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University of Tokyo plans to reject private English tests as admission requirement

This Nov. 19, 2016 file photo shows the University of Tokyo's Hongo campus, in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward. (Mainichi)

The University of Tokyo has decided on a policy of not using privately run English tests -- that are due to be brought in as part of a new university admission exam system in the 2020 academic year -- to select new students, the university said on March 10.

Instead, the prestigious university intends to use the results of an existing mark sheet-style test which will be used together with the new standardized exam until the 2023 academic year, as well as a second-stage exam, to determine which applicants will be accepted.

Regarding the use of English tests run by companies, it has been pointed out that there are certain fairness-related issues affecting its suitability as an entrance requirement. The University of Tokyo's decision will likely affect other universities across Japan concerning the matter.

The decision was officially announced by Hiroo Fukuda, the institution's executive vice president, at a press conference on March 10. Fukuda stated that while the university will require prospective students to sit privately run exams, the results should be used after matriculation to monitor the progress of students' English language ability.

In November 2017, the Japan Association of National Universities (JANU) decided on bringing in both privately run exams and mark sheet-style tests for all test takers at the general entrance exam stage. On March 8 this year, JANU unveiled draft guidelines on the use of the results of private English tests, stating that either one or both of the following conditions are to be used to determine university admission: a prospective student would be required to meet a certain score on a private exam to qualify for applying to a national university, or the private exam score would be added to the scores from the current standardized English tests.

However, the view that it is difficult to compare the results of various tests that differ in terms of use and format runs deep. In addition, there are fears that differences in test takers' family wealth and place of residence will affect their opportunities to take the English tests -- which are held multiple times a year.

Fukuda added that the university will suggest JANU revise its draft guidelines, pointing out that they could lead to high school English classes becoming mere prep lessons for privately run tests.

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