And right this moment, nearly half a million high school seniors, graduates and others across the country are heading to local test centers to take the make-or-break exam.
This year though, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the atmosphere looks quite different.
It’s early in the morning in Seoul and Arirang’s Han Seong-woo is live on site at one of the test centers to let us in on how the virus has changed the exam day scenery.
Seong-woo, what can you tell us?
Well Mok-yeon, it’s not like years past to say the least.
Outside Seoul High School, where I’m standing, local test-takers are slowly passing through the gates after showing their admission tickets, and they’re doing so with no cheering squad in sight.
In any other year, there would be juniors cheering on their seniors about to take possibly, the most important test of their lives.
But COVID-19 has changed all that.
Not too many parents praying in the cold for their children to ace the exam can be seen either.
I guess the biggest difference, though, is that this time, it’s being held in chilly December, two weeks past the original D-day of November nineteenth.
Not all has changed though.
As it has every year, the government’s doing everything it can to support test-takers on the stressful day.
Public transit is operating in overdrive to help people get to their test centers on time and flights will not be landing during periods with listening sections.
Just last night, a proctor in Daejeon was confirmed positive with COVID-19, putting health and education authorities on high alert. How will test sites, some one,three-hundred-eighty nationwide, operate indoors and also ensure that everyone is safe from the virus?
For starters, as a precautionary measure, there won’t be as many people packed into each classroom compared to before
The reduced capacity means there will be more distance between the college hopefuls who will be taking the exam with their masks on, except during the test-taker identification process before first period and when eating lunch a little past noon.
Plastic dividers have been installed on the front of every desk also.
And test-takers showing symptoms will be moved to segregated classrooms, away from others, to prevent any possible outbreaks.
Seoul High School has prepared seven such classrooms.
As for those already infected, they’ll be able to take the once-in-a-year exam at designated hospitals and treatment facilities and those in quarantine at separate test sites.
That’s all I have for now Mok-yeon, but I’ll be back with more later.