Monday, January 30, 2012

[Korea] Tips for TOPIK Exam Preparation ~ Flashback

Yesterday was a very important day for some people who have studied Korean Language and wanted to pass the language exam. Last Sunday, January 29th, 2012 was the date for the 25th TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) Exam. Some of the participants need to pass the exam for job; some need that for starting their study in university, or as a compulsory exam for graduation; others perhaps need that for their competency.

TOPIK is held four times in a year. Twice is held for foreigners only in Korea (usually in January and July). Since it is only held in Korea, the result comes out faster than the other two exams that are held in Korea as well as in other countries (usually in April and September).

The exam is divided into two types, S-TOPIK (standard) and B-TOPIK (business); and three levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Beginner level is for those who want to get grade 1 or 2, Intermediate for grade 3 or 4, and Advanced for grade 5 or 6. Each level has its criteria depends on the section and score as a standard for grading system. The exam has four sections: vocabulary, writing, listening and reading, For example: for Beginner level, you will get grade 1 if your score for every section is more than 40 points and average of all sections is 50 or more. You will get grade 2 if your score for every section is more than 50 and average of all sections is 70 or more.

I needed to pass this exam last January 2011. I must pass grade 3 for university enrollment in fall semester. I just had less than four months to prepare the exam besides my busyness at home for my family. Fortunately, the Korean Language Center where I studied Korean opened TOPIK preparation classes for its students. Therefore, for about 2 months, from Monday to Friday, I joined the preparation classes after the regular classes in the morning. 

Here are the tips for TOPIK Exam Preparation:
  1. Last TOPIK Exam Problems.
    • I download the last problems from TOPIK official website:, 기출문제다운로드, and choose which problems you want (mp3 file is also downloadable).
    • I printed the problems out. It costed me money but I could feel the real exam situation, made notes on the paper, and easy to bring everywhere. You can find your own method depend on your style of study. 
  2. Practice Doing the Older TOPIK Exam
    • See through the whole paper, make yourself understand the instructions so you know what to do with the problems. 
    • Make yourself in a exam situation, set the timer and practice doing it as if you are in the exam room. Don't look at the answer, just keep doing it. 
    • It will give you sense of time during exam. We can't  just focus on one problem and ruin the rest because we don't manage our time well. Each section has its difficulties, for example: the difficulty in listening is different with those in writing. We have to get used in doing it. (I will write more detail about it in separate post).
  3. Evaluate your score and study difficult problems
    • It is important to check your answer and analyze the problem you could not solve. The exam answer is also provided in the TOPIK website but there is no explanation provided. It is suggested that you ask your Korean language teacher to discuss about it. Or if you don't have anybody to discuss with, check it in the dictionary or grammar book. Do not ignore it, it may appear in the next exam.
    • I kept my score and after re-did the test, I compared the scores and also the parts which I could not do in the 1st chance and still made mistake in the 2nd time. 
  4. Find your weak and strong points, and make strategy
    • After you finish evaluate your score for each section and re-study the problem, you will see your strong point or weak point, whether it is in vocabulary, or speed of reading, or grammar understanding. But don't give up if you found that all you have is the weak point. You just start the process. Study your weakness and make strategy. For example, if you need to memorize vocabulary, start with making vocabulary list.  
I do hope the best for all friends who have tried their best for TOPIK Exam. Wish you have a happy result!


  1. Great advice, I learned all this last year when I took it. I just barely got level 3, if I had gotten one or two more wrong I wouldn't have passed! I am planning on taking it again this spring, it was really good motivation to make me study!

  2. Thanks! At that time I just had very limited time to study since I also haad to take care my baby. That's why I used that strategy to focus on TOPIK Exam. Wish you all the best for the exam in spring! :)

  3. So I have a question. You said you needed to take the test for university enrollment in fall semester. But when korean high schoolers end high school, they end it in the winter and start first semester of college in march. So that would mean that you are were enrolled starting from semester? If so, is that really okay? To skip first semester and begin second semester

    1. Hello, thanks for your question. In my case, I was a scholarship recipient of Korean Government Scholarship Program. I was invited to learn Korean language for a year (starts from Sept 2010-Aug 2011) and to continue to the degree program after passing a certain level of language proficiency. Other thing is that I was not taking undergraduate study (which semester starts in March) but graduate study (doctoral course which semester can start either in March or September).