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Editorial: Japan colleges, gov't must ensure smooth entrance exams amid virus

While the coronavirus rages in Japan, the new standardized university entrance exam will be held this coming weekend for the first time. Examinees in 11 prefectures will sit the two-day test while those areas remain under a state of emergency. Test takers must be feeling a great deal of anxiety while also having to pay attention to their health.

    In addition to the exam's first round on Jan. 16 and 17, a second round will be held on Jan. 30 and 31. The second round will also serve as a makeup exam for the earlier dates. In normal years, the makeup exam is offered in only two locations nationwide, but the second round of the new standardized exam will be held in every prefecture.

    We ask that those showing symptoms such as a fever shift their focus to the second round and not push themselves too hard. Feeling unwell would not only prevent them doing their best in the exam, but also, if an individual is infected with the coronavirus they run the risk of spreading it to people around them.

    Meanwhile, each university serving as an exam venue must make the utmost effort to prevent infections. They are required to put detailed measures in place, such as having all examinees wear masks and asking them to refrain from talking.

    If a test taker falls ill after arriving at the venue, host universities will need to make sure that the individual and other exam takers are not distressed. In such an event, the university will need to have a doctor examine the person in a break room, and while taking their circumstances into consideration, decide whether they should be allowed to sit the test in a separate room or asked to take a makeup exam.

    Furthermore, there is a possibility that individual entrance exams conducted by each university from February will be more affected by the accelerated infection spread. This is because unlike the standardized exam carried out in all prefectures, some examinees for the individual exams cross borders between areas with and without high infection rates. For the time being, the central government has not restricted people's movements in such circumstances.

    Some universities have introduced their own measures. Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, for example, has decided their individual exam's first round test will have fewer questions, be shorter, and pushed back to start in afternoon rather than the morning. This measure is intended to make it easier for examinees traveling from outside Tokyo to complete their testing in a single day trip.

    There are fears the situation surrounding the state of infections could worsen. If the selection process for prospective students is changed right before exam day, it will throw test takers into confusion. Universities need to announce their exam policies at an early date in case they become unable to carry out admissions tests as planned.

    University entrance exams are an important event affecting test takers' futures. The central government as well as universities across Japan should give utmost consideration to removing any worries prospective students may have.

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