finally finshed picture

My Topik Intermediate 34th Experience

I thought I had hit the jackpot because the testing area was at a school that is (technically) in my small city, however I didn’t realize until a couple of days ago that it is off the beaten path. So much that I have to take a taxi from my apartment to the campus and then walk about 7 minutes to the testing building. It cost me about 10,000 won.

I arrived at the building about 1.5 hours before the test hoping to be able to get some last minute review in. I foolishly assumed that it would be set up like any standardized test I’d taken in the US. It wasn’t. There was no one giving out information or directing anything. I looked around and I was the only Westerner there. Nearly every other people present was of East Asian or South East Asian descent. I wasn’t exactly surprised since the majority of people who would even study Korean are more than likely international students here. I heard a mixture of Chinese, Thai, Tagalog, and some Indian languages being spoken and zero English.

Through the groups of people standing around I saw a board with numbers on it. After staring at it for about 10 minutes I figured out we needed to find our ID numbers and match it to a specific classroom in which we would being taking the test. I found mine and waited. After about 40 minutes hundreds of people came pouring out from the morning exam. There were 8 doors on this building but only one was open so all (what seemed like) 800 of them came out of it. After this we were allowed to enter. We went in and found our classrooms that had lists with our names on it. The classroom sat 40 people and was quite large. I was happy when I entered because I wanted to grab a seat near the side. Then I realized our seats were assigned so I found mine and sat down.

I sat there hoping I’d see another English speaker because then I wouldn’t stand out so much. Not one came in. Not one. I wonder if any were there, still. Before the test started, I overheard quite a few people speaking their native tongues and then seamlessly switching to Korean when they needed to. Everyone seemed so well learned in Korean. “Great, I’m the only one here who doesn’t speak that well”, I thought. Being an English speaker people don’t expect you to, so despite living here, I rarely find people who try to use Korean with me.

I sat there pretty much alone until about 10 minutes before the exam when everyone else started to come in. The exam proctors came in and started passing out the fill-in sheets. We all filled in our information and with about 10 minutes to go, they came around to check that everyone was who they claimed to be. The exam booklets were passed out about 5 minutes before and I looked around the room at at least 10 people had their books open. This is also something I’m not used to. Every standardized test I’ve ever taken has been sealed shut and breaking the seal and opening the test is an automatic failure. The proctors asked everyone to refrain from solving until it was time. They waited. When the announcement came on, we started solving.

I felt the test wasn’t that bad. Right out the gate it was easier than expected. Until today, I had never taken a timed Topik test. I realized that like 5 minutes before the start and that had me worried. All too often I read about people feeling like they didn’t have a lot of time to finish. I thought I did okay on the first part of exam. There were definitely a few questions I wasn’t 100% on. After solving the first page of the grammar section I remembered to look at the writing topic. It read:

“What was the happiest day so far in your life? Why was it so happy? What happened on this day? When was it? How much did it affect you?”

“Fuck yes! I can write about my dog”, I thought. I finished up the grammar portion and realized something. Out of all that advanced grammar I learned, none of it was on the test. Okay, maybe there was one. I got the the end of the grammar section and the idioms got me. There were 2 I knew (which were not the answer) and 2 I didn’t know. So, I just guessed. On the writing section I also did much better than I thought. I got one of the ‘fill in the missing part’ problems right and the jury is still out on the other one. I made it to the essay and managed to write all the way down until the last two lines of the paper. I actually wanted to write more, but I didn’t have room so I just sucked it up and ended it. Who knew I could write so much in Korean considering I practiced essay writing the least?

Then I put my pen down expecting there to be 10 or so minutes left. There were about 35 minutes left. I finished 35 minutes early. “Um….what the hell?”, I thought to myself. I had gotten good at solving correctly and quickly while studying, but I thought I’d slow down for the actual test. Apparently not. Since I had so much time left, I went back to the fill-in problems and re-read the one I was unsure about. In the end I changed it to a more likely answer. I then re-read my essay and corrected 2 mistakes and put the pen down and waited.

Those were the longest 25 minutes of my life.

After the bell rang I went outside and had a snack. I needed to stretch my legs. I went back in about 15 minutes later and the answer sheets for the second half had already been passed out and the tape player was already set up. Even though I’ve heard “tape condition” a ton of times on the Topik listening track, I had no idea it was an actual tape. A damn cassette. It tickled me pink. I got my answer sheet, filled in my information and prepared for the test. Although I haven’t studied listening in at least 2 weeks, I did well. I even understood the final listening track which I’ve never understood. I managed to do 5 or 6 reading problems in between tracks but decided to stop that as I needed to focus on listening once I reached the 20th problem. Like other parts of the exam, the reading seemed easier than when I’d practiced. Again, I understood the final question and I’ve had that happen exactly twice on the past tests I’ve used. Half way through the reading, my study burnout started coming back. It became harder to focus and I started to get a bit of a headache. I slowed down A LOT and just rode it out. I finished with like 10 minutes left, though I would have finished sooner had my head no started to hurt.

All in all it was a good experience. Despite it not running how I’m used to, it really surprised me in the end. I can’t wait to get the results back and I’m even more excited about expanding my Korean horizons.

If you took the 34th exam, how do you think you did?



19 hours until the Topik Intermediate 34….

And my brain is fried. I went to the dentist yesterday to get my crown installed and seeing that it only took 10 minutes, I decided to pop into the bookstore across the street to buy Topik preparation book since I could no longer bear to re-study the same tests. The book is pictured at the top, and like the EBS book, is REALLY good. So much better than the Topik Master’s book. The tests weren’t the exact same as the exams, but they mirror them enough for you to feel like you’re practicing.

Anyway, the book has 4 exams in it. I started it this morning and have successfully made it through 1 exam. Well 3/4th of an exam. I didn’t do the listening part. I did however do quite well on the reading and the grammar portion, and feel “prepared” for the Topik tomorrow. When I tried to do the next exam, however, I just felt burned out. Like my brain just can’t take anymore studying. I was getting tired of trying to solve the problems. I was getting tired of reading all the answer choices and wondering if I selected the right one. I was just getting tired. Not tired of Korean, but tired of studying for the Topik. My brain has officially had enough.

With the Topik less than 20 hours away, I’ve decided to stop “preparing” for it. I plan on reviewing my adverbs, grammar and idioms and that’s it. The way I see it, if I’m not ready at this point, then I’m not ready for the exam. I also felt it was best to just stop overdoing it since I kind of need to be ready for the exam tomorrow. I just closed my preparation book, turned on Hulu and started watching a drama called School 2013. This is will be my listening practice for tonight and that’s it.

I’m going to ride this thing on out calmly and collectively. I thought I would be more nervous or anxious about it, but I find I am not. I’m just tired and worn out. Good luck to everyone who is still currently preparing for the exam, and to those who have taken it already. I will see you on the other side of the Topik 34.




grammar in use 3 charm

How many grammar points do you need to know for the Topik intermediate?

This is something I asked myself a ton of times before ever studying for the Topik. For some reason, I was under the impression that languages (including English) contain several hundred less grammar points than they actually did. In the two years I studied Korean in college, we probably never made it past 80 or so grammar points. Anyone with knowledge of grammar know that 80 grammar points is child’s play. That amount of grammar doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of a language. So how many do you need to have under your belt in order to take the Topik intermediate?

I decided to look through my notes and my books and count how many I’ve had to learn thus far.

According to my favorite grammar book Darakwon’s Korean Grammar in Use Beginner, you need to know 107 grammar points in order to be able to take the beginner’s level Topik test. I downloaded the beginner’s Topik One application and l played around with several of the tests and found that quite a few of the intermediate grammar points showed up on this exam. So, I would probably put the necessary grammar points for beginner’s level closer to about 115-120.

I then opened up my Darakwon Korean Grammar in Use Intermediate book and counted 93 grammar points in that book alone. So far, that’s 200 grammar points before you can even dream of understanding the Topik intermediate exam. I know that I didn’t even look at the tests before I hit the 200 grammar mark and I could still barely understand it because of the gap in vocabulary and reading ability. Having written down and studied 200 grammar points  for the Topik, you might be thinking, “That’s probably more than enough, right?”


I thought I was in the clear and sitting pretty once I finished the second Darakwon book. I opened up my first grammar test and damn near failed it. Why? There were still grammar points I didn’t know. They weren’t in the Darakwon books and they weren’t in the Yonsei Korean Grammar for Foreigners book, either. So, I ended up buying the 150 Essential Grammar Topik Intermediate book and lo and behold all of the were in there. About 55 to be exact. There were still dozens of grammar points that were considered intermediate that I didn’t know. I’ve written them all down, and while most of them seem to be obscure and used less often, my exam scores rose once I learned them. I started being able to understand the reading, writing, and listening portion better once I learned them as well.

So how many grammar points do you need to take and pass the Topik intermediate?

About 255.

I wish I was kidding. Despite knowing all of these grammar points, there are still  about 10 or so grammar points I don’t know that keep tripping me up on the grammar portion. I bought the Darakwon Korean Grammar in Use Advanced last week and unsurprisingly, most of the leftover grammar points are in this book. While they don’t make up the majority of the test, I’m going to suck it up and learn them.

The gap between beginner and intermediate is truly no joke at all. I can remember back 8 or so months ago when I overestimated my readiness for the exam because I knew (or thought I did) so many words and so many grammar points that there was no way I wouldn’t be able to pass this exam. Nothing humbled me more than opening up that test and reading over countless problem I couldn’t confidently answer.

As I mentioned before, grammar is the foundation of a language. Without it, a language is just a bunch of words. Anyone who is even planning on attempting to take Korean past the beginner’s level needs to be aware of the realities of language fluency. It is not easy. If anything it is daunting. Intimidating. But once you are on the other side, you feel nothing but a sense of accomplishment.

I can’t wait to tackle my new advanced grammar book. I counted at it has 83 grammar points in it. A part of me wants to dream that in order to be an advanced level student of Korean, all I need to know is 338 grammar points. Then I come back to my senses and accept that number is probably closer to 400.




Amendment: I was looking up 는 한편 in my Grammar in Use Advanced book when I noticed that 50 of the 55 grammar points I took from the 150 Essential grammar book were in the the advanced book. So while the you need at least 255 for the Topik intermediate, I think the threshold for “advanced” level might be a bit lower than I’d originally thought. I have maybe 45-55 new grammar points I need to learn in my new advanced textbook.  Yay!



Solving Topik intermediate grammar/vocabulary questions

The grammar and vocabulary portion of the exam, like all other portions, is worth 100 points. Many people find that this is one of the easiest portions of the exam and it almost acts like a cushion for the overall exam grade. The same is true for me as well. Though as of late, my grammar/vocabulary score has been slowly slipping down due to not focusing so hard on it. In this installment I will talk about how I not only solve these questions but how to do so very quickly.

How I solve the ‘fill in the blank’ questions:

1. Read over the problem and take a skim of the answers.

2. Choose the correct answer.

That’s all you can do for these. You either understand the problem in front of you and at least 3 of the 4 answers or you don’t. There really isn’t any strategy to these. However, it is important to note that some they will put two likely answers here and only knowledge of the problems grammar will allude to the answer.

Topik 20회

Topik 20회

The foundation of your social life is_____________ promises well.

1. ordering

2. leaving

3. hiding

4. keeping/maintaining

All you have to know is the word 약속 and it’s obvious the answer is 4. 

Topik 20회

Topik 20회

This picture contains____________ from when I was a child.

1. habit

2. memory

3. plan

4. interest

The answer is obvious. If you don’t know the word 추억, you can deduce it down to number 2 as the answer.

Topik 20th grammar 3

Topik 20회

Since that thing is _____________finished, I’m not going to bother regretting it.

1. separately, privately

2. just, just in time

3. in advance

4. first

I’m not going to lie, I would probably slow down on this one. Korean adverbs confuse me at times. However number 1 and 4 just don’t make sense so they can be eliminated. Then I would worry if number 2 was translated correctly or not, but in the end, I’d choose number 3 as the answer. It is simply the best one.


How I solve the similar meaning problems:

These ones can be solved at lightening speed if you know a lot of Korean vocabulary words. In order to take the Topik Intermediate you should know at least 5000 words ranging from basic to low advanced.

1. Read the underlined part only. If you know the word, look at the answer choices and select immediately.

2. Read the underlined part. If you don’t know the word, read the whole problem to try and infer its meaning.

If you’ve done the practice exams from 17-33, you will notice the same vocabulary has a tendency to keep popping up so it’s best to take not of all of them.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

The people who came to buy the tickets are standing in line so each person is waiting in order.

Number 3 and 4 don’t make sense for this problem at all so you can eliminate them. You are left with 1 and 2 and if you don’t know the meaning of 차례 it can be hard to decide. However, location doesn’t really make much sense so the answer has to be 순서(in order) number 2. Notice how they say the people are standing in a line. That points to the answer.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

Through scientific discoveries the world has quickly changed and peoples lives have also become different.

The answer choices for this one is quite easy if you have the 500 Basic Korean Verbs book. The answer is number 4 which also means ‘to change’ in Korean.


How I solve the ‘choose the correct verb’ problems:

I used to get most of these questions wrong. Mostly due to the fact that I was rushing through them and not really paying attention. In order to get these questions right, you need to be able to visualize (is this the correct word?) how the verb would fit into the question.

1. Read the first problem and look at the answers.

2. Cross off two of the verbs. At least two of them can be crossed off, always.

3. Read the second question and then decide which verb fits both.

4. If you are unsure skim the last question to make sure. You need to find 2 fits and once you’ve found them you can be assured the answer is correct.

Topik 28th grammar 10

Topik 28회

A.What should we do with (him?) suddenly ____________ the company like that?

B.Whenever he__________on a vacation he dreams.(?)

C.My girlfriend that I love___________.

After reading number one you can cross 만나다 off the list. After reading number two you can cross 그만두다 off as it doesn’t make sense. So you are left with 다니다 and 떠나다. If you read over the final sentence it does not make sense with 다니다 so number 3 is the answer.

Topik 28회

Topik 28회

A. It’s dangerous so don’t___________ your hand.

B. I hate bitter tastes so I _________sugar in my coffee and then drink it.

C. You will probably need comfortable clothes so ________the clothes and come.

After reading the first one you can get rid of 타다 and 들다. You are left with 넣다 (put in) and 대다 (touch,supply, fix, do extremely). Both could work with the first one, but if you read number 2 대다 makes no sense so the answer is obviously number 1.

How I solve the ‘opposite meaning’ problems:

I solve these the exact same way I solve the ones with similar meaning.

Topik 30회

Topik 30회

That person often breaks his promises so he doesn’t have very many friends.

Number 1 and 4 can instantly be eliminated. 3 is a very good option, but it seems odd to not have friends since you postpone promises, so you have to assume the answer is 지키다 number 2. If you don’t know the word, try to use process of elimination.


How I solve grammar problems 14-18:

We are now entering the meat of the grammar/vocabulary portion of the exam. I highly recommend you buy and view (intensely) the Topik Essential Grammar 150 Intermediate book.

1. Read the first question and skim the answers.

2. Cross off the incorrect answers. There is always at least one obvious one, but usually two.

3. Decide which one of the remaining answers fits best.

4. If you don’t know the grammar from a problem…..look it up, write it down, remember it.

I played the game of trying to avoid looking up certain grammar points because I thought they weren’t important but I found out that I needed to know them or I would definitely be screwed. I’ve also come to realize that there are about  4 or 5 advanced grammar points that show up on the intermediate from time to time. I will also be reviewing those ones later because there have been times when they were they answers.

Topik 29회

Topik 29회

가: Why are there so many people in front of the city hall?

나: From today ____________be a world culture festival.

It’s difficult to translate this with the part missing however you can eliminate number 3, 2 and 4 all at once because if you know anything about grammar, you will know they make no sense at all. The answer is number 1.


Topik 29회

Topik 29회

가: Did you send all the invitations? Is there nothing for me to help with?

나: It’s okay. I went to the post office and ________________.

I will admit this one is a bit difficult. I had to look up the meanings of number 3 and 4. However, you can eliminate number 1 and 2 because they don’t make sense. When I did this practice exam, I chose number 3 as the answer because I didn’t know what number 4 meant. I looked up 기만 하면 되다 (all you have to do is)and realized number 4 is the answer. Adding that one to my grammar study sheet.

How I solve the ‘choose the incorrect/correct answer’ problem:

1. Read the directions. Sometimes it says choose the incorrect one, and sometimes it says choose the correct one. I initially assumed they were all for incorrect and I ended up with 5 wrong questions and minus 18 points.

2. Read over the sentences. I read them all. I take my time with this portion because I suck at these and I can’t afford to get them wrong.

3. Cross of the obviously incorrect answers. If you know your grammar 2 of the sentences will stand out as not being the correct answer.

4. Read over the remaining answers and try to figure out which one is correct.

Note: Many of these sentence types repeat over the exams. If you don’t know a grammar point, look it up. Currently I need to look up 어/아 오다/가다 and a couple others because they keep showing up and I still don’t know them. Also, the honorific sentences are always the same. There are about 6-7 honorific words you need to know like sleep, eat, take care of, see, be sick in order to select the non-honorifics.

Topik 27회

Topik 27회

1. The friend I used to play basketball with went to study abroad. Know the difference between 었/았던 and 던 and you’ll know this is correct.

2. After class finished (I) wrote the letter I will send to my little (sister). This is a modifier (I believe). You should know the difference between 보내는, 보낸 and 보낼.

3.  I took the cake I made (with my own hands) with me to my friends house. In this one it’s all about conjugation. 만들다 is conjugated into 만든 with modifying the following word.

4. The news that I heard today said that there will be rain in the afternoon. The problem with this one is tense. It’s wrong. So the incorrect answer is number 4.


Topik 27회

Topik 27회

1. Grandpa, have a cup of tea. 드세요 is an honorific for ‘have/eat’, so this is correct.

2. Mother, go inside and sleep. 주무세요 is the honorific for sleep, so this is correct.

3. Eunyoung, come and help Cheolsu. Notice she uses 아 which implies Eunyoung has a close relationship with the speaker however the ending makes no sense because it is informal and honorific at the same time. So, the answer is number 3.


How I solve problems 24-26:

I usually do quite well at these ones, but have been known to stumble on them. Like other portions of the exam, look up grammar you don’t recognize. I’ve noticed that some advanced grammar points will pop up in the last 6 or 7 questions of the exam from time to time.

1. Read up until the underlined point. If you know exactly what it means, read the answer and select.

2. read up until the underlined point. If you are unsure as to the meaning, read the second part of the problem and implement the process of elimination.

I’ve found it can be hit or miss with these ones at times for me. I can be on a roll getting them all right and then suddenly hit a snag so I try to spend a bit of time on the ones I am unsure about and not rush through to the writing portion.

Topik 32회

Topik 32회

가: Why didn’t you come to yesterdays meeting?

나: There was a meeting yesterday? I thought there was no meeting this week.

If you know what the underlined portion means, you can just ignore the rest. Just by looking at the underlined part you know the answer is number 1. They mean the exact same thing except 없다고 생각했다 is beginner’s grammar and 있는 줄 몰랐어요 is low intermediate.



Topik 32회

Topik 32회

가: It seems like you really like this place.

나: Of course. To me this place is like my hometown.

Again, if you are excellent at grammar, you can solve this one quite quickly if you read the underlined portion only. “like my hometown” is only similar to one other answer. The answer is number 3 “practically my hometown”. The old difference between this grammar, like others, is that one is beginner’s and the other is considered intermediate.


How I solve problem 27-30:

The grammar in these ones can be difficult for me at times. On most of the practice exams I did, I got a lot of these wrong not because I thought I knew the answer, but because I guessed the answer. Yes, guessed, I was so confident I could get these right I was guess. Despite recognizing them and knowing they where on my grammar study sheet, I couldn’t fully recall their meaning, so it’s best to review the hell out of your grammar.

1. Read the entire passage up until the blank space and then read the answers. You have read all of number 29 and 30 but I usually skip forward on 27-28.

2. Eliminate the incorrect answers and choose from the others.

These questions always have idioms and adverbs in it. I suck at adverbs and if you do too, I suggest looking all the ones you don’t know up. I also recommend looking up the 50 or so idioms that appear on the exam. I found the majority of them here, but if you just type them into a search engine the remaining ones should show up.

Topik 33회

Topik 33회

가: Did you see the _________ drama that started last week.

This one is a no-brainer. Even if you don’t know most of the words, 새로 is too common not to know. The answer is 새로 number 2.

가:(skip ahead to last line): And when I watch it Kim Mingi’s role ___________ better than I thought.

Number 2 and 4 can be insta-eliminated. They make absolutely no sense. I admit I chose number originally because I haven’t brushed up on number 1’s meaning but the answer is 1 “I saw that it suited him”.




Topik 33회

Topik 33회

You must read the entire paragraph in order to gain the full meaning for 29 and 30. Like all the final questions, these are the hardest ones on the writing portion. They all also include an idiom. About 46 of them (if you write all of them down) to be exact. The passage reads as follows:

Recently companies have been growing rapidly due to the low prices and various designs of clothing they produce. However, with growth, consumers dissatisfaction also grows. The government’s ___________ shows that this is because people are dissatisfied with the products quality as it fails to meet their expectations. These clothing companies must work hard to avoid the common criticism “_____________”.

Number 29 is very easy in this one. If you know what 의하다, 비하다, 관하다, and 대하다 mean, you can easily choose the correct answer. The answer is number 1 “according to the government’s survey” .

The firs time I did number 30 I got it wrong because I still hadn’t looked up the idioms, and planned to get them wrong, but after having looked them up the answer is obviously number 2 “you get what you pay for”.

So that’s how I solve the grammar and vocabulary portion of the exam. I will be adding a post on listening (hopefully) tomorrow so come back then.




study charm

The fire has returned with 8 days until the Topik 34

I don’t know what’s gotten into me but my passion for learning Korean has come back. That 10 days of not studying made me feel like I was definitely going to fail the exam but now I am thinking it was definitely for the best. While I had to deal with all of these things I am kind of glad now that they did arise. I’ve come to accept that my brain needs a break from things after a certain amount of time regardless as to if there is a pending deadline like an exam.

I’ve all but finished the EBS book I bought the other day. I did okay for the most part. It certainly wasn’t the Topik but was much better than the Darakwon Topik Master’s book at creating mock exam questions. The book only has different kind of practice problems. You get 5 problems each for every style of question in each section. I didn’t solve some of the problems nearly as well as I would have liked, but it was nice to be able to read the questions and understand them 100%.

I also busted out my finished Topik exams and wrote down ALL of the questions that contain adverbs. There are 59 adverbs that repeat on the Topik and I’ve written them and their definitions down on a sheet of paper. This might sound like a lot of words but it’s surely better than the 200 I have written down in my notebook somewhere. Then I really lost my mind and decided to write down ALL of the recurring idioms in the final question of the grammar/vocabulary section. Right now I’m looking all 47 of them up. In the end I decided I should suck it up and at least try to get that question correct. So far I’ve learned the Korean expression for ‘when it rains, it pours’ which I have to admit is nice.

I’m feeling pretty good about the test, but I feel as though the scales have turned a bit. I have spent so much time on the reading portion of the exam that I’m now really good at that, but tripping over the grammar portion. Not because I don’t know it, but because I haven’t reviewed my grammar paper in about 3 weeks. I plan on getting it out tomorrow and reviewing them all which I’m sure will restore my hazy knowledge of what they mean. Even though I’m good at grammar, I still lose some of it when I’m not focused on it for stretches of time.

I honestly am not even looking forward to the Topik test. Like I said before I can’t wait for it to be April 21, 2014. I have so many other things Korean-related that I want to jump into and the obligation of studying for this test (I guess I should try to pass it, lol) is stopping me from being able to do it. I’m really excited to get this last little bit digested so I can move on to bigger and better things.



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