Fukushima Board of Education admits mistake, but it’s hard to imagine it made any difference.

Fukushima recently held its entrance exam for public prefectural high schools, and obviously all of the candidates were trying to answer the questions correctly. That’s usually a lot harder to do, though, when the question itself isn’t correct.

Last Thursday, the Fukushima Prefectural board of Education put out a statement to explain that a misprint in the instructions for a question in the social studies section had been brought to their attention. After confirming that they had in fact goofed up, the board has decided to give all candidates credit for answering the question correctly, regardless of how they actually answered it on the test.

That seems like a fair thing to do. After all, if the question is worded in a way that’s confusing or misleading, you can’t really expect kids to still get the right answer, can you?

Well, maybe you can. The question involved a section from Japan’s constitution, with one section underlined. Students were supposed to look at the underlined section, then write the specialized political term that applies to the underlined portion. The question even gave them a bit of a hint, specifying that the term is made up of two kanji characters.

Written in Japanese correctly, “Please write the applicable two-kanji word” looks like this:

The question students actually saw written in their tests, though, looked like this:

See the difference?

Two hiragana characters have had their order switched. Taken as a set, あてはまる, read “atehamaru,” means “applicable” or “appropriate.”

On the other hand, what was actually written in the test, あてまはる, “atemaharu,” doesn’t have any meaning at all.

Here’s the thing, though. Atehamaru is a phrase that shows up in tests all the time, pretty much in any permutation of “Select the appropriate answer.” It’s a word that students know they’re going to see over and over during their entrance exam before the test even starts, and because atemaharu isn’t a word, it should have been pretty obvious not only that the atemaharu was a typo, but also that it was supposed to be atehamaru.

▼ It’s sort of like if I asked “Which of these is a dog? Please pick the corectr photo.” That typo isn’t going to throw anyone off so badly that they pick the lobster.

Because of that, most Japanese Twitter reactions have been sort of shocked that everyone is getting credit for the question because of the atehamaru/atemaharu slip-up, with comments such as:

“Everyone gets a free point on the test just for that?”
“Makes no sense at all.”
“There’s lucky, and then there’s too lucky.”
“They’re being way too soft on them.”
“I honestly wouldn’t have even noticed the typo.”
“I think it took me 50,000 tries to read it as anything other than atehamaru.”

A few commenters also wondered about the possibility of that free point boosting the score of a student who answered the question incorrectly just high enough to secure admission to a school’s last available seat by nature of compensation for the typo, perhaps denying the slot to someone who had answered the question correctly and thus won’t be seeing their own score raise any higher because of the board’s decision. That would, though, mean that the two students had had equal scores before the free point though, so it would have been an incredibly small margin between the two applicants.

In any case, it’s probably safe to say that the board will be adding an extra round of proofreading checks to its test next year.

Source: Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, Yomiuri Shimbun via Livedoor News via Jin, Twitter/@livedoornews
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: SoraNews24, Pakutaso (1, 2)
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