Topik Prep

Benefits of reviewing Topik tests

I finished up all of my practice tests nearly a week ago, but I’ve been slow to start reviewing them. This is mostly due to the fact that there are 17 of them. It’s like no matter how finished I feel, there is always a huge stack of stuff I need to get through. Despite my procrastination to get it done, I have been reviewing the tests. So far I’ve made it through almost 10 of them this week.


Of course, since I am worried about the reading the score, I plan on reviewing the hell out of the past tests’ vocabulary until I have it (most of it anyway) committed to memory. So far my theory has proven to be correct. It is easier to remember words when they are in a passage as opposed to seeing an individual word on a vocabulary list. But those lists will still hold a very special place in my heart. Do you know how long I spent writing all those words down? I can’t just abandon that method.


So far I’ve noticed that the reading section has a tendency to use the same 200 or so words through that portion of the test on nearly every one. I wish I could compile a list of them, but I only have 15 days left to study so I don’t have time to do so. I have however begun to notice the frequency of some words. There are even words used in one reading passage and then used in the very next one so by the time I read over it a second time, I have it memorized.


The same thing goes for other portions of the exam. In the grammar section the “choose the incorrect answer” sentences are usually very similar. Even though they are all different you begin to learn which combinations are always wrong and which ones are always right. I don’t know what kind of map is used for writing the Topik specifically, but after reviewing the tests as much as I have (It’s been about 3 months since I started) I’ve started to get a very good idea of it. I’m hoping the last exam written in the current format doesn’t disappoint. The worst thing that could happen is that it would be different, even slightly so.


So I hope that anyone else out there studying for the Topik (on the 20th or in the future) really takes time out to review the past exams because failing to do so will definitely mean failing to do as well as you want.



Solving Topik intermediate reading questions 42-60

Solving the first 12 questions of the Topik intermediate is a breeze when you compare them to what comes next from 42 onward. Of course, being an exam it will get hard as the questions go on. So, in order to offer some help to other people also studying for the Topik intermediate 34th, I’d like to show how I solve these exam questions. The underlined red part is what I think is most important.

How I solve the order problems:

Let me start off by saying I suck(ed) at these and got nearly all of them wrong for the first 5-7 practice exams I did. It was like my brain couldn’t figure out how to put them in order and recall the parts I’d just read and I wished they’d give me a starting point so that I could do it. Then I saw something:

1. Look at the answers and you will see you have 2 choices for which one starts the sequence as shown here in blue. So don’t read them all. (I was so stupid it took forever to notice this)

2. Read the two starting sentences and eliminate one of them. Note: One can always be easily eliminated.

3. Once the first sentence is found, read the second in each sequence and eliminate one.

4. Once you have the first and second of the sequence (and you are sure) move on. There’s no need to read the rest.

Note: I sometimes do this by finding the first and then the last. For example, if I happen to skim the beginnings of the sentences and I see something like “in the end…” I know it’s the last one so I have the first and fourth and it matches an answer.

Topik 19회

Topik 19회

As you can see here the sequence starts with 가 or 다 as the first. The underlined purple part of 가 says “in order to buy tickets” which is not a starter for a sequence so you can cross off 1 and 2 as possible answers. The next in the sequence is 라 or 나. If you read the underlined portion in 라 it says “and there aren’t many people…” which should come after a sentence giving you a reason. So 나 is the next in the sequence. The answer is 3 so you can move on.

Note: This works like 85% of the time. There are 3 questions like this. I’ve had questions were the first and second characters were the same in each, so it forces you to read all 4. Shouldn’t be a problem if you are making good time and solved the preceding ones quickly.

How I solve the blank space problems: 

After 45 you have official entered the “better have it together” portion of the exam. The combined total of points from 46-60 is 51 points. This is the difference between a 3 and 4 for me. I solve these by slowing it down and paying attention.

1. Read the entire paragraph as well as all of the answers.

2. Select the correct answer.

That’s seriously all you can do on this part. I have underlined some parts here to show you what I pay attention to.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

It says “each color gives you different feelings”, ” the calming color green is good for children rooms”, “the animated orange is used on restaurant walls”. From this little bit of information you can infer that it has to do with selecting a color for the type of environment. Well, in order to choose the correct answer you need to know the words 크기, 재, 상태, 위치, 목적, and 고려하다. Even though I did poorly on the first seven reading sections I got this question correct because I knew all those words. When choosing wallpaper you should what? Mind the purpose of the room? Of course. Number 4 is the answer, obviously.  However, all of these words pop-up often on the Topik, so they are good to know.

How I solve the 49-60 problems:

I grouped the next 12 together because I feel like they qualify as the “grade makers”. They are all different and unlike other questions on the exam, can’t easily be solved with little tricks here and there. I’ve found that from this point, it really tests your vocabulary, grammar, and reading abilities to the max. If you don’t have the proper skills in these areas you are sure to struggle through the next few questions. Below I have underlined question 49 and 50 with red marks to show what I especially paid attention to. However, I don’t think this is good enough to get it right. This is how I solve all of these questions:

1. Make sure I know a ton of grammar. Look at all the grammatical twists and turns in these readings. If grammar isn’t your strongest skill you should get to studying it now.

2. Read over the entire question. In order to infer anything, I’ve found I need to understand the passage at least 80% or else I’ll end up guessing incorrectly and selecting the wrong answer.

3. Read over all the answer choices carefully and really consider a choice before you make it. Even when I’ve understood the paragraph well, I still chose the wrong answer. I like to allocate a few minutes to each of these. This is why I try to do my best at the first 15 or so.

Below I will show you have I roughly translate them as I am reading along on the exam:

Topik 26회

Topik 26회

“On this past 26th, there was an accident of 6 people falling down and hurting themselves on the escalators at a department store in Seoul. Of the people who fell one person, 오 모 씨(56여) was taking the escalator up when her wallet fell from bag causing her to lose balance starting the sequential fall. The people behind her 이 모 씨 (72여) etc were bumped into by 오 씨 and they all fell backwards. After the accident, one person told the department store, “the escalators moved backwards.” So the department store wanted to see if there was a problem with the escalators so they pulled up the CCTV and saw they were operating correctly. The people were all taken to a near hospital and are receiving treatment.”

The above is how I would translate this in my head as I read along. It’s not an exact translation but I think it qualifies as at least a 90% thus is good enough to accurately answer the questions. The correct answers are 1 and 4 respectively.

Note: This question is always some sort of accident or something. You should know words like rescue, save, faint, fall down, emergency aid, hurt, treatment etc in order to solve these. I just collected all the words together and study them all because they repeat in this same question every time.

Topik 27회

Topik 27회

“There are a lot of people who think they should have the last word in a conversation when talking. Also, we worry about telling the person we are talking to everything we need to. However, there is a positive to this. In the future if I listen to the opinion well and then think about it and have time to formulate a response. At this time I need to also add more. Because it can be hard to speak well, sometimes no matter if you speak well your thoughts can stall. There is also a good point to this. The good point is that at the end of a long conversation, the last thing people hear is what they tend to remember.”

Lol. This one is about 75% decent. Partly because I am missing a sentence part, but also because the reading is quite difficult. However, I’m confident that I could still answer the questions correctly though I would probably put some serious time into making sure I didn’t get them wrong. Questions like this one aren’t very clear and the answers can play on that lack of clarity causing you to get it wrong. The answers are 3 and 4.


Topik 29회

Topik 29회

“My husband has a disease and it’s not one you can get rid of. Even though I say get rid of it my husband says he can’t. I gathered all of the things we didn’t need and my husband didn’t understand me. One weekend I couldn’t bare it anymore and I yelled at my husband. He only listened and then went into the room and brought out an old box. Inside were all of the old presents I’d given to my husband. Old gloves, a broken watch etc. I looked at my husbands memory box unable to properly turn my face.”

I’m pretty sure I have the last sentence wrong as it was difficult for me to properly translate because a lot of time Korean is written in ways that applies to Korean culture but doesn’t really translate to American culture. I’m assuming she meant she was touched or upset?

The answers are 2 and 3. Also, it’s important to note that here you will have to select an emotion for the underlined part. They use the same 30 or so words for all of them with the occasional wild card. It’s best to know them all.


Topik 31회

Topik 31회

“The 양산 is used by women to avoid the sun. (I guessed umbrella or cover for 양산). However, the umbrella doesn’t spread/cover as well as other things in Korea. In 1910 the girls at an all girls’ school used a “쓰개치마” instead of an umbrella. A long time ago, when Korean women would go outside they wore this skirt so that men could not see their faces. However because of X they started using the umbrella instead of the skirt.”

Obviously with the missing piece I can’t properly translate the last part, but you get the idea. The answers are 4 and 3.

Topik 33회

Topik 33회

“Recently “hook songs” are becoming very popular in music. A hook song has a simple rhythm and the lyrics are repeated. It is special because you can easily follow along with the song after hearing it only a few times. Hook songs are shorter than other songs and 50% of the lyrics are repeated. Also other song’s rhythms starts slowly and becomes faster as it continues but this song is fast from the start. Because of this, there are many people who like hook songs.”

I found this particular reading to be ridiculously easy especially since it is the second to the last problem. However, after doing 17 reading sections in order, I was doing well on the latter questions anyway. The answers are 3 and 4.


Topik 33회

Topik 33회

“In order to carry out this decision you need to demand a lot of preparation. Because of living in a narrow enclosure(?) the whale forgets all of it’s natural living methods. The first thing you need to do if you want to start training the whale to live in the wild is do a health exam. Next you need to make an environment that is similar to the one the whale will live in in the wild and make sure that people do not approach the whale. You also need to teach the whale how to properly hunt for food in the wild. Hopefully if the whale is able to learn to live in the wild it can be released. In order to make this possible you must set up a good plan.”

At the end of this one I had no idea what the last few words meant as I still have yet to study them, so I just guessed based on the rest of the reading. One thing to pay attention to on 59 and 60 is that they always lead in with some ridiculous sentence that gives you zero context. It’s like cutting a part of a paragraph at the worst spot possible so if you don’t understand the first sentence, I don’t think it will be a big deal. The answers are 3 and 1.

So there you have it. This is how I go about solving the reading questions. As you have noticed, there was a lot more winging it on the first half of the questions. However, I noticed that there was literally no way to wing the latter 10. You either have a good vocabulary, grammar knowledge and/or reading comprehension or you don’t. I’ve come a long way since the first time I took a reading exam and I think that if you are still unable to read the questions 49-60 with ease then you’re probably not ready for the reading portion of the Topik intermediate. But that’s just my opinion.


p.s. I will be adding the writing/grammar/listening “how to’s” this weekend if you are interested.

p.p.s. I checked the Topik website today and my picture was accepted. Who said bedroom studios don’t work? I’m so glad, now I can print my ticket and take my exam. 18 days to go.



21 days until Topik 34

Last night I finished all of the writing section’s “fill in the blank” portions and despite understanding the majority of the reading passages, still failed at it. I’m starting to think that part is just over my head. Not only will I be timed while taking the grammar/vocabulary and writing together, but I will have to also write a 400-600 character essays, so I’m coming to the conclusion that I just need to worry about that part a little less.

As of right now, I have all of the tests (17-33) finished and corrected in every section. I have all the words I don’t know underlined and all the grammar I’m unsure about marked. Now I just have to review it. This morning I was very slow to start despite having woke up at 8am with 5 hours left before I have anything to do. I spent about 3 hours procrastinating so far. I took my dog on a much longer walk than usual and then I rested my eyes in the bed for about 30 minutes and then I read around the internet for a couple hours or so. I’v managed to do anything besides review my tests.

About 20 minutes ago I decided to start reviewing the vocabulary in the reading section by reading the passages again as it is easier to remember words when they have context. Then it struck me: I really don’t feel like doing this. I really don’t feel like reviewing. I don’t feel like studying Korean. I don’t feel like doing anything.

As I mentioned before, I started studying for the Topik Intermediate in January of 2013. I studied for it all year. However, I had quite a few breaks in there. Out of the 12 months that made up 2013, I probably spent a combined 4 or so not doing anything related to Korean. I can study diligently for a couple of months (damn near daily) and then I hit a snag and need to take like a 2-3 week break. So far this year I haven’t taken one. For the past 3 months I’ve been studying Korean daily. Sure I had a couple “fuck this I’m catching up on my TV shows” days, but they were quite sparse compared to what I’m used to.

So now, I find my brain fried. It’s filled up completely and just tired of Korean. Studying for the Topik has taken a lot of joy out of learning Korean. Even though I’ve taken 17 practice tests, spend probably over a hundred hours studying for this test, I still don’t feel like I will do well. This isn’t me being pessimistic either. I look at the reading section and all of the words I don’t know. I look at all the questions I consistently got wrong and how most of my grades have been between 50% and 80% overall (in every section) and I find myself worrying. One would think that because I’ve prepared so much, I am sure to get at least an 80% overall on the exam, but I seriously don’t know. How can you truly prepare for a test when you don’t know exactly what will be on it?

What if I studied those thousands of words for nothing? What if there are thousands of new words I don’t know on the new Topik and I fail because of that? What if the style of this exam is (for some bizarre reason) different than all the ones I’ve studied?

It’s making my head spin. I have 21 days left. 21 days to get a handle on 17 tests worth of words and grammar. 21 days left to improve my listening to the point where I can understand it 100% clearly. 21 days left to study daily and not slack off. 21 days to see if my hard work has paid off.

21 fucking days…and that’s it.

And due to the Topik format changing drastically after the 34th exam, not getting a level 4 on this exam is not an option. I think I’d stop studying Korean if I knew I had to go from beginner’s grammar to intermediate/advanced all smashed into one. It just wouldn’t be worth it anymore.

I’m not excited to take the Topik, but nor am I dreading it. I find myself just wanting to get it over with. Wanting to open up the test booklet and skim the questions to see if I could even do well on the test. The Topik as become the equivalent of a shot. I don’t fear them but the anticipation of one makes you just want to get it over with so you can go on about your day. Regardless of the outcome of the exam, I just want it to be April 21st, 2014 so that I can be on the other side of the test.



Solving Topik intermediate reading questions 31-42

When taking a reading exam in a non-native language you are bound to encounter words or phrases you don’t know. Even though my Topik reading has improved dramatically, I still come across parts I don’t fully understand. I’m sure that there are many ways to go about solving them, but I wanted to show how I have come to solve them having done on section at a time (ex: all reading portions 17-33 then all grammar etc) to completion. Below I have highlighted the words I don’t know in yellow, text I think is most important in solving the questions in red, and the first thing you should look at in green.

How I solve the advertisements:

The first 4 problems one the reading exam are the easiest, as you know. However, I often find that one or two of them have tricks laced into them. Because of these tricks, I’ve had times where I’ve chosen the wrong answers, which can make or break a grade. What I do:

1. Quickly read over it and pick out the important parts and ignore the rest.

2. Scan the answers and select if it is very obvious or,

3. Do a once over again if I’ve come down to two answers because usually there is a word or part that points to one over the other.

Topik 20회

Topik 20회

Here I’ve highlighted 3 parts. I have no idea what “싹싹이” means so I don’t waste time on it. However the red parts say: “Clean without a sound” and “dust”. The rest goes on to say “neatly removing” etc. The answer choices are tissue, detergent, washer, vaccuum. Only one deals with dust and makes a sound. The answer is obviously 청소기 number 4. It would take me about 10 seconds to solve this as I have all the words above already written in my vocabulary note book.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

The two highlighted parts in this ad say “rest” and “even if you move, the person next to you won’t wake up”. You have 4 answers. Table, wardrobe, desk and bed. The word “rest” automatically points to “bed” and the second part solidifies this. So, the answer is number 4 침대. Just knowing basic words like rest, move, next to, and wake up means you can solve this in less than 10 seconds.

Topik 20회

Topik 20회

I highlighted the 2 parts in this one. The word 화면 means screen. I have no idea what the yellow word means but it’s not important. Look at the words 감독 and 배우 at the bottom. The mean “director” and “actor” so it points to one obvious answer number 3 영화. Not knowing these simple words could lead you to choosing number 2 or 4.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

The first part of this one was hard to read. Then I saw the words 모습 which is appearence, the pharse “만나 보세요” which means “please try to meet” and “가위 하나로”  or “with one pair of scissors. The word scissors obviously points to number 1 미용실 as the answer.

Topik 23회

Topik 23회

The first highlighted section is easy to read. You should know that 회 is attached to nouns to mean “meeting” or “conference” of some sort. The second “people who study about our tea” and the last “anyone is welcome” points away from a job or class so 1 and 3 can be crossed off. I was stuck between 2 and 4 but 문의 means inquiry and I don’t see a phone number so the answer must be 회원 모집 number 4. 

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

I realized after highlighting that 박홍구 must be a name. However, I’m fuzzy on the meaning of 담다. Filled with? Anyway, let’s look at 사진작가 or photographer. Knowing only this word doesn’t mean anything. It could apply to any answer, but the bottom part shows a place, and date as well as period. What usually takes place at cultural centers and also deals with photographers? An exhibition which is why the answer is 전시 안내 number 4.

Topik 24회

Topik 24회

The 3 highlighted parts “receipts”, “7 days after buying” and “to be possible” cancel out number 1 and 2 right away. It says you need to bring the receipt with you. When you do need to bring receipts? For product characteristics? No, but you do need them for exchanges or returns which is why the answer is number 3 교환 방법.


The first one or two problems in the reading can be solved easily within 10-15 seconds, however I like to spend about 20-30 seconds on the next 3 just be be sure. I’ve definitely had moments where I selected the wrong answer because the problem was laced with a trick and they want you to be on that “this is so easy” high so you’ll end up selecting it. Also it’s important to notice that they use the same 40 or so words in the answers for 31-34. Words like information, class, purchase, standard, travel, movie, bookstore, inquiry, warning, method etc are used so much it’s important to make sure you know them.

How I solve the flier problems:

When I first tried my hand at problems like this, I would try and read the whole flier and then go to the answers at match it to the flier. Problem is I couldn’t remember the flier so I’d have to check again. Now I just do this:

1. Read the title of the flier.

2. Go to the answers and read them and glance up at the flier to check correctness.

Topik 26회

Topik 26회

1. Weekday viewing time is one hour longer than weekend time.

2. If you go to this place, you can see the world’s various kinds of pottery.

3. If you do your application in advance, the pottery experience is free of charge.

4. The events invitation is sent electronically to people who have done the application.

I read each one by one and compare. The viewing time is longer on the weekend than weekday so number 1 is wrong. Notice under the title it says “various country’s pottery viewing”. This means number 2 is the answer. Don’t bother reading the others.

Topik 28회

Topik 28회

The title of this one says: “Foreign Scholarship Student Selection Announcement”. 선발 is a very important word. It comes up often in the reading.

1. If you are a scholarship student, you receive two semesters of scholarship.

2. If you are selected for a scholarship, you will be informed via phone.

3. The scholarship student will be selected from students who attend graduate school.

4. Students who have received other scholarships can also receive this one.

Read number one and notice it says 1, 2 학기 등록금 전액. Even if you don’t fully understand, the words 1 and 2 tuition point to number 1 being the answer. So there is no point in reading on. Note: 전액 means full, but the answer can be chosen without know that.

Generally solving question number 35 is easy but it’s also very easy to stumble so I like to use the time I saved on 31-34 to really pay attention to 35. Also it’s a good idea to look up the words always listed on the ads like: registration period, method, intended for, recommended, announcement etc and all of its synonyms because they are often interchanged on the exam. I’ve also noticed that if you have to read all the answers of number 35 and the answer ends up being 3 or 4 then number 36’s answer will most likely be 1 or 2.

How I solve graph problems: 

The graphs are only worth 3 points but like number 35 are places where I can mess up. The reason for this is sometimes incorrectly reading the data on the graph. I find pie graphs to be easiest but line or bar graphs a bit harder. For graphs I usually do this:

1. Read the title of the graph

2. Take note of the categories

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all of the words of the categories.

Topik 26회

Topik 26회

This title of this graph is: “High school and college students job selection standards”. 기준  is a word that pops up a lot.

1. High school students think aptitude is more important than college students do.

2. College and high school students all answered that income is the most important.

3. For the college students promotion opportunity was the least selected thing.

4. High school students selected promotion opportunity more than work conditions.

Despite not knowing the words 수입 and 적성 I can easily find the answer because I know 더, 보다, 답하다, 선택하다.  All of which are basic grammar. Read number one and compare it to the graph and BOOM, number 1 is the answer so just move on. Not knowing basic grammar can force a person to have to read more option and waste more time.

Topik 27회

Topik 27회

The title says: 2011 Male and Female Reading Field Survey. The words 분야 and 조사 show up all over the Topik test.

1. Men read the economic field’s book the least.

2. Women read science field’s books the most.

3. Men read science field books more than history books.

4. Women read culture books less than they read history books.

This is why I love the pie graphs. They are easy even if you don’t know all the words. If you know the words “most”, “least”, than etc it will be easy to select number 3 as the answer.

I generally do well at graphs but have to remind myself to slow down on line or bar graphs as I’ve messed them up in the past. The grammar necessary for graphs usually comes from the most basic of grammar.

How I solve the “content/answer match” problems:

From number 37, you really start to get into the reading portion of the exam. I really like to spend about 1.5 minutes on the next 2 questions because they are worth a combined 8 points. I usually do this:

1. Read over each questions translating the meaning in my head into English.

2. If I don’t know what a word or phrase means, I just guess their meanings.

Topik 28회

Topik 28회

The red part read as: “Bike Event”, “No cars can attend via the road”, “traffic police will organize”, “expect the situation to cause difficulty for citizens”.

From these little excerpts you can determine there will be a biking event, cars will not be able to drive on the road in an area and that it will cause some disruption in citizen’s life, but police will be directing it.

Answer is number 1

How I solve the theme/central idea problems:

This is where it gets gritty. I start the tripping up hard phase here. The theme questions almost always have at least 2 possible answers with one looking better than the other. And as no surprise they are each worth 4 points each. So rushing this part is not a smart thing to do. Here is what I do:

1. Read over the excerpt quickly translating it as I read.

2. Figure out what the point of the reading is.

3. Scan over the answers and get rid of the obviously wrong ones.

Topik 28회

Topik 28회

“At a musical performance the audience claps to express feeling to the muscians”, “inappropriate clapping”, “cause disruption”, “concentration falls down”, “before it ends”, “unable to feel”.

From this I determined that: you must be careful when clapping at musical performances because if you clap at the wrong time you may disrupt other people and the players so it’s best to wait until the end to clap.

Answer 2 and 4 are the best answers:

2. Clapping at any time during a concert is not good.

4. You should wait until the end of a performance to show your appreciation by clapping.

The reading is about the effects of clapping at inappropriate times, sure you should wait to the end, but that’s not the point, so the answer is 2. 

Topik 29회

Topik 29회

The red says: “microwave”, “worry it’s not good for your health”, “not a good influence on the food”, “only bad for your body”.

So I can infer: People are worried that microwaves are not good for their health. They are worried that the waves are not good for the food and their bodies.

Anyone who reads knows this about microwaves, so applying common sense can help with this problem.

1, 3 and 4 are obviously bad answers and far off the mark, so number 2 is correct.


Topik 29회

Topik 29회

From questions 40 onward, they start to get really hard, I find.

The red part reads as: “Because of amusing story or funny situations, there are no more than 20% of these instances”, “because you want that other person to have a good feeling”.

Obviously this about people laughing at situations that in fact funny, but a lot of the time they laugh at things they might not find funny because they just want the other person to feel good. When was the last time you fake laughed? Exactly.

2 and 4 and both really good answers. However, if you read number 2 it says that you have to laugh or smile at the other person so that you are mindful of them, however, as people we don’t consciously choose to do this so 4 is the better answer here. Though, I feel 2 is a legitimate answer, too.

Topik 29회

Topik 29회

The red part reads: “when you discuss with another person because you are trying to solve a problem”, “listening to opinions is good”, ” you can learn a new method of solving”, “even if you have an opinion, listening is better”.

So: When someone has a problem, they sometimes like to discuss it with other people to help solve it. Listening to a persons opinions are good because they can come to learn a new way of solving it but even though you might have an opinion about it, sometimes it’s best to just listen.

Ever heard of bouncing ideas off someone? I have.

1 and 4 suggest the opposite of “listening is better” so they are automatically wrong. 3 suggests tilting the head to listen which is ridiculous and not in the reading so the best answer is 2.

Topik 31회

Topik 31회

The red reads as: “In order to live a healthy life we need vitamin D”. “Not much in food”, “can’t get as much as your body needs”.

So I can infer: Human beings need vitamin D as it is important for us, however there are not many food that contain large quantities of it so it is impossibly to get as much as you need in a day.

1 and 3 are obviously wrong because it says nothing about disease and vitamin deficiency. 4 looks like a good answers but it says you can’t get that much from food so answer 2 is the best choice.

Before I practiced the reading exclusively, I was terrible at it. I was terrible at figuring out which was the best answer and I was terrible at inferring the meanings of things I didn’t know. While I’ve looked up all the words I don’t know and plan on studying them before the exam, I am aware that there is no way for me to know them all. So, this is the strategy I like to employ. I will be adding questions 43-60 in a different post as well as a post about writing, grammar and listening solving, but for now I need to get to finishing my listening exams as I’ve wasted enough time today procrastinating and writing this post.





Preparing Topik intermediate writing

From reading around the web, writing seems to be one of the hardest parts of the Topik for many people. The reason for this probably stems from the fact that many people who study alone can’t exactly gauge their writing essay scores well because they don’t have access to a tutor or if they do, that tutor can’t give as accurate of a score as a Topik grader. I think that due to this reason many people neglect the writing portion.

As you know, the essay portion is currently worth 30 points of 100 on the writing portion and failure to do well can be the difference between a level 3 or level 4 or even flat out failure to get either. As a Topik preparer writing has also been a section that I have neglected (though not as much as listening). Despite having worked with a tutor for reading, and some writing exercises I haven’t spent a terrible amount of time preparing for it. Like I said, initially reading was the section that was killing me, so about 50% of my preparation thus far has gone into that. I’ve looked up and written several of the essays for the previous intermediate exams and had them checked by my tutor. Whenever I got back my corrected essays I found that the majority of it was correct. Why? Because I have a great grasp of grammar and sentence order as well as spacing so I write fairly well.

I used the Topik masters book to look at examples of intermediate level essays as well as some of the examples listed on the Topik and answer sheet and I noticed something: A good essay doesn’t require overly complex grammar. There is a lot of really good grammar in the intermediate level that can be used to say useful things, however a lot of it seems unnecessary in most of the essays, I’ve noticed. When I would practice the essays, I would first write them in English and then translate them to Korean. I noticed that I wasn’t using many intermediate grammar points. This began to worry me. Then I noticed that I wasn’t using very much intermediate grammar in my English essay either. Why? Because a lot of the topics don’t require it.

While I can’t speak from personal experiences in having an essay graded by the people of Topik, I do have a plan for getting a decent grade on my essay:

1. Write in complex sentences 

Writing in complex sentences is one of the easiest things you can do to show that you can use the language well. Korean has a wealth of conjunctions many of which mean basically the same thing, so putting many of them to use can only help you. Also use the relative clause like it’s going out of style. I see them everywhere in Korean readings. They seem to really love using them. I once wrote a practice essay that said, “I, the person who had been living alone at that time in my small city…”, by accident. It sort of slipped out. I couldn’t believe it. Sentences like that used to confuse me terribly.

2. Use bold vocabulary 

In order to do well on the Topik intermediate you will need a ton of vocabulary words. I read somewhere that you need about 2,000-3,000 to be considered beginner level and double that to be on the intermediate level. Since you have to learn them anyway you might as well put them to use. The best way to learn what words are appropriate for the Topik is to use the reading portion as an example. I kind of wish the reading and writing portion were taken together.

3. Use adverbs

Adverbs are the biggest pain in the ass for me. Yes, we use them quite often in English, but I often find that in Korean an adverb will pop up in places you’d never find in English. If I see 반드시 or 오히려 one more time I’m going to scream. I currently have a list of 259 adverbs I haven’t completely learned to plan to before the test. Koreans seem to love adverbs, so I will love them too.

4. Pay close attention to spacing in words

I remember the very first time I ever typed anything in Korean. It had taken me forever because the keyboard I was using didn’t have the Hangul characters on it and despite being given a paper keyboard lay out typing still took me about 45 minutes. I remember finishing up and telling the teacher I was done. She came over and said, “You put no spaces in between the words.” I thought that was how Korean was written.

I’ve gotten better since then. I read enough that I’ve learned the spacing, I guess subconsciously because a few weeks ago I got some 원고지 and practice spacing and did great. I was very aware of the spacing and only made a couple mistakes I couldn’t remedy because I’d written too much already.

5. Look up possible essay topic words

The first thing I plan on doing when I open up that exam booklet is looking at the essay topic. I’m kind of worried that there will be one word I don’t know and I won’t be able to write it. I looked at the 33rd Topik essay topic and had no idea what 존경 (respect) meant. If that had been my essay I wouldn’t have failed.

I know that I can write an essay about any topic well enough as long as I understand the essay question so I need to make sure that I do. So I’ve decided to look up certain words like honor, admire, hope, desire, wish, expect etc and write down all of their synonyms so that if/when they come up I won’t be caught off guard. I’m hoping the next essay test will be simple (ex: who is your favorite person in the world?) but the pessimist in me is preparing for the worst. Maybe the test writers are going to go out with a bang since it’s the last one in this format?

6. Give myself enough time to write

I can write pretty fast in Korean but I don’t want to feel rushed. I know that I will need to keep going back to quickly skim over to make sure that I don’t mess up the spacing from rushing. I know that you can’t lose too many points if your essay is gold but there are a few mistakes, however, I want to be able to do my best and have a peace of mind when I hand the test over. I can do well in the grammar/vocabulary part as well as on the writing multiple choice, so I plan on doing my best as quickly as possible and marking questions I’m unsure about for after I finished the writing.

7. Apply a story I know well to whatever topic I get

Regardless of what I topic is on the exam, I’m using the story of how I got my do to answer it. See, I rescued my dog from a kill shelter in Korea. I plan on using that story for every topic as follows:

What’s the best dream you have every had?

Well, there was this one dream about rescuing a dog from a shelter in Korea….

What was the best day of your life so far?

If I had to choose I would say it was the day I rescued my dog from a shelter in Korea…

If you could do anything over again in your life, what would it be?

I would have to say I would not only rescue one dog, but probably two dogs from a shelter in Korea…

Why do this? Because it stops me from wasting time thinking about an answer. I don’t have to tell the truth. If they ask you about a person you respect you can completely make that person up as long as you can write about it well. There is no need to get hung up on things you can’t say because you don’t know the proper word order, grammar or vocabulary words required. How can they check you out anyway?

8. Study grammar MORE!

I know Korean grammar quite well, but I can’t really afford to get hung up on something like the correct conjugation. I have to make to review, review, review. If I write 는 instead of  은 I would be so annoyed because it will change the tense of a sentence and make sounds awkward thus worthy of a mark off. I know most of the conjugation forms but things like indirect quotations will get me every time. I can do direct quotations (that’s so easy) but an indirect one can cause a stumble.

I also want to make sure to use a variety of grammar in the essay. I don’t plan on using probably 80% of the intermediate grammar I do know, but I do want to use whatever grammar I feel is necessary for the essay well. The 150 Essential Grammar books really gave me some useful grammar points like “there’s no way that..” and “despite x” that I plan on using. I could do without all the “even though” though. How many do you need?


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