Arabic 'Soft Option' Tops 2nd Languages on CSAT

      December 11, 2008 11:29

      Arabic was the most popular second foreign language on the College Scholastic Aptitude Test for the first time this year. But although Arabic is included in the CSAT, there is not a single high school in Korea teaching the language.

      Of a total of 99,693 CSAT applicants, 29,278 or 29.4 percent selected Arabic in the second language section. Japanese came second with 27,465 applicants, followed by Chinese with 13,445.

      The number of applicants taking the Arabic test has been growing exponentially: only one student sat for the Arabic test in a mock CSAT test in June 2004, with the number increasing to 531 in the actual CSAT that year.

      The reason an increasing number of students select Arabic is prosaic: it is said to be a "soft" subject, where students can earn high scores for less efforts. It is the only subject that produces students winning full marks in terms of standardized scores -- the gap between the individual score and the mean score of the total applicants -- every year. This year, 162 applicants got full points.

      Meanwhile, the top standardized score by applicants taking the French test was 69, the lowest among the eight subjects in the second language section.

      In fact, since no school teaches Arabic, few students are any good at it, so the average score is much lower than that of applicants for other subjects. Earning even slightly better marks translates into much higher standardized scores.

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