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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Iran’s Konkoor: the SAT on steroids

Though students in America constantly complain about SATs and ACTs, they should consider themselves lucky compared to what students in some other countries face. For instance, the weight of these tests pales in comparison to the importance of the Konkoor for college admission in Iran.

The Konkoor is an Iranian college entrance exam that ranks students out of the entire graduating class of the nation from “dabirestan,” the equivalent of high school in Iran.

Both of junior Mostafa Rohaninejad’s parents went to the University of Tehran, the best medical school in Iran, and both were accepted into the extremely selective college due to their top scores on the Konkoor.

Based on high test scores, Dr. Mogjan Morshedi, Rohaninejad’s mother, was able to study to be a doctor right away and spent seven years pursuing the career in Tehran.

“Schools in Iran,” she said, “are a lot more specialized compared to American schools.”

Dabirestan students are split into three different paths based on curriculum in their first year. There are three versions of the Konkoor, each corresponding to one of the three high school paths: math/science, humanities and the arts.

The main purpose of high school is to prepare for the Konkoor, and acceptance into college is based solely on the results of this extremely rigorous test. Some believe that because of this, the college admissions process is less subjective compared to that of the United States.

“It’s fairer than the U.S. system because the rich here can abuse the system by spending money getting into sports, extracurriculars and tutors,” Rohaninejad said.

The top universities in Iran, Sharif University and University of Tehran, are both public and offer free tuition for the top scoring students on the Konkoor.

Even though the public high schools in Iran are respectable, the private schools are the best in the nation for preparing students for the Konkoor, giving the wealthy more of an advantage.

High school is six days a week, and more homework is assigned. Also, Iran requires 200 school days each year while California requires only 175 school days. Iran’s GPA system is on a 20-point scale, with anything lower than a 10 resulting in a failing grade.

“High school students already know what they are going to study for the rest of their life,” Morshedi said. “They can’t change their path, whether they chose math, science, humanities, or art.”

The top students often enroll in Sharif or Tehran but later transfer to U.S. colleges. Many U.S. colleges want the top Iranian students and are willing to pay for their tuition, according to Rohaninejad.

“Stanford really likes Sharif students,” Rohaninejad said. “For example, if they are doing electrical engineering, [Stanford] will accept them with full scholarships.”

According to a Newsweek article from August 2008, the chairman of the electrical engineering department at Stanford said that Sharif’s department is the finest in the world.

Iran also practices a kind of geographic affirmative action in the college admission process. The country is cut up into sections, and there is a quota of students for each district.

Placement on the Konkoor determines whether students will get full scholarships to premier public schools in the world or fall through the cracks and attend mediocre universities.

“The test is more important than anything else,” Morshedi said. “Unlike in America, your GPA and extracurriculars don’t have as much weight. If you rank in the top 100, you are going to the best universities.”

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