My native Korean brother-in-law living in Seoul has what I would call a "star" child/pupil. She won piano competitions, she is always studying, and she graduated #1 in her high school class (not an exaggeration, a literal #1 in her class).

I understand in overview only the college entry exam(s). I do not know what my niece's score(s) turned out to be; but the entire family is shocked and dismayed because she did not make it into college.

So that I can have a base of understanding in order to have somewhat fluent Korean conversations with my Korean in-laws on this subject...

  • What are common vocabulary words and phrases surrounding the options for a child that does not make it into college via the entrance examination?

Other questions that I'm sure I need to have a general understanding of to help the family cope with this situation include:

  • What is the entrance exam or exam process vocabulary?
  • Is there vocabulary, defined phraseology, common proverbs or idioms for failing to enter and then schooling overseas?
  • Is there vocabulary, defined phraseology, common proverbs or idioms for going to get a job in this situation?

1 Answer 1


If a student fails to gain entrance to college, he/she has several choices:

  1. 재수 means "study again" literally,
  2. 유학 means "go abroad to study", or
  3. 취업/취직 means "take a job".

The Korean college entrance exam is called 수능, the abbreviation for 대학수학능력시험. This exam carries the same meaning as the SAT.

In Korea, taking a job is not an option for most of the students. They spend their high school years, entirely, preparing for the college entrance exam. It's definitely not a good situation, but competition is fierce here. So give her a word of comfort and share your elderly wisdom.

  • thanks - i expanded the full name of 대학수학능력시험 based on the wiki i found using your answer. this is a big help, and i really appreciate the bulleted list of "what's next" options. that helps me prepare for conversations with this vocabulary. i also did not know the name of the korean college entrance exam, so having the full monty, as it were, is gold. Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 16:13

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