TOPIK stands for the Test of Proficiency in Korean. So basically it’s an officially certified exam conducted by the Korean government that evaluates your Korean proficiency.
There are two types of TOPIK test – TOPIK I and TOPIK II.
TOPIK I is for elementary level learners, and TOPIK II for intermediate to advanced level learners.
Here’s how the exam is structured:
In TOPIK I, there are two sections : Listening and Reading, 30 and 40 questions each. 40 minutes and 60 minutes is given to each section.
So you get to solve total 70 questions in 100 minutes. (100분 동안 70 문제를 풀어요.)
And in TOPIK II, there are three sections: Listening, Reading and Writing. There are 50 questions each for listening (60 mins) and reading section (70 mins), and the additional 4 questions for the writing section (50 mins.)
So you get to solve total 104 questions in 180 minutes, which equals three hours. (세 시간 동안 104문제를 풀어요.)
The total marks of TOPIK I is 200, and if you get over 80 marks, you pass level 1. If you get over 140, you pass level 2. If you get below 80 marks, you don’t pass any levels.
Same works with TOPIK II. The total marks is 300. And if you get over 120, you pass level 3, over 150, you pass level 4, 190 level 5, and if you get over 230, you pass level 6.
And here is the brief description of the skills required to pass each level:
(brought from https://www.topikguide.com/topik-overview/)
Level 1 Use of basic commands of Korean for survival, such as greeting, purchasing, ordering, etc. Expressing and understanding oneself in simple everyday conversation by making simple sentences from 800 basic words.
Level 2 Discussion of familiar topics employing a vocabulary of about 1,500∼2,000 words. Distinguishing correctly between formal and informal situations.
Level 3 Carrying out transactions with people in public spaces and maintaining social relationships. Understanding the correct usage of words and speech. Command of fundamental characteristics of Korean.
Level 4 Comprehension of news articles, general social issues and abstract topics with accuracy and fluency. Comprehension of Korean social and cultural contents relying on essential idioms and understanding of representative aspects of Korean culture.
Level 5 High fluency in using the Korean language in professional research or work. Understanding and discussing less unfamiliar topics in politics, economics and other fields. Usage of appropriate expressions, distinguishing formal and informal, written and spoken, by context.
Level 6 Absolutely fluent in the Korean language for professional research or work, Capacity to understand and express oneself without problem, although without the full fluency of a native speaker.
FAQs about TOPIK
“How long does it take to pass a certain level?”
This is a really tricky question to answer, because it all depends on learners. Each learner has different time they can allocate for studying, as well as different levels of commitment, learning environment, pace of learning, and so on. So please don’t think there’s a general rule.
This is my personal estimation, but I think if you can commit to studying Korean hardcore, every day, at least for more than 5-6 hours, you can easily pass level 2 within six months of learning Korean from scratch.
If you cannot afford that much time and commitment, but are willing to take even a small chunk of time every day and study consistently, then in about a year, you can pass level 2.
And for level 3 or 4, I’d say if you study consistently for 1~2 years, you may be able to pass.
For level 5 or 6, it’s really hard to even give an estimation, because quite advanced level of Korean is required, especially level 6, and it really depends on many different factors which cannot but be different for each learner.
Again, these are just estimated numbers that can differ by learners. I hope you don’t focus too much on how much time you need to pass, but more on actually getting yourself to study. Because after all, the harder you study and the more time you commit to it, the sooner you’ll be able to pass! 🙂
“Is TOPIK really necessary?“
TOPIK is definitely not the only way you can study Korean, but I think it is a good exam to study for, because studying for a test can be a good motivator that keeps you going. If you have a set goal in mind, it’s easier to convince yourself to keep studying. Even in days you feel kind of lazy, you’ll make time to study for at least a few minutes, because you don’t want to fail the test and waste your money and time. Also, it could be advantageous to have a TOPIK certificate to prove your proficiency in Korean, especially when applying for schools or jobs.
But even if you are not registering for the actual test, you can always practice with mock/practice tests provided by TOPIK website or published books. And they can be great materials for you to learn.
You can click over here and you’ll find several files of the actual tests conducted in the past. Also included are the audio files, script for the listening section, and answer sheet. You can also go to studytopik.go.kr and take the same tests online. This way, you don’t have to physically download all the files. Also, you can check your score right away and the correct answers for each question.
But when taking the actual test, you don’t get to take it on a computer. They give out physical sheets of test paper, and you mark the answers in a scantron (OMR card.) –> [Edit: I hear it depends on countries and also the test-takers’ preference. Make sure to ask TOPIK committee in your country about this, whether the test is computer based or paper based.] I personally prefer taking an online test because it’s more convenient and saves time. But when studying with those test sheets, I recommend actually printing them out so you can take notes on it.
If you’d like to get books that provide more practice tests, there are many books available. I personally have these two books for TOPIK I and TOPIK II. The test sheets in the books are not the actual TOPIK tests conducted in the past. They are made by each publisher based on the analysis of the actual tests. So they are quite reliable and of good quality. You can look into books like these if you’re interested. There are many books other than these two.
I hope this post solved your curiosity about the test. Feel free to explore TOPIK website by clicking here. They pretty much have all the info you would need. You’ll also find a lot of free learning materials other than test sheets.
Below are my YouTube classes based on 64th TOPIK I test, both listening and reading. I recommend you first take the test, and then the class.
[How to Take the Test]
You can take the test here : http://www.studytopik.go.kr/sub-1/link_url.asp?ma_url=sub_1 You can take the first two segments: TOPIK I 듣기(listening) & 읽기(reading.)
You can also print the test file here ↓
and bring it to class. The file is provided for free at https://www.topikguide.com/download-64th-topik-test-papers/
You can also find answer sheets, audio file, and listening transcript in the link above.
[Link to my YT Classes]
1. Listening Part (Sept 19th) :
2. Reading Part (Sept 20th) :