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Current unified English test for university entrance to be used until 2023 academic year

The education ministry has decided to continue using the current standardized English test until the 2023 academic year for the uniform university entrance exam even after a new test system is introduced in the 2020 school year as parties related to high schools and universities preferred a gradual shift toward the new system.

The current National Center Test for University Admissions, an annual standardized university entrance exam, is scheduled to be replaced with a new uniform exam in the 2020 academic year. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology plans to introduce the use of privately run English tests as part of the new test system to assess the exam taker's comprehensive English ability -- from reading, listening and speaking to writing.

The ministry plans to approve privately operated English tests that correspond to the government-set curriculum guidelines, and envisions employing such tests as TOEFL and the Eiken English proficiency test in the new exam system. Applicants will be able to take these English tests up to two times between April and December in their third year in high school. The applicants' raw scores from those tests will be provided to universities, as well as their six-level grades based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

The education ministry presented two options last month: switching the current English portion of the national center exam to privately run tests entirely in the 2020 academic year as "plan A"; and continuing the use of the current test until the 2023 academic year to mitigate the impact of a drastic system change on exam takers, high schools and universities as "plan B." The latter plan is also expected to benefit those who failed the entrance exams in previous years.

The Japan Association of National Universities subsequently carried out a survey targeting its 86 member universities, and plan B proved to be more popular among them. Furthermore, a majority of 123 institutions belonging to the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges also preferred plan B, as well as the National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals who requested plan B to be adopted.

In the transition period from the 2020 to the 2023 academic years, each university and college can decide to use either of private English tests or the standardized exam, or to combine both. For applicants, if universities of their choice use both kinds of tests, they can pick the one they prefer. At the same time, the applicants will have to prepare for both if different schools they are applying for will employ either private tests or the standardized exam. Because of this, it is feared that the burden on the applicants could be greater than the current national center test.

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