Preparing Topik intermediate reading.

For many test-takers, reading seems to be one of the most difficult portions of the exam. The first time I looked at the reading for the intermediate exam I nearly passed out. You see, I’d read the Yonsei reading series up to book 3. I’d studied thousands of vocabulary words and even messed around with answering the past test questions for the Topik elementary level. While none of this hurt it me, it certainly wasn’t helping.

The test was filled with (what seemed like) thousands of words I didn’t know. Great. I thought there was no way that I could do well on the reading portion since a few months wasn’t enough time to memorize thousands of new words and study. So, I took the tests and underlined all the words I didn’t know and wrote them on the side.

At first I failed all the tests mostly due to not understanding what they were looking for. The central idea questions and the arrange the order questions, especially threw me for a loop. It seemed like I just could not get it right. Though I suck at central idea questions in English as well. A rebellious part of me wants to make the case for why both A and C could work.

I started with test 17 as it was written in the format of the 35th Topik. I failed reading on test 17-21 or so. Then, something clicked. I started to get into the groove. Words that I’d previously not known started to repeat. I started to seen the pattern in how questions were written and which answers were expected. By test 27 or so I could answer most of the questions correctly without even looking up the words I didn’t know.

I don’t know how other people study for the Topik but I definitely recommend studying on portion at a time. Only reading then only listening and so forth. Why? I find by doing this the brain (mine at least) begins to fill in the ambiguous parts of the language as well as develop an idea of how the test works. Its really hard to explain the click, but anyone who has ever done consistently terrible at something and continued to keep trying knows what I mean.

After doing 6 or so reading exams I began to really figure out the format of the test question. The first 5 are always ads of some sort. Then a graph followed by short readings etc. I learned that on the intermediate Topik they use the same 200 or so words in every reading test. Just learning those can help you to determine meaning of passages you otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand.

The last major part of reading (and the other portions as well) is remembering the Topik was written for Koreans by Koreans so a lot of the conclusions reached in the reading aren’t what I would reach. For example, there was a reading passage about larger corporations killing the businesses of small business owners. There were a few key words I didn’t know and I understood the meaning about 80%. I read the answer choices and saw 2 answers that stood out. One said shop owners have to ensure their own livelihood and the other said that large corporations should consider/mind smaller businesses and not operate to shut them down. Now, to me the latter was ridiculous. However I remembered that my local E-mart shuts down once every 2 weeks to allow smaller businesses to profit. The second answer choice was right.

It’s very important to understand how Koreans think and feel about things. It’s important to know how they think about many topics because it’s the single most beneficial thing in reading. Just because you don’t think that it is so or should be so doesn’t mean that Koreans (as a whole) don’t feel differently.

I finished my last practice test a couple weeks ago.  My scores went from high 50’s to the 80’s and I even had a few in the 90’s. I’m happy with the increase in score but I’m not patting myself on the back just yet. I still need to review. After reviewing for a while I should be able to do well. I still haven’t timed myself but I’m not worried. I think I can solve fast enough to answer 30 questions in 45 minutes. Now, I’m slaving over the listening exercises. Bleh.


By Charm

I am an American living in Korea, teaching English to Korean students, and Korean to myself. Topik here I come!

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