Robots to College


Admission to some of America’s more selective colleges is a little, well, complicated. Because many colleges use “holistic” admissions practices, mere good grades and high SAT scores often aren’t quite enough.

This is different from admissions standards to Japanese Universities, where entrance essentially comes from performance on a single test. At the University Tokyo, the country’s most prestigious university, students must pass the national entrance examination and then another, separate examination administered by the school alone.

But what if the applicant isn’t a person? According to an article by Yoree Koh in the Wall Street Journal:

Researchers have posed the question of whether a robot could pass the test to get into the country’s most prestigious university.

Fujitsu Ltd. is betting artificial intelligence is smart enough to make the grade for Todai — as the university is also known. In response to the challenge “Can a Robot Pass the Todai Entrance Exam”?, the electronics company said Monday that its research subsidiary, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. will join forces with Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, to develop a robot capable of getting through the test.

Subjects tested include world history, chemistry, physics, algebra, trigonometry, and several foreign languages.

The math is, oddly enough, likely to be the hard part. While robots can certainly do math, solving for X in an equation is quite different from answering a world problem like,

Four triangular gardening plots form a square. Each plot will contain one kind of flower, and flowers in plots that share an edge will be different. How many different ways can the garden be painted if the flowers can be roses, carnations, daises, lilies, or tulips?

That sort of question is pretty hard for a robot to process. Fujitsu apparently said the robot is now able to solve “up to” 60 percent of math questions on the national examination.

That 60 percent is definitely not good enough for University of Tokyo.

The robot has until 2021 to prepare. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer