Big Drops in SAT Korean Subject Test

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Korean with Listening Subject Test as part of the high school students’ SAT is in a steep decline. Some areas of the country are even considering dropping the subject altogether.

In 2016, only 1,891 high school seniors took the Korean Subject Test for their SAT (see chart). That is a 59 percent drop in comparison to 4,625 applicants in 2009. The number of applicants for the Korean Subject Test also dropped to its lowest since there were only 1,938 in 2004.

Korean was first selected as SAT’s Subject Test in 1997. Since 2005, the number of applicants rose consistently from 3,000 to over 4,000 in 2007 to 4,625 in 2009. However, the decline has begun from then on and has not stopped since.

Even in California, a state with the largest population of Korean-American students, the number of applications for the Korean Subject Test has remained low in recent years.

There were only 1,183 in California, which marks an 11 percent drop compared to last year. In New York and New Jersey, two states with relatively high number of Korean-American students, only 31 have applied for the test.

It is conceivable that the drastic drop-off was triggered by the change in thinking among students and their parents, many of whom believe that taking the Korean Subject Test does little to increase the chances of getting into universities. If the recent trend continues, it would not be farfetched to assume that Korean may be dropped altogether from the testing curriculum.

“There have been efforts to increase the number of applicants recently,” said Jong-kwon Park, Korean Schools Association of the Northeast Region. “But we haven’t been able to lead our efforts into tangible results.”

However, some have dismissed the notion that the Korean Subject Test’s impact on students is minimal, suggesting that scoring high on it is indeed helpful in the end.

“In Southern California, many high schools are starting to add Korean as part of their foreign language programs as more and more students, regardless of their ethnicity, are interested in learning the language,” said Ok-bin Kil, the chief of the Foundation for Korean Language and Culture in U.S.A.

“Students who apply to take the Korean test often have a much greater chance of getting into their desired universities, but some parents still believe that the test will not make a difference.”

A recent report by College Board shows that the students who have taken the Korean Subject Test have a medium score of 764, which was the highest among students.

The College Board’s report also mentioned that 6.7 million high school students have taken the SAT and PSAT in the 2015-16 schoolyear, while 1.3 million of them took the test between March and June after the reform of the test format.

By Nicole Chang