TOPIK – What you need to know about the Test of Proficiency in Korean

Last Sunday I took the 42nd TOPIK exam. The TOPIK basically is the major Korean proficiency test and a plus, if not a must, if you want to study or work in South Korea. As of last year there are two versions of the test you can take: TOPIK 1, for beginner level (level 1 and 2)  and TOPIK 2 (level 3 to 6, the highest possible score), meant for intermediate as well as advanced learners.


Since I’m a level 4 language student here in Korea, I registered for the TOPIK 2. Registering is not as easy as it sounds though. First of all, you’ll have to register on a Korean website and even if the instructions are in English, that still doesn’t make it any less Korean websity. Let me explain what I mean: Korean websites (at least the ones that require opening up an account) have needs. Special needs. In order to use them you almost always have to download certain programs, constantly update them, and hope for the best. It might sound ridiculous, but you’ll understand what I mean as soon as you’re in that situation. So, my biggest tip for you: make a TOPIK website account before they start the registration period for your preferred date. That way, you won’t be all too stressed out on the registration day itself. Also, inform yourself about the registration period and apply as soon as possible, because spots sell out very fast! And don’t forget to use Internet Explorer, because (for some reason) it’s the all-time favorite browser here in Korea.

I won’t go into details on how I prepared, because everyone’s method of studying is different, but I do recommend getting a TOPIK study help book or at least look up as much information as possible on the Internet. While TOPIK 1 only has a listening and reading section, TOPIK 2 also requires you to write one short and one 600-700 words essay on various daily-life topics such as the importance of advertisements in people’s lives (topic used in the 42nd exam). It seems doable, but time wise, well, let’s say, it’s rather difficult. For the writing section, you only have 50 minutes and in my opinion, that’s definitely not enough to come up with two well-structured essays. There’s another big issue with the exam; if you’re an intermediate learner, like me, you will be very discouraged by all the higher level questions in the listening and reading parts, which, of course, you won’t be able to solve because your skills are not just there yet. In that case, simply guess. There are 4 answers to choose from, so your chances of getting the right answer are at 25%! Also, an oral exam is rumored to be introduced soon, so practicing your speaking skills now might be of use in the future.

What I dislike the most about the TOPIK, though, is that you can only write using the pen given to you (the OMR pen shown on the photo above). One side is meant to shade the answers on the answer sheets of the listening and reading section and the other side should be used to write your essays in the writing part. If you want to correct a mistake you’ll have to raise your hand and ask a supervisor to do it for you. This is especially annoying if there are only 2 supervisors in a classroom of 30 test takers! Even though they probably won’t, I still hope that they will change this and let us use our own pens and correction markers! *UPDATE December 2017 You can actually use your own correction tape, so don’t forget to bring one!*

There’s another very important thing I wanted to mention in this post. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to not just bring your ID (passport, alien registration card etc.), but your admission card as well. It proves that you’ve successfully applied for the test and you can simply print it from the TOPIK website. Besides, during the test, you have to keep your ID on the desk at all time!

Useful information

The TOPIK is conducted 6 times a year in Korea and 4 times overseas. *UPDATE December 2017 In some countries, the test is held more than 4 times a year.* In Asia and Oceania, tests are held on Sundays, while in the rest of the world, you usually take the test on a Saturday. Results are announced on the website 1 month+ after the exam. For more information, head on over to the TOPIK website.

I hope this post was useful and good luck on your exam! And if you want to refresh your Korean vocabulary before taking the Topik test, have a look at my Korean dictionary design collection!

Till next time,




  1. Smitha135 · October 23, 2015

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  2. Eunice Huh · October 23, 2015

    Hi, I took both TOPIK 1 and 2 to apply for a University in Seoul, I was wondering if i have to send both of my scores of TOPIK 1 and 2 or just TOPIK 2 to the University thank you

    • howskorea · October 23, 2015

      I think sending only Topik 2 results should be fine 🙂

  3. Pingback: 10 Tips on How to Prepare for the TOPIK - How's Korea?

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