Japan's National Center Exams, 15-16 January 2011
by Charles Jannuzi
University of Fukui, Japan
The National Center Exams are being held over 15-16 January at 706 test centers nationwide (the test centers are usually located at universities and colleges with large enough lecture halls to accomodate test takers). The number of applicants rose again from last year to almost 560,000. This is because more and more universities and colleges are requiring these test scores of their applicants. (Many institutions still hold their own in-house exams as well.) About 80% of the applicants are high school seniors who will graduate this March and proceed on to university in April (April is the start of the school year in Japan).
According to the Ministry of Education (MEXT), the number of universities and colleges using the Center Exam results as part of their admissions requirements is also at a record high of 828 national, prefectural/metropolitan and private institutions. Based on the tests applicants have registered to take, many are aiming to get into teacher certification and nursing programs. Also enjoying a rise in popularity are traditional and new departments in science and technology. This is because more and more high school graduates are worried about the scarcity of jobs and the difficult employment environment that awaits them even after 4-6 years of higher education. Young people want tangible qualifications that will help them find career employment for all the trouble of spending tens of thousands of dollars and years of their time on higher education.
The first day of the exams covers history, geography, Japanese language (Japanese native language arts), and EFL reading/grammar/vocabulary and listening. Other foreign languages, science and maths are covered on the second day. There is a make-up set of exams held on 22-23 January for those examinees who have legitimate excuses for not being able to attend the regularly scheduled tests.
In addition to the usual colds and flus of the season, students on the Japan-Sea side of Honshu (the largest of the main islands of Japan) had to brave winter storm conditions to get to the test sites.
See also last year's article on the exams, as much of what is explained about the exams still applies to this year's.