The Seoul Diaries Mini Episode: Taking the TOPIK Exam in Korea


Hi and welcome back to the Seoul Diaries! Finals week has just begun for me and I already want it to end. ๐Ÿคช The weather is getting hotter and the humidity keeps climbing its way up each day. Let’s just say that I never leave the house without my trusted hand fan these days!

About a month ago, I took the TOPIK II exam for the first time in Korea and it was…an interesting experience to say the least. I started studying for this exam back in early January during winter break with the help of the book “Topik’s Supreme Finish” that a senior of mine recommended to me.

ํ† ํ”ฝ ๋ํŒ์™• - for Korean Topik exam + mp3 files- Temporarily Sold-out
What the book looks like^^

Testing Differences with America

  • Writing Utensils – So, in America, when we take standard tests, we usually are told to bring a #2 pencil to the test center to fill out answers and do the writing sections. However, it seems that in Korea (specifically with this exam), we only could use a certain type of ink pen that was provided to us to fill in the answer sheets. They allowed us to bring white-out tape as well. These pens were two-tipped, with one stubby side being used for ๋“ฃ๊ธฐ and ์ฝ๊ธฐ (listening and reading) and the other ink pen side for ์“ฐ๊ธฐ (writing). I will rate my pen-usage experience a 3/10 because the writing side of the pen decided that at the perfect time (5 minutes before time ran out for the section), it would leak ink all over my test sheet and answersใ… ใ…  My fingers and desk were covered in pen ink for most of the exam and it became very distracting and hindering to me to fill out the test sheet at times. It definitely wasn’t my favorite part of the exam and I wish that we could have just used pencils instead…At least the test supervisor gave me some wet tissues to clean my hands during the break~
  • Format – Similar to the SAT, this exam was broken into 3 sections: listening, reading, and writing. It is rumored that they will be adding a speaking section to this test next year ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Anyways, I would say that I personally don’t like any standardized tests, but this format worked well. The difficulty would start the further in you got (ex: after #25 to #50), so if you wanted to score at an intermediate level, it was crucial that you pay attention to the first batch of questions instead of the last one. Also, instead of the teacher playing a recording in the classroom, the test recording was blasted through the school’s speaker system so that everyone was taking it at the same time together.
  • Testing Etiquette – In America, we have those random schools that we go to to take the exams and Korea does it the same way. When I walked into the classroom, we all had to sit at assigned desks and bring the proper paperwork to prove that it was in fact you taking the exam and not someone else.

Tip: Bring copies of all of your paperwork because your pen might splatter ink all over your important ID paperwork and the testers won’t be able to verify that you are you! I would suggest 2 copies per paper just in case.

this actually happened to me, so beware when opening your pen caps!!
  • Going back to etiquette, the rules for the test are really strict. You aren’t allowed to make any noise or move your desk during the testing time (especially during the listening section because they only play the section once and never again). Because of COVID, we were only allowed to drink but not eat during the 10 minute break period, but I ate a heavy breakfast beforehand so I was okay (tired, but okay).

Thoughts & Tips for Preparation

Overall, I tried my best on this exam, but here are a few things I thought about after finishing the exam.

Pure Concentration in 1 Photo:
  • When registering to take either TOPIK I or TOPIK II, there are different sections (domestic/international and goes by month). For more info: check out their official website. (Note: to take the exam, you will have to pay 55,000won!)
  • It seems that it is better to understand and know the different categories of vocabulary for the test as they pull on more advanced words and grammar patterns in the reading and writing sections.
  • Don’t cram-study the night before!
  • Someone who scored a 6 told me that they started studying a year prior and studied every single day for 1-2 hours to get the score they got. #dedication
  • Seriously, don’t cram-study the night before!!!!
  • Definitely practice a lot of times beforehand for the writing section. I was so tired from the first two sections that, by the time I got to the last section, I was literally on my last brain cell and incoherent ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€
  • Get plenty of rest the night before and try not to over-stress like me
  • Get down the basic and commonly-used verbs and nouns for certain topics and get used to being able to quickly cross out answer options (in your head) to find the right answer
  • You don’t have time to go back and look through your answers, so be confident in your gut feeling/1st answer choice and move on to the next question
  • Be sure to print out your testing confirmation slip (can be found in your testing account under “๋งˆ์ดํŽ˜์ด์ง€ > ์ˆ˜ํ—˜ํ‘œ”), along with another form of ID (ARC/Passport).
  • You better not cram-study the night before!!!!!!!
  • Bring: Form of ID, test confirmation slip ์ˆ˜ํ—˜ํ‘œ, a white-out pen, water, snack (?), and yourself to the testing center (Early!). If you come late, they won’t allow you into the testing center!!

With these tips and tricks, I wish you the best of luck if you ever choose to take the TOPIK!


See you in the next post!

*The writing and photos here are meant for use on and are not to be copied or redistributed by other entities without permission from the author.

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