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Confusion persists as applications for English test for Japan univ. entrance exams open

In this Jan. 19, 2019 file photo, university hopefuls wait to start the National Center Test for University Admissions at an exam site on the University of Tokyo campus in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- The organizer of the "Eiken" test, one of the private English examinations to be used as part of the standard university entrance exam system set to be introduced for academic 2020, began to accept applications on Sept. 18 amid uncertainty over the system.

Those who will take the new Common Test for University Admissions are perplexed partly because a 3,000-yen deposit applicants are required to pay to the Eiken Foundation of Japan in advance will not be refunded in some cases where they decide not to take the exam after filing an application.

The National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals, comprising high school principals, has urged the education ministry to take measures including delaying the implementation of private English tests as part of the new entrance exam system.

With the Eiken Foundation's latest move, however, the system to use English exams administered by private firms as part of entrance tests has effectively started despite concerns voiced by high schools and university hopefuls.

Seven types of English tests administered by private organizations, including Eiken and the Global Test of English Communication (GTEC), will be used as part of the new entrance exam system set to be launched by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations (NCUEE).

The Eiken Foundation has begun accepting applications to take the "Eiken 2020 1day S-CBT" exam that gauges test takers' skills in reading, listening, speaking and writing in English. In the speaking portion of the exam, test takers are supposed to record their speeches on a computer.

Applicants will select the test dates and sites in February 2020 and use an ID for the Common Test for University Admissions to be issued by the NCUEE.

However, the entire picture of the new entrance exam system remains unclear as the venues of the private tests have not been announced and some universities have not decided whether to take into consideration the results of private English tests in deciding whether to admit applicants. Under the circumstances, many university hopefuls have not decided which private English tests they will take.

It is possible that students who filed applications to take the Eiken test will decide not to take the exam if the universities they seek to enter do not use private test results or choose to take different private English tests to be administered near their homes once the location of the venues are announced.

In its request that the introduction of private English examinations be postponed, the National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals stated that the Eiken Foundation's practice of receiving deposits from test takers and accepting applications before other test organizers "can't be overlooked."

The Eiken Foundation explains that the deposit is necessary to secure venues for the examination and to train personnel who will supervise the examination sites. The organizer had initially intended not to refund the deposit if applicants fail to take the test.

However, on Oct. 17, the day before starting to accept applications, the Eiken Foundation announced that it will return part of the deposit between Oct. 8 and 15 if requested. But it remains to be seen if the organizers of GTEC and other private tests, which many applicants are expected to take, will announce the details of these exams by Oct. 15.

Commenting on the situation, the 42-year-old mother of a second-year private high school student in Tokyo said, "All we can do is to file an application (to take the Eiken test). If he ends up not taking the exam, we have no choice but to abandon the 3,000-yen deposit, so it's unavoidable."

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita and Kenichi Mito, City News Department)

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