When do you know you are ready to take the TOPIK I exam? Is it necessary? How do I prepare for the exam?
The TOPIK exam is the official Korean proficiency language test for foreigners. it is divided into TOPIK I for beginners and TOPIK II for advanced learners. In each of these two levels, depending on the score you obtain, you will be graded level 1 or 2 in TOPIK I, and between level 3 to 6 in TOPIK II.
Interesting enough, they have made TOPIK I extremely easy while TOPIK II extremely difficult. For now let’s tackle TOPIK I first. I will tackle TOPIK II in the Advanced Learners section of this website.
TOPIK I consists of listening and reading only, of which the details can be found at the TOPIK official homepage.
Is it necessary to take the TOPIK I exam?
Because it is very easy, in these days universities and hiring companies most likely will require a higher level of qualification for entry. But since taking the TOPIK is fairly cheap at around USD 50, it does no harm to take it for the sense of achievement and knowing that you are on the right track.
Regardless of whether you actually take the exam, the inventory of TOPIK I past papers provides for great listening and reading resources for you as a beginner. The best thing is that they are free! Make sure to do at least one or two sets before moving on to Intermediate level.
When do you know you are ready to take the TOPIK I exam?
If you are using talk to me in Korean or how to study Korean website, upon finishing unit/ level 3 or 4, you should have learnt all the grammar points required to pass the TOPIK I exam. If you are using the Korean grammar in use textbook, the first book (beginner to early intermediate) should be sufficient.
You can also try to do the past paper to see how well you do. Because the passing mark is fixed, you would know exactly how much you score and what level you will get.
Do I need to buy any workbooks to prepare for the exam?
I don’t think so. If you have already built a solid foundation of grammar concepts using the structured course materials I have recommended, practising using past papers is good enough.
The listening paper is not difficult at all – the recordings are very slow-paced and clear as compared with in normal conversations. As long as you have been listening to the recordings that accompanies the course materials you should do fine.
Where can I get access to past papers?
You can download all the past papers in this link
Alternatively you can try them online at the official TOPIK homepage –Click the big red button on the left once you get to the page.
In addition, TOPIK has officially announced that the 64th TOPIK exam in 2019 will be the last time that the past papers being officially published. We can only hope that there will be no substantial changes to the type of questions and level of difficulty in subsequent exams.
Apart from grammar concepts, do I need to work on expanding my vocabulary before taking the exam?
Whatever learning materials or course book you use, in the course of learning grammar concepts up till the TOPIK I level, a fair amount of vocabulary is also picked up along the process.
In the exam, you are expected to understand words of a difficulty level similar to 운전하다（drive), 운동하다(workout/ exercise), 자전거(bicycle), 연습하다(practise) etc. You would probably have learnt these already without specifically drilling on vocabulary.