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October 14, 2005

Students Anxious About Listening Test

With just three months to go before the first English listening test in the national university entrance exam, there is growing nervousness about the test. Students will receive an IC player that allows them just one chance at listening, as there is no "rewind" function. And with listening widely considered a weak area for Japanese students and accounting for 50 out of a total of 250 points in the English test, many students are increasingly worried about succumbing to pressure on the day. Prep schools are running classes that simulate the test experience, allowing students the choice of using a speaker system or using devices identical to the actual IC players (for an additional rental fee). Some schools are even selling devices to students at ¥3,000-4,000 apiece.

On test day at centers across the country, students will receive the device, switch it on, do a quick test of the device itself and adjust the volume control to their desired level before waiting to be told to press "play." Following testing last year, precautionary measures have been taken with the new devices: they will not operate unless the above button sequence is carried out; the play button must be pressed continuously for more than a second in order to operate; the power cannot be switched off once the device has started playing; they have been checked to make sure they can withstand being dropped from the height of a desk.

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