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