Earlier this week, thousands of Korean high school students faced the ultimate test: the Suneung, or College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT). It’s an eight-hour marathon of back-to-back exams, which students spend years preparing for.

This is a test taken so seriously that business as usual grinds to a halt for the day: shops and offices open later than usual to prevent traffic build up, volunteer police will drive late students personally to the test, and planes are grounded during the listening section. Parents pray at temples and churches for exam success, and junior students cheer, hand out sweets and heat packs to the test takers as they arrive.

The exam result is key to ensuring a spot in one of the country’s top universities – mainly Seoul, Korea and Yonsei – which leads to securing a good job and income in the future. Students officially have to wait a month to get their results, and if they fail to get the grades they need, will retake the exam next year.

K-pop idols are among the test takers too! This year Stray Kids’ Hyunjin and Seungmin, IZ*ONE’s Kim Chaewon, fromis_9’s Chaeyoung, MOMOLAND’s Ahin, LOONA’s Heejin and Hyunjin, Weki Meki’s Choi Yoojung and Lua, The Boyz’s Sunwoo and Hwall, DIA’s Somyi, and Golden Child’s Bomin all sat the test.

Aside from taking the test, most idol groups film support messages for their fans. BTS suggested ARMY go see their new movie as a reward after taking the test!

BBC News featured an article about the Suneung recently, interviewing a student who took the test for the first time this week. Last year, the test also hit global headlines as it was briefly postponed due to the Pohang earthquake.


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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.