South Korea School System

Final Exam At Hankuk University

My semester at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Korean language program was coming to an end.  The teacher wrote on the blackboard the schedule for the finals.  This test would determine if I could transfer to level 2.  I couldn’t believe what she wrote on the board.  The test would be held over the course of the next three days.  It would consist of a listening, reading, writing, and an oral test.

How much listening, reading, and writing was there?  The total program consisted of a ten-week class with a completion of 200 hours of classroom studies.  I could only compare my experience to that of attending school in the United States.

In order to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree, you’re required to take two semesters of a foreign language course.  I took Spanish for two semesters.  In school, your final grade is accumulated based on your homework, quiz, midterm and a final exam score.

So, let’s say you need to earn one hundred points for the whole semester to receive an A letter grade.  Usually, the final exam would be worth twenty-five points.  You could still pass the class if you did well on the midterm and homework.  But, I wasn’t in the United States I was in South Korea.

Cherry Blossoms
Hankuk University Cherry Blossoms

In Korea, the midterm and the final exam are accumulated and you need to pass both, in order to advance to the next level.  Because I didn’t do well on the midterm I needed to obtain a higher score on the final exam.

I read vocabulary worksheets while I rode the subway.  I repeated the same words over and over again, in hopes they would become second nature.  I tried to pay more attention to characters pronunciation while I watched my latest Korean drama.  Okay, I will admit I missed a couple of days of class.  In South Korea, February is the coldest month of the year.  There were days that walking from my dorm room to the classroom seemed like I was asked to climb the nearest mountain.

Finals Test

I tried to hear the difference in pronunciation with each vocabulary word yet I couldn’t understand.  The prerecorded oral listening test continued on to the next question whether I could answer or not.  The teacher walked around the classroom looking at my classmates and I circle the wrong answer, again and again.  She must have felt so helpless.  I didn’t listen to her advice and study because I believed I had plenty of time.  Until I realized I didn’t and it was the last week of class.

After the first test was completed I realized I would need to repeat the class.  I wished I had completed the online tutorials, went to the library, listened to the CD provided with the textbook or interacted more with other University students.  The reality was that I had become distracted.  I focused more of my time on sightseeing, eating good food and making new friends.  I needed to find a balance.

On the last day of the final exam, I thanked my teacher for all of her support and patience.  Her kindness encouraged me to learn the Korean language.  I didn’t know if she would be my teacher next semester, but I hoped I would see her around campus.  Before I left class, I promised I would continue to study during the two-week semester break.

I had survived my first final exams at a Korean University.  To celebrate I went to the nearest Pizza School and ordered a cheese pizza with my new favorite topping, corn.

For additional stories on my life as a University student in Seoul, South Korea check out my travel diary.

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