First off, let me say I am typing this first sentence without even having seen my results. The reason for this is because despite being 3:03 pm here in South Korea, the Topik website is apparently overwhelmed with so many people logging in to see their score. I’ve been “checking” my score since like 9 am this morning. I wanted to see if there was some glitch in the system that accidentally made some score viewable before the allotted time.
I’ve checked 3 times today. So far, it hasn’t been possible.
So now I’ve managed to make it to the log-in area and I’ve typed in my name and password and it’s telling me it is being “encrypted” so the system is slow and to please wait a little while. I will say I am a bit disappointed by this wait as the website/server should be ready and equipped to handle such a large surge in traffic. Currently we are officially 8 minutes past the release and I have yet to actually see my score. I’m going to give it one more shot!
Now I can no longer log on to the site at all. It won’t display the page. It’s nearly 15 minutes past the release time. How utterly disappointing. They should just release the scores in waves rather than all at once. That, or get a better website and server. I am also wondering now if this is the only time this problem has occurred. I’ve not once seen anyone write about having trouble checking their scores. Everyone always made it seem so easy and hassle free. I’m going to bury my head in my Korean book and forget about it.
I guess I’ll check my score later.
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?
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.
This post will be a little bit different than the others before it. Despite having 4 sections on the Topik intermediate, it is primarily a reading exam. The same holds true for the listening portion. It’s about 45% reading and 55% listening. While on other parts of the test you can usually guess correctly with what’s in front of you, it’s pretty impossible to do that with listening. So here is the advice I can give on the listening portion:
1.If you aren’t good at listening, then work on it.
Even though I’ve lived in Korea for over a year and hear Korean everyday, I got a 47% on the first listening test I took. I think it was a combination of not being able to read and listening and also not have ears adjusted for the listening. After a while, my ears adjusted just fine and I was able to hear most of the words.
2. Listen to all of the tracks from exam 17-33.
I’ve listened to all of them. It was definitely long and pretty boring, I admit, but I listened to them all. After while it became really easy to understand and I started to figure out what was expected of me.
3. Look up all the words you don’t know.
I already have all the words written down from question 10 like damage, avoid, accident, insurance, fire etc. I also about 20 or so words written down from number 27 and 28. I can usually understand the conversation, but I always get caught up on choosing the correct answer. Is he disagree with her nicely or adamantly? I couldn’t figure out which words meant what (because they love to use synonyms) so I decided to write them all down on a sheet of paper to study.
4. Pay close attention to the whole conversation.
For the first 20 questions, I like to pay very, very close attention to the conversation. I may read ahead to the next problem, but I definitely like to listen again because I usually start getting questions wrong after number 20. I also find that in the first half of the test they will use 2 or 3 of the answer choices in the conversation to throw off anyone who missed the one obscure words that determines which of the 3 answers in the conversation is the correct choice.
5. If you miss a question, move on.
I am guilty of trying to recall the information that I obviously didn’t hear in order to scurry and solve before the next, but I’ve decided to just move on. At the end of the day it’s only 3 or 4 points out of 100. It’s best to remain calm and move on to the next question. Trying to figure out what you missed will only waste time, cause you to miss the next question, thus causing even more panic.
6. If you have extra time, listen to the tracks again.
Download the tracks to your phone, ipod or whatever and listen to them when you have free time. It doesn’t matter that you’ve taken the exam, it only matters that you are exposing your ears to Korean words. Once your ears get used to hearing Korean that anxiety you feel when listening will dissipate. You will be able to more easily understand so you can relax and just worry about reading all the questions.
This is how I’ve managed to deal with (yes, deal) the Topik intermediate listening portion. Although I can’t stand having to do listening tracks, I’d be lying if I said that forcing myself to do them didn’t help me. It did. The Topik will be here in 3 days. I’m off to go study all the things I still don’t know. I’ll probably make one last blog post before the Topik. Good luck to those taking it on Sunday (or Saturday).
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?
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!