All flights in South Korea were grounded as students sat down on Thursday morning for the annual college entrance exam.
Some 600,000 high school students will take the gruelling eight-hour exam to determine if and where they will spend four years in higher education.
The students, including those retaking the exam, were overwhelmed with well-wishes and gifts of sticky rice cake, said to bring good luck.
“My little boy is taking the exam for the third time,” said Kim Yong-Woo, a 59-year-old mother, who joined other parents at cathedral to pray for their children concerning the exam.
“All I can do is pray as his mom and I came out here hoping that he can manage his condition well and get a good score he wants,” she said.
The November event, which includes mathematics, sciences and languages tests, sees the country ground to a halt each year. Financial markets have also been closed.
For 25 minutes, when the listening portion of the English test is administered, the takeoff and landing of aircraft are put on hold and bus drivers travelling near test sites are discouraged from sounding their horns.
Police vehicles and motorcycles were enlisted to escort students running late to the exam.
Financial markets opened an hour later and office workers were advised to be at work later than usual to allow students to get to the exam venue in smoother traffic.