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Now in its third year of testing, the artificial intelligence just earned its best mock entrance exam score yet.

Japanese college entrance exams are notorious for their difficulty. They’re so tough that many parents don’t think their children’s high school classes alone are enough to prepare them to pass the tests, which is why Japan has an entire industry of cram schools where the education continues after regular classes let out for the day.

While many universities have their own proprietary entrance exams, there’s also something called the National Center Test for University Admissions, which is used by roughly 800 universities across the country. For the past three years, Japan’s National Institute of Informatics has had its artificial intelligence program, Torobo-kun, take a practice version of the exam, and it’s just turned in its best results yet.

In its most recent test, Torobo-kun took a practice version of the Center Test used by education provider Benesse Corporation, answering questions in eight different subjects. The AI needs a bit of a jumpstart, though, so first the questions are rewritten in a manner which can be understood by a computer. Torobo-kun is on its own for the answers, though, scanning dictionaries, text books, and online sources to arrive at its responses.

Torobo-kun did best on the world history portion of the exam, racking up 66.5 points out of a possible 100. The program also performed well in the test’s two math sections, with scores of more than 60 in both. Researchers attribute these strong showings to the unchanging nature of the subjects, and also the program’s ability to search for connections between past events and historical figures.

But just like most human students have certain fields they excel in and others they struggle with, Torobo-kun’s marks weren’t consistent across all subjects. The test’s language sections, Japanese and English, specifically, gave it trouble. Physics also proved tricky, as the program still isn’t always capable of fully accounting for the entire range of forces at work in a given question. In each of these three areas, the program’s score was below 50.

Still, Torobo-kun’s final tally for the mock exam was 511 points, well above the national average for human examinees, which is 416.4. As a matter of fact, researchers say that, were it an actual applicant, Torobo-kun did well enough to have an 80-percent chance of being accepted by 474 schools, or roughly 60 percent of the universities that use the Center Test as a basis for admission decisions.

Still, this doesn’t mean it’s time for Torobo-kun to start slacking off in its studies. The “To” in its name is short for Tokyo, as in the University of Tokyo. As Japan’s most prestigious institute of higher learning, the University of Tokyo is also considered to have the most difficult entrance exam, but passing it is the ultimate objective of the Torobo-kun project. The researchers are hoping to achieve that goal by 2021, but it’s good to know that if things with its first choice don’t work out, there are likely to be plenty of other schools willing to accept Torobo-kun should it acquire sentience between now and then.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Sozai Bank