The film opens with a test scenario that the new crew must tackle. They fail to resolve the situation, which is when Kirk appears on the scene. The captain of the trainees then has this conversation with Kirk:
SAAVIK (fights emotion) I don't believe this was a fair test of my command capabilities. KIRK And why not? SAAVIK Because... there was no way to win. KIRK A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you? SAAVIK ... No, sir. It has not. KIRK How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say? SAAVIK (falters) As I indicated, Admiral, that thought had not occurred to me. KIRK Then you have something new to think about. Carry on.
Saavik is not able to leave this rest, however. Later on they continue the conversation in an elevator:
SAAVIK I wish to thank you for the high efficiency rating. KIRK You earned it. SAAVIK I did not think so. KIRK You're bothered by your performance on the Kobayashi Maru. SAAVIK I failed to resolve the situation. KIRK There is no correct resolution. It is a test of character.
Or at least that's what the first half of the movie would like us to believe about Kirk. Star Trek, being the ode to modernity that it is, must eventually squeeze out the virtues in favour of technological resolution to ethical quandaries. Kirk, it turns out, is even more of a utilitarian than Saavik, as he tells her that he cheated on the test in order to turn a no-win situation into a situation that could produce a successful outcome.