South Korean students sit college entrance exam, aided by chants, prayers

A woman lights and places a candle for the success of her relative sitting the annual College Scholastic Ability Test  - AFP

South Korean students sat for their highly competitive university entrance exam on Thursday, a week after it was postponed for the first time ever because of safety concerns after an earthquake.

Schoolmates, teachers and relatives gathered in front of test venues early in the morning to cheer on the test-takers with hugs, chants of motivational slogans to the beat of drums and placards with messages of encouragement.

"I was a bit nervous, but I think I'm much better now and I have a good feeling about the exam", said 18-year-old Kim Chae-yeon, as she waited to enter an exam hall.

The test is life-defining for many high school seniors, as a prestigious university on one's resume is seen a minimum for securing a place in limited corporate jobs in Asia's fourth-largest economy, which is dominated by conglomerates.

More than 590,000 students are expected to take the exam, which stretches over nine hours and includes sections on mathematics, social or natural sciences, Korean, English, and a second foreign language, according to the education ministry.

Parents pray for their children's success in the Scholastic Aptitude Test at the Jogye Temple in Seoul, South Korea Credit:  AP

Authorities take the gruelling test very seriously, barring commercial flights from taking off or landing during the English oral section to minimise noise, and opening the stock market and banks an hour later to reduce traffic congestion.

Women place candles for the success of their relatives sitting the annual College Scholastic Ability Test, at the Jogye Buddhist temple in Seoul on November 23, 2017 Credit:  AFP

Police cars are even dispatched to pick up some students and ensure they reach exam halls on time.

Tensions had run high last Wednesday when the exam was postponed after a 5.4 magnitude quake, the country's second-biggest on record.

Students prepare to take the annual College Scholastic Ability Test, a standardised exam for college entrance, at a high school in Seoul on November 23, 2017 Credit: AFP

"Last week was a tough period", said exam-taker Jin Yu-bin.

"Some have their college interviews or writing tests on the same day of the exam due to the delay. I feel bad for them."

Elsewhere in the capital on Thursday, places of worship organised special sessions to offer prayers for the test-takers.

High school students cheer their seniors taking the annual College Scholastic Ability Test, a standardised exam for college entrance, at a high school in Seoul on November 23, 2017 Credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP

"Now the exams are happening, I hope he does not get too nervous and with the effort he has put in, just does his best with it," said Choi Byung-cheol, 55, after praying for his son's success in the exam at Myeongdong Cathedral.

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