If you have been a keen learner of the Korean language and are now ready to take the next step in attaining a formal certification, then perhaps it is time to put your linguistic proficiency to the test by taking the TOPIK exam. An external exam conducted twice a year locally, TOPIK – also known as The Test of Proficiency in Korea – aims to help non-native speakers expand their growth opportunities in Korea.
This highly sought-after certification is recommended for those intending to migrate to Korea or apply for a Korean university. In addition, your grades in this exam are good indicators for potential employers to assess your current Korean language ability, which increases your chances of landing a spot on the team. So if you have decided to enrol for the TOPIK exams, let us share four practical tips you should consider to ensure you pass the test with flying colours.
1. Do the test in chronological order
Always approach your exam in chronological order. With TOPIK, the questions get increasingly more challenging as the test goes on. Focus your attention on those that you are confident in answering. This ensures that you have pinned down the questions that you are most likely to do well on, and it also builds your confidence from the get-go.
If you are facing trouble with certain questions, skip them and come back later. Do not mull over them or attempt to backtrack and solve the challenging questions, as this might leave you with insufficient time to complete the paper. Instead, keep going forward, and you can circle back to them when you have adequate time later.
2. Familiarise yourself with the test structure
The TOPIK exams generally have the same test structure, with any updates usually kept to a minimum. Therefore, practice tests will help immensely, as you can understand what each section is focused on during these trial runs. This enables you to identify which areas you are struggling with, so you can focus on brushing up on your weaker topics.
By recognising the questions you frequently run into trouble with, you can effectively utilise your time during the actual test. This means that you will be channelling your time and energy into the questions you are confident of answering.
3. Improve your reading speed and listening comprehension skills
Improve your listening comprehension skills and reading speed to make the most out of your time during the exam. After all, efficient time management is often crucial to ensure you score well in any test.
The reading and writing sections can take up plenty of time if you are struggling to decipher what the question is asking. In addition, it can get especially confusing when you have to read the question and listen for the answer simultaneously during the listening comprehension portion of the exam.
When it comes to improving your reading skill, you can attempt to use quickfire flashcards. Give yourself short intervals to read a sentence or passage and decipher its meaning. Gradually, you will start to comprehend the questions faster, allowing you to cover more ground in the actual exam.
As for ways to develop your listening comprehension skill, you can consider listening to various Korean audiobooks at different speeds and write down whatever is being said. Alternatively, you can consider listening to something you enjoy, such as your favourite K-Pop song. When you enjoy listening to and understanding a particular subject, you are likely to pay greater attention to the subject matter.
4. Don’t overlook the writing segment of the test
While practising for your TOPIK exam, you might have come across the advice to ignore the writing portion of the test because it is challenging for one to score well for that particular segment. However, if you aim to achieve a Grade 5 or Grade 6 score for your TOPIK exam, you should never neglect the writing segment of your test.
Similar to the reading and listening sections of the test, the writing portion usually follows a similar structure to the previous iterations of the exam. Therefore, if you have familiarised yourself with the TOPIK structure beforehand, you will likely know what to expect.
The first two questions are fill-in-the-blank exercises that test your ability to select the appropriate vocabulary for the given scenarios. These questions should not pose much of a challenge if you have revised your syllabus thoroughly. Moreover, the rest of the sentence generally provides a clue as to what words to use and how formal you should be.
Likewise, revision is key when it comes to tackling the third question. You will be provided with a graph and tasked to explain its content using just 100 to 200 characters. Model answers from past TOPIK papers are your friends here, so it is advisable to familiarise yourself with the formula for the answers beforehand and apply it to the information provided by the graph on the exam day.
The final question typically trips most participants up as they are given a list of things to talk about and only a limited number of characters, between 600 to 700 characters, to summarise all the information into a short essay. Therefore, it is essential for you to understand the question and the information provided so you can organise them into a logical piece of writing.
As the adage goes, “Practise makes perfect.” This logic can also be applied to the final question as there is a set pattern you can follow to layout your essay. With sufficient practice, you will soon get the hang of it. Furthermore, it is advisable to refer to past model answers to find the key phrases to use in your essay. Additionally, we recommend using hanja vocab to enhance the tone of your writing.
Most importantly, you need to ensure you follow the Korean writing convention when crafting your answers, as points will be deducted if you don’t follow the rules. Therefore, it is crucial for you to brush up on them before taking the TOPIK exam.
The TOPIK exam is a whole different ballgame from the other tests you have taken for your Korean language courses. This certificate is recognised worldwide, and it proves your mastery of the Korean syllabus. Therefore, to ensure you pass the exam with flying colours, it is advisable for you to adopt our practical tips and study diligently for the test.
If you are not confident, there is no harm in postponing your decision to take the exam until you are ready to do so. You can also consider signing up for Korean lessons to improve your Korean language ability. At ONLYOU, our highly qualified team of teachers can guide you through the TOPIK exam guidelines and answer any queries you may have on the subject. So sign up for our Korean classes now and learn this intriguing language today!