Lanaguage Research
Language Education Institute, Seoul National University
Language Education

“Can You Recommend a Good Lecturer for a Beginner?”: Korean Students’ Perceptions of the College Admission Essay Test

Subeom Kwak1,
Corresponding Author: Assistant Professor College of General Education Kookmin University 77 Jeongneung-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02707, Korea E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2020 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jun 19, 2020 ; Revised: Jul 30, 2020 ; Accepted: Oct 29, 2020

Published Online: Dec 31, 2020


Writing has become an essential aspect of secondary education across the world. The college admission essay exam, a high-stakes test, has a strong influence on students’ understanding and notions of “good” writing. College admission essay tests in South Korea have been developed by Korean universities to measure Korean senior high school students’ level of argumentative writing skills. While research on writing in mother tongue contexts has traditionally focused on local experiences, writing studies on learners’ views and their affective factors have emerged recently in response to educational and contextual factors. Thus far, however, not enough attention has been paid to Korean students’ perceptions of college admission essay tests. To fill this research gap, this study explores Korean high school students’ perceptions of effective ways to learn writing and the challenges they face during test preparation and/or testing situations. From these explorations, the study draws important implications for writing instruction. After analyzing 3,440 postings from an online forum, the study’s findings reveal the underlying components of learning to write in preparation for these high-stakes tests: 1) add-on and after-school learning; 2) formulaic forms; and 3) concerns regarding the tests’ complex policies and standards. These findings contribute to a growing body of literature on writing studies while also shedding light on our own assumptions about the teaching and learning of secondary writing through an exploration of learners’ perspectives.

Keywords: writing assessment; high stakes writing; learning to write; secondary writing; writing instruction



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