Hisaharu Tsukuba, a scholar of natural history who taught at Waseda University, was well known for his plainly written scientific reviews. In the middle of the Showa era (1926-89), one of his reviews was used in a prefecture’s public high school entrance examination, in the subject of the Japanese language.
“Which of the following does the author advocate?” Tsukuba tried to answer this and other questions in the test, and was bemused. He could give correct answers to only three of the seven questions asked. “I was sure to flunk the test. It was just like in a manga,” he wrote in an essay. I am reminded of this anecdote every time I hear about another mistake -- what was given as the correct answer was wrong; there were two correct answers; etc. -- in an entrance exam.
Tsukuba’s case was unique in that he was involved as the author and, consequently, had his own ideas about what the correct answers were. Usually, what is correct or not in any exam would greatly depend on the discretion of the one who prepares them.
The season of entrance exams has come to a close. Until recently, we have been hearing reports about mistakes found in exams for high schools and universities here and there, as if it were customary. Cases involving Osaka University and Kyoto University caused a commotion and became all the more serious because they were not a part of the said “custom.” In both case, the mistakes were found in last year’s exam, and the problem would not have been exposed were it not for some outsiders who brought them to light.
Not just the two universities, but all people involved in entrance exams will be called on to come up with measures to avoid a recurrence of such mistakes. For this, perhaps, the more answers they can come up with, the better.