Suneung: What’s the Big Deal?

Is it truly the test of a lifetime?

November: it’s a time where the days become darker, the trees begin to shed their leaves, and the blistering cold descends. It’s ironic that these characteristics could be said for another event going on in November: Suneung. This test is held annually on the second Thursday of November, and for many, it is the final step to an arduous 12 years of slaving through a rigorous education system. 


Photo by Korea Herald

In order to clearly understand what this test entails, we have to first look at what the actual tests are. The main categories are as follows: Korean Language, Mathematics, English, Science/Social Studies/Vocational Education, and a Foreign Language. The first three categories Korean Language, Mathematics, and English are fairly straightforward as there are no sub-categories within these three tests. However, the same cannot be said about the other tests. Science is divided into Physics 1&2, Chemistry 1&2, Biology 1&2, and Earth Science 1&2. Students can take up to 2 different subjects in the Science category. Social Studies is further divided into Life and Ethics, Ethics and Thought, Korean History, Geography of Korea, Geography of the world, History of Eastern Asia, World History, Law and Politics, Society and Culture, and Economics. Students can choose to take up to 2 different subjects for this category as well. The Vocational Education category includes Agricultural Science, Industry, Commerce, Oceanography, and Home Economics. For this category, students are permitted to take up to one subject. Finally, for a Foreign Language, students have the option to take German language 1, French language 1, Spanish language 1, Chinese language 1, Japanese language 1, Russian language 1, Arabic language 1, basic Vietnamese language, or Hanja 1.

From this extensive list, you will probably see that Korean high school students are expected to be knowledgeable in several areas of study. Subsequently, in order to perform well on the Suneung, years and years of preparation must go into mastery for these subjects. Students will start from as early as middle school, and sometimes even elementary school, in order to gain a head start in the Suneung prep process. Once students reach high school, a lot of their freedoms are restricted: school periods are extended, cram sessions are mandatory after school, and parents will send kids off to either hagwons or private study rooms late into the night after cram sessions at school.

Perhaps it is for this reason that for one day every year, the entire Korean populace is silent as they pray and hope for the best results of all of the students. Parents flock to their local churches and temples to pray for their children to perform well on the test. It isn’t only the parents working hard to ensure that their children do well though. During the English listening portion of the test, all take-offs and landings are halted in order to make sure that no student in any region will face major disturbances. Furthermore, local police willingly provide rides to students running late.


Photo by Korea Herald

Support from local communities are gargantuan as well. First year and second year high school students will wait outside the gates of their high school as the third year students pass by to take the test. Underclassmen will often hand out yeot, a sticky traditional confectionary similar to that of taffy, with the expression “Eat a yeot” so that students taking the test will “stick” to the schools that they have studied so hard to get into.

Now, this system of college entrance may not be the most effective way to gauge a student’s ability to succeed in college or in life. In fact, it probably is one of, if not the most brutal and competitive manner of college admission. However, it is the system that we have to deal with. So next year, if you see students cramming into the late night as the date approaches the second Thursday of November, take a moment to pray for these poor souls as they have only one shot to make their 12 years of education count.

Written by Ye Chan Song (’18)

Featured Image & Photos by Korea Herald

What to Do the Day Before the SAT

Just in a week… the long-awaited October SAT presents itself to students. Are you afraid? Well, fear not. Blueprint’s got you covered with some best tips that will boost up your scores last minute.

September is coming to an end. Two months into school, right when we finally seem to be adjusting to school, the deathly of the deathly is approaching. Yes, you guessed it right. The October SAT. Every year, the three letter haunts students down. Are YOU the victim of this doom? Well, fear not. Although last minute studying will DEFINITELY not help you out (don’t even try), here are some suggestions as to what you could do the day before the SAT to boost up the score with the little hope you have.

  1. Dress comfortably.

As soon as you come back from school, get comfy. The last thing you’re worried about at the moment is how you look. Get into the most comfortable position, comfortable outfit, and comfortable state. Who cares if you look like a zombie. Now is the time for you to pull off that score you so desperately wanted.

  1. Eat dinner.

Well, you might think now. Why does dinner even matter? Don’t I just have to eat my breakfast on the day of the SAT? No. Eating dinner now will not only keep you at a healthful state, but your brain will also be kept alert from the nutrition you take in the night before. Make sure to eat healthy, too.  It is important that you keep a good balance of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.  An idea dinner would perhaps look like broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and beef. After all, nutritious food is where your brain and body will get their power source from!

  1. Review.

Yes, review. Don’t even bother learning the new stuff now. Trust me; by the time you enter the testing center, your mind will go blank with the materials you learned afresh. Let’s stick with what we know, and make the best out of it. Believe it or not, reviewing is the key to success. As long as you are able to correctly answer the materials you learned so far, you will be fine.

  1. Don’t panic.

Okay, I know. It’s hard not to panic, especially if this is your first SAT. Well, if you panic, things are going to get worse. Panicking now will get you nowhere. It will only keep you going in a deathly circle of cries and worries. We have a lot to review. There’s no time for panic.

  1. Sleep early.

This is perhaps the most important out of the five tips. No caffeine allowed the night before the SAT. Maybe in the morning, but definitely not the night before. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nocturnal person. Too bad. The College Board decided to have test on the morning, so as of now, you will have to adjust your body system according to what the College Board scheduled for you. At the latest, get to bed by 10 PM and make sure you get a healthy 8 hours of sleep. This way, you will not feel sleep-deprived, sick, or tired.

Juniors, seniors, and to whomever this may concern:

SAT does not define you as a person, nor does it define your whole high school career. Great, if you manage to pull out the perfect score you aimed for. But, don’t worry if you aren’t able to. Let’s at least get the best out of it. We are now a week into the SAT, and that means doomsday for all of you. Let’s not panic, and try to stick to these amazing tips that will give you the best score you could get!

– Eunica Na (’17)

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How NOT to Study for the SAT II’s

October’s finally here, and you know what that means: the beginning of SAT season! As you’ve probably learned by now, if you’ve been studying for the SATs, none of us really know how to study for any standardized test; especially the SATs. You can ask as many people as you’d like about how they studied for the SATs but in the end, it’ll come down to you asking yourself this question: “Did you study, or did you procrastinate?”

But don’t worry: it’s a high school student’s nature to procrastinate, and you won’t always know precisely what to do when studying for the SATs. That’s why, rather than scrambling around and looking for the best tips and tricks to ace those SAT Subject Tests, I’m here with a collection of things that you absolutely SHOULDN’T do when you’re studying for those pesky SAT II’s

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)
PC: CollegeBoard

Imagine you’re back in June 2016, and you just finished the AP Chemistry course. You took the AP Chem exam about a month ago, saw that you got a 5 (WOW), and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. In fact, you feel so confident for the upcoming SAT Chemistry Subject Test in October that you think, “Oh, I’ll be fine,” and don’t want to study for the SAT Chem test. So, you catch up with your friends over the summer, get reacquainted with teachers and classes in August, and then BAM – it’s October 1st, and you’re sitting in a classroom with the SAT Chemistry booklet in front of you, no idea what the heck you’re looking at. This is exactly what’ll happen if you don’t practice before the SATs. All of that knowledge from your AP classes disappeared by the first week of summer, so you better make sure you’re buying those SAT Subject Test prep books and completing as many mock tests as you can; trust me, you’ll definitely need the practice.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)
PC: Bar Exam Toolbox

This is a pretty similar situation to #1. You’re either pretty confident or you’re completely stressed out and intimidated by the very notion of SAT Subject Tests, and so you neglect starting to study until a couple of weeks before the test date. Two or three weeks is NOT enough time to be where you want to be for the SAT 2’s; plan ahead, set yourself up a week-to-week, even a day-to-day schedule if you want, and make sure you stick to that timetable.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)
PC: Amazon

Oh, you claim you can just use mental math on the SAT Mathematics Level 2 Subject Test? Yeah, good luck solving those 4×4 matrix operations and trigonometric functions. Even if you could somehow work out complex pre-calculus concepts in your head without technological aid, you most definitely will not finish the Math 2C in the time given. In case you didn’t know this about the SAT already; TIME. IS. EVERYTHING. Sure, you might be a genius with IQ level 160; none of that matters when you can’t finish the Math 2C test in time and unnecessarily lose valuable points that you might’ve received if you’d utilized a calculator.



PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

Well, since time is everything, then you should probably speed through the SAT Subject Tests and try to solve all of the questions as quickly as you can, right? WRONG. Yes, pacing is important, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of rushing through the test and missing key details in the questions. Remember, the SATs are designed to confuse you. Learn how to read questions quickly but carefully, looking for any key points or hints that can steer you in the right direction.

PC: U.S. News & World Report
PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)
PC: McDougal Littell

For those of you who’ve taken APUSH or AP World, you know that if you abandon your textbooks, you’ll be neck-deep in trouble. Even if you haven’t taken these courses, definitely put in the effort to find appropriate resources and actually read the material that you’re going to be tested on. Historical trends and broad ideas are a big part of these tests, but you’ll only be hurting yourself if you neglect to read and understand the small details. After all, you’ve heard those stories about memorizing literally centuries of history for SAT US History, yes? They’re all true. All of them.



PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

If you want to tire yourself out and study the SATs all the livelong day (and literally, night), then go for it. Just remember; a tired mind almost always performs worse than an alert one. I can guarantee that you’ve heard at the very least once from someone that you should get some sleep before a test. Well, for the SAT Subject Tests, there’s honestly no better advice for test day that exists. You do NOT want to have to sit through an hour of non-stop multiple choice right after you’ve pulled an all-nighter cramming for that test. Chances are, you’ll probably be taking more than one SAT Subject Test on the same day anyway, so a decent amount of sleep is doubly, perhaps even triply important in that case.

Female college student tired from studying
PC: Brainscape
PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What kinds of apps do you have open in front of you right now? I’m not asking about just your laptop, but your phone, your iPad, and any other electronic

PC: The High Performance Blog

devices you own. If your answers are dominated by social networking or gaming apps, then you’re clearly doing something wrong. While some people can actually multitask and use this skill to their advantage, multitasking when studying for the SATs often isn’t the brightest idea. Still having doubts? Ask yourself this: do you really think that talking with five other people about where you guys are going to go for a trip over the winter will help you with studying Mendelian genetics and the law of cosines? Hopefully, you’ll answer no to that question.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What if you have a question regarding projectile motion in the SAT Physics Subject Test or Jacksonian democracy in the SAT US History Subject Test? You’ll definitely want to create

PC: Magoosh

some sort of a study group and get together once in a while to make sure you’re all still on track. Besides, you’ve always heard from teachers that the best way to test whether you know your stuff or not is to see if you can teach others what you’ve learned. Having a study group and holding Q&A sessions every now and then is a great opportunity to do a self-check of where you really are in your SAT studies.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

Let’s say you got three or four questions wrong on a SAT Math 2C practice test. Those few questions may not seem like much, but reviewing what you got wrong will definitely help you in the long run. It’s not like you know how many questions will come out from each topic on the test, so those three or four incorrect questions may turn into eight, nine, or even ten incorrect questions on the actual test if you don’t review your mistakes.

PC: FiveThirtyEight
PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What is “cheating” when you’re studying for the SAT Subject Tests? In the worst case scenario, you’re partaking in illegal business and actually cheating on the day of the exam. However, cheating when you’re still in the process of ‘properly’ studying for these tests is another story altogether. It may seem like I’m restating the obvious, but when you take

PC: The Sun

practice tests, make sure it feels as though you’re taking the real test. Put yourself in a quiet environment, set your timer, and solve away! Make sure you’re not peeking at any answer sheets or study guides when you’re conducting these ‘mock exams’ because that just won’t get you anywhere. All you’ll learn is how to copy answers and fool yourself into thinking that you actually understand the question. But please, for the love of Collegeboard, don’t cheat on testing day; you’ll find that you’re hurting others as much as yourself.

In all seriousness, this list of tips of what not to do when studying for SAT Subject Tests can really assist you when you’re trying to figure out just what kind of a study route you should take that’ll work best for you.

But remember, SATs aren’t everything. If you get a score below of what you had hoped for, so what? You might be a little disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. So try to relax, don’t stress yourself out too much, and take the process of studying for SAT II’s just one step at a time. With any luck, these tips will help you out and you’ll get those 800’s you’ve always hoped for!

– Daniel Park (’17)

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons