Seoul's Intellectual Pressure Cooker
August 23, 2011 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to Exam Village, a neighborhood in Seoul where people live while studying for various professional entrance exams.
posted by reenum (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just reading that article made me break out in hives.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:05 AM on August 23, 2011


This sounds like a town in an 16-bit RPG. Half the sprites would say, "I'm studying for an exam!" then continue walking after you closed that dialog box.
posted by ignignokt at 8:09 AM on August 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this used study guide."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 AM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm wondering whether there is any way to ascertain, scientifically, whether exams like this actually do a good job of selecting for people who will later do well in their field.

My instincts say "NO", but then my only experience with these kinds of tests is NCLB standardized testing and the SAT. (Which are much easier than the bar, or national exams in other countries.)

Right now, I'm giving thanks that I'm an American student and not living in a country with a ridiculous national examination system.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:18 AM on August 23, 2011


I'm not sure "intellectual" is the right word for this. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:29 AM on August 23, 2011


If might be handy if you, the master of exams, take it with you.
posted by kmz at 8:38 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering whether there is any way to ascertain, scientifically, whether exams like this actually do a good job of selecting for people who will later do well in their field.

The LSAT, at least, is not a particularly good predictor of law school performance (it's not horrible, but it's not very good either).

The conventional wisdom, in the US at least, is that the bar exam produces lots of false positives (i.e. bad lawyers who passed the bar) but not very many false negatives (i.e. people who would have been good lawyers but failed the bar). 33 states have a first-time taker passage rate of 80% or higher [pdf]. Many have a rate in the 90s. That's not weeding out much. (I excluded repeat takers because if you fail the first time you tend to fail again and again, which dirties up the data).

One alternative approach is giving graduates of 'gold standard' schools a pass (e.g. in Wisconsin if you graduate from the University of Wisconsin law school then you are automatically admitted to practice in Wisconsin). Determining which schools to give this status to is problematic, though. If you rely on historical bar exam passage rates then a) that's kind of circular and b) you can't account for drift in quality over time because gold standard grads don't take the bar.

Of course, the bar is a weird creature in other ways. For example, in order to take the bar you must pass a 'character & fitness' evaluation, basically a glorified background check. But it's absurd to have to take the C&E after law school and before the bar. Surely it would make more sense to do the C&E before law school (and maybe a refresher afterward), so that someone who fails won't waste three years of their life on law school.

But then the C&E is itself weird. For example, in Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas, if you have a felony on your record you can't take the bar. But (at least in Missouri), if you are convicted of a felony as an attorney, then you aren't automatically disbarred, though you'll certainly be in trouble. This makes no sense. The standard for a practicing lawyer should be higher than the standard for applicants.
posted by jedicus at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2011


These sound like terrible studying conditions. Misery doesn't open your mind.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2011


But then the C&E is itself weird. For example, in Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas, if you have a felony on your record you can't take the bar. But (at least in Missouri), if you are convicted of a felony as an attorney, then you aren't automatically disbarred, though you'll certainly be in trouble. This makes no sense. The standard for a practicing lawyer should be higher than the standard for applicants.

Please file this (if there is any more room in the file) under "Nonsensical rules that benefit the rule-makers".
posted by 3FLryan at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's "C&E"? Is there a different phrase than Character and Fitness that you're thinking of?

I had a couple of "real" questions on my fitness exam (just stuff like, have you ever committed a crime, or whatever). But when my friend went for his, the entire "exam" was, "Oh, please sit down, Mr. X. I see you went to ABC Law School. Best of luck, Mr. X." and he was free to go!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2011


My girlfriend built her own Exam Village in our living room. The cats were always trying to terrorize the flash cards.
posted by orme at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Misery doesn't open your mind."

Well, for Koreans it does (and for Asians in general). That's the idea, at least.

You can thank Confucius for that one.
posted by bardic at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


They have StarCraft mansions in which they do nothing but practice SC, so Exam Village doesn't surprise me in the least bit. Exams are serious business in East Asia.
posted by xtine at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2011


God. Flashbacks of med school. My med school library was this big concrete windowless bunker. For the two weeks before boards, the library was open 24 hours a day and people would *live* in the library. Seriously, alcove after alcove of stress cases, empty food wrappers, people sleeping under desks, and the stench of unshowered human.

Me, I preferred the undergraduate library across campus I keep getting older and they keep staying the saaammme age... because you couldn't cut the anxiety with a knife and no one would give me shit about stepping out for a cigarette every 30 minutes.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2011


Me, I preferred the undergraduate library across campus I keep getting older and they keep staying the saaammme age... because you couldn't cut the anxiety with a knife and no one would give me shit about stepping out for a cigarette every 30 minutes.

I live in a college town and I can't go to coffee shops at the end of the semester because they are full of people studying. (Well, college-aged people staring at laptops.) And then I feel guilty because maybe some of them are studying because I made them do so.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2011


What's "C&E"? Is there a different phrase than Character and Fitness that you're thinking of?

No, just a typo that got repeated.
posted by jedicus at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2011


I really wanna know much much more about this understated part of the article:

"He also watched Exam Village deteriorate. Bars, pool halls and brothels moved in to lure students frustrated from too much study. He did his best to ignore the temptation."

Talk about burying the lede....
posted by Bwithh at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2011


I can't even put into words how much I hate life-destroying exams.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2011


I can't even put into words how much I hate life-destroying exams.

You'd be able to if you studied harder for your Composition exam!
posted by kmz at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


That is grim.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:35 PM on August 23, 2011


"The Korean bar exam is very hard. Only 1000 new lawyers are permitted to pass it each year, against about 50,000 who sit for the exam — a 2% pass rate. In years past, the quota was less than 300. The exam (and the law) is written in language designed to separate the wheat from the chaff: To obscure rather than to illuminate, to control rather than to empower — thereby eliminating those candidates who have not been soaked in Korean obscurantism. Anyone who passes it is a very smart individual by any definition, more so by this country’s definition of “smart”."
posted by sour cream at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


To other repeat exam-takers, he offers discounts and words of encouragement, especially to those who have failed so many times — sometimes 10 times or more — that they've become the butt of jokes: "I tell people they're almost there."

Well, if they quit he would lose a customer.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2011


The interesting thing about this system is that as long as you pass that test, you're a lawyer. You don't have to have gone to college or law school. Former president Roh Moo Hyun got his law degree that way.
posted by ignignokt at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2011


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