrance exams in Nagoya last year. The number of individuals who applied for the engineering school increased by 180 from the previous year. However, the number of applicants for its school of science decreased by nearly 100.

(Jan. 14, 2009 Yomiuri)

See also Sunday Japan Times, Jan. 18, 2009 College entrance exams kick off nationwide Kyodo News

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