Question from a reader: does Korea accept A-level certificates?

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A reader writes in:

Dear sir ( or Mr Chris?) I chanced upon your blog through korea.com and was thankful that I can finally ask questions regading life in Korea. I’m Atikah, 18 years female from Singapore. Since I will be taking my A Level Cambridge paper to qualify for university, I am wondering if Korean universities accept A level certificate. To put it simply, I want to experience life in Korea. I have heard of the university entrance exams but do I have to undergo that? And I am not a native in Korean. Other than writing and reading hangul (sometimes without even knowing the meaning, hahaha) I am an idiot. Have you ever experience teaching foreign students? I am curious to know about the students’ life on how they adapt to the culture. I look forward to your reply.

A reader writes in:

Dear sir ( or Mr Chris?) I chanced upon your blog through korea.com and was thankful that I can finally ask questions regading life in Korea. I’m Atikah, 18 years female from Singapore. Since I will be taking my A Level Cambridge paper to qualify for university, I am wondering if Korean universities accept A level certificate. To put it simply, I want to experience life in Korea. I have heard of the university entrance exams but do I have to undergo that? And I am not a native in Korean. Other than writing and reading hangul (sometimes without even knowing the meaning, hahaha) I am an idiot. Have you ever experience teaching foreign students? I am curious to know about the students’ life on how they adapt to the culture. I look forward to your reply. And thumbs up on your blog! It helps!

Not being from Singapore or having an A level certificate, it’s time to research!

Seoul National University, one of Korea’s ‘SKY’ schools, has this to say about the subject (click on ‘Download Guidebook’ at the top of the page)

1) Records of tests and various awards attained in high school will be considered in the admissions decision if submitted.
The relevant country’s qualifying test for high school graduation or university admission test: British GCE A-Level, Japanese Admission Center Exam, Chinese Unified Exam, German Abitur, French Baccalaureate, etc.

In other words, if your country accepts it, Korea will. As you might expect, there’s more to the story. From the aforementioned guidebook (a PDF file, in case you’re curious):

  • Standardized tests and other indicators of academic achievement: IB Diploma, IB Certificate, AP, SAT, AICE, AEA, etc.
  • Records of accelerated and rigorous coursework: AP, IB, Honors, etc.
  • Official letter or other document by the high school that indicates the applicant’s class rank or percentile (if not stated in applicant’s academic transcript)
  • Proof of language proficiency: Korean Proficiency Test (TOPIK , KLPT), TEPS, TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, HSK, JLPT, DELF/DALF, ZD, DELE etc.

This, of course, are just SNU’s guidelines – but Seoul National University is considered one of the best in the country.

As for knowing Korean, SNU has this to say (from the aforementioned guidebook):

Korean Proficiency Test scores are an optional component of the application. Based on the submitted application materials, the admission committee will decide whether each admitted student should take the test or not. Admitted students who are notified for the Korean Proficiency Test should refer to the test schedule included in the Certificate of Admissions for the date and location of the test. N.B. The level of Korean proficiency of an applicant does not effectively restrict nor delimitate his or her eligibility status, however, depending on the department or program of interest, it may serve as a determinant in the outcome of the admissions decisions.

I won’t claim to be the final word on the subject, but I’d expect to take some Korean language lessons as part of your education if you go. Whether it’s required or recommended, it’ll probably be considered part of your education.

I highly recommend checking out a fellow blogger – Matt Strum from On My Way to Korea. His story of becoming a student – and current adventures as a student in Korea – may assist you in figuring out your next step.

I passed on the reader’s question to Matt and got the following response:

You definitely won’t have to go through the same national examination Koreans go through. From the looks of it, SNU just looks at general academic performance (you may reference: www.useoul.edu/admission/adm0201_2.jsp). They do state that they take things like A-level certificates (www.useoul.edu/admission/adm0201_3.jsp) and require a certain English proficiency and possibly a certain Korean proficiency.

You may be required to go through some language courses before entering the university (it depends on the department), but you could just take that time to become familiar with the culture and have a fun time. When you study in the language institute you’ll have a good opportunity to become close with the other international students and with a Korean buddy if you desire. If you’re motivated to learn more about the language and culture, you’ll do great.

Once you move up to being a regular university student then you will be a lot more confident in making Korean friends and still be able to hang out with the other international friends you made along the way. It’s all really what you make it; I personally haven’t done a lot with the international community here since I arrived speaking Korean and my main goal was to be like any other regular SNU student, joining clubs, making friends in classes, etc. While you’re in university, definitely join at least one club. Since I joined one of the clubs here, they have become some of my closest friends.

There’s a large amount of classes taught in English, but it varies by school and department, so you may luck out. Here’s the list of the classes taught at SNU in English for reference: http://oia.snu.ac.kr/2007/student/academics/curriculum/general/2009_1_courses_offered_in_english.xls

Again, this advice pertains specifically to one university, and can’t necessarily be applied to every Korean university. If you’re interested in coming to Korea to study, do your own research of the institutions that interest you.

Got a question about life in Korea? E-mail me at chrisinsouthkorea AT gmail DOT com.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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