What I learned from taking TOPIK II without studying

I almost didn’t even show up for the exam. Aside from a couple hours of reviewing grammar back in January, I didn’t prepare for TOPIK at all. I didn’t even spend time looking over old tests. But, as painful as I knew it was going to be, I knew there was still value in just taking it, regardless of whether I do well or not. I paid for the exam, might as well try to learn something from the experience. So… it happened, and these are the things I know I should work on for October.

  1. Spend more time studying for the listening section. I consider listening one of my strengths in Korean, but this section made me realize I need to diversify the topics I listen to. (Granted even our test proctor said she found some of the dialogues difficult to understand!) Listening to the news more would definitely help, for example. I need to make a serious, focused effort to study for the listening section. I have a lot more resources for studying grammar and vocabulary, so it’ll be hard to not spend all my time studying for the reading section. Speaking of which…
  2. Learn how to speed read. The reading section could have potentially gone worse–I had to guess on like 5 questions near the end because I didn’t have time to read the passages. I’m hoping this won’t happen once I’ve practiced more with past exams and once I’ve started reading more without looking up every single word I don’t know. I think my reading speed has actually gotten worse over the years since I started prioritizing learning vocabulary (i.e. looking up every single word I don’t know, writing it down, etc.) over overall comprehension. Speed reading would’ve also helped me a ton in the listening section, so I could have better scanned the answer choices while listening to the dialogues.
  3. Practice writing on 원고지. I think out of all the sections, I did best in writing. Time was the biggest challenge. I know I would have done much better (and written more) had I practiced ahead of time writing on 원고시. I also didn’t know that you use special pens for the TOPIK (yes… they actually say ‘TOPIK’ on them). I found them pretty easy to use, but it wouldn’t hurt to practice with the next closest thing–Sharpie pens, in my opinion–to really emulate the testing environment.
  4. Take more practice tests. Even though I have a couple of great books for reviewing TOPIK grammar, I think the number one way I can improve is simply by taking more tests. Pretty much every type of skills exam–SAT, GRE, etc.–has its own style and vocabulary and by focusing on that content, I can focus my studying. It’s tempting to spend hours and hours just studying everything I don’t know, but it’s just as important to study how to take the exam.

Overall, it was hard, as I expected it would be. But I’m glad that I decided to take it. As our test proctor said, regardless of what scores we get, just showing up to the exam was impressive enough.

I’ll preemptively say that I won’t publicly post my results for this exam or for future exams, but I will try to post tips and progress updates as I study (in earnest) for the October exam. Onwards!


  1. J.L.S. says:

    Congrats on taking the exam! I have yet to sit in on the TOPIK II test. I took it before they did the switch-over, back when they still held the beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections. Going over the old tests definitely helped a ton to prepare me though. I knew I would pass going into the exam since I did about 2 or 3 practice tests under the same conditions, i.e., I timed myself and sat through each section without a break. Hope your results will be better than you seem to expect and good luck with your studies for October!


    1. Archana says:

      Thanks! I really wish I had taken TOPIK back when it was in the old format. That’s what I get for procrastinating. Sigh.


      1. J.L.S. says:

        Yeah, the one I sat on was the last with that format. I would have kept delaying myself if it wasn’t for that. I studied using the old formats and wasn’t too confident in my writing skills, which I read they were increasing the relative weight on in the new format.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick says:

    I am planning to take TOPIK I in Paris October this year. I don’t really know what to expect, but I have been downloading some PDF’s of old exams. Unfortunately, not a lot of exams that are available are in the new format.

    The most difficult thing for me is to decide what vocabulary I should focus on. Do you have any suggestions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Hi Nick! I’m not sure what the vocabulary is like for TOPIK I. I know II focuses a lot on socioeconomic and political terms, like things you’d hear about on the news. Though I don’t know for sure, my best guess is that the vocab words they will focus on won’t have changed much between the old and new formats of the exam. I would focus on studying words I don’t know from the past exams (both old and new format). It might also be helpful to buy a vocabulary book specific for TOPIK. Let me know how your preparation goes!


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s