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January 31, 2005

Re-examining Entrance Exams

In his latest monthly column in the Daily Yomiuri, Mike Guest of Miyazaki University questions the widely held view that university entrance English exams are all about grammar. Many teachers in Japan are used to hearing the mantra that secondary English education is based on the yakudoku (reading and translation) approach because that is what students face when they take the all-important "jukken" exams. But Guest points out that "time and time again it has been shown that university entrance exams do not focus extensively on English-to-Japanese sentence translation or grammar skills." He goes through the latest "Center Exam," compulsory for all national university applicants and used by a growing number of private schools, section by section. The test includes sections on syllable and word stress, choosing words or phrases to complete exchanges, rhetorical signals, essays and narration - a combination which requires a wide variety of language skills and correspond to "what most highly regarded reading textbooks and teachers demand, especially in terms of meaning-based and holistic comprehension."
Entrance exams--not what you think (link will expire)

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