What is a TOPIK test?

Sep 17, 2020

Hi everyone. Welcome back to a new blog post!

As I announced to you guys, we are going to have live classes over this weekend, based on the 64th official TOPIK I test provided by the official TOPIK website.

(Please check <How to Take the Test> at the very bottom of this post.)

I got a few messages asking me what TOPIK is and if I could explain a bit about how the test works, so that they get the idea of what exactly they’re studying. I hope this post helps answer your questions about TOPIK.

What is TOPIK?

TOPIK stands for the Test of Proficiency in Korean.

So basically it’s an official test conducted by the Korean government that gauges your Korean proficiency.

There are two types of TOPIK test – TOPIK I and TOPIK II.

TOPIK I is for elementary level learners, and TOPIK II for intermediate to advanced level learners.

Here’s how the exam is structured:


In TOPIK I, there are two sections : Listening and Reading, 30 and 40 questions in each, with 40 minutes and 60 minutes given to each section. So you get to solve total 70 questions in 100 minutes. (100분 동안 70 문제를 풀어요.)

And in TOPIK II, there are three sections: Listening, Reading and Writing. 50 questions each for listening (60 mins) and reading section (70 mins), and the additional 4 questions for the writing section (50 mins.) So you get to solve total 104 questions in 180 minutes, which equals three hours. (세 시간 동안 104문제를 풀어요.)


The total marks of TOPIK I is 200, and if you get over 80 marks, you pass level 1. If you get over 140, you pass level 2. If you get below 80 marks, you don’t pass any level.

Same works with TOPIK II. The total marks is 300. And if you get over 120, you pass level 3, over 150, you pass level 4, 190 level 5, and if you get over 230, you pass level 6.

And here is the brief description of the skills required to pass each level:
(brought from https://www.topikguide.com/topik-overview/)

[Beginner level]

Level 1 Use of basic commands of Korean for survival, such as greeting, purchasing, ordering, etc. Expressing and understanding oneself in simple everyday conversation by making simple sentences from 800 basic words.

Level 2 Discussion of familiar topics employing a vocabulary of about 1,500∼2,000 words. Distinguishing correctly between formal and informal situations.

[Intermediate level]

Level 3 Carrying out transactions with people in public spaces and maintaining social relationships. Understanding the correct usage of words and speech. Command of fundamental characteristics of Korean.

Level 4 Comprehension of news articles, general social issues and abstract topics with accuracy and fluency. Comprehension of Korean social and cultural contents relying on essential idioms and understanding of representative aspects of Korean culture.

[Advanced Level]

Level 5 High fluency in using the Korean language in professional research or work. Understanding and discussing less unfamiliar topics in politics, economics and other fields. Usage of appropriate expressions, distinguishing formal and informal, written and spoken, by context.

Level 6 Absolutely fluent in the Korean language for professional research or work, Capacity to understand and express oneself without problem, although without the full fluency of a native speaker.

Try not to underestimate the beginner level (I actually prefer the word “Elementary level,”). As learners, we all experienced that elementary level grammar or vocabulary isn’t necessarily easy. There’s still a lot to study and learn at this level, so please don’t feel bad and rush yourself into entering intermediate or advanced level.

The best is to go step-by-step, pacing yourself. They say slow and steady wins the race, and I think there is truth in that. I also believe strong foundation is very important in acquiring any skills. If your basic foundation isn’t strong enough, it wouldn’t matter how high of a level you study. You’ll later come back to the basics anyways, because you won’t understand certain things clearly without necessary basics.

If you are at an elementary level, I hope you think of this level as a phase of building a solid basic foundation. That ultimately saves time in the longer span of time and will lead you better in your studies :)

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

“How long does it take to pass a certain level?”

This is a really tricky question to answer, because it all depends on learners. Each learner has different time available to study, level of commitment, learning environment, pace of learning, and so on. So please don’t think there’s a general rule.

But I think if you can commit yourself to study Korean hardcore, every day, at least for more than 5-6 hours, you can pass level 2 within six months of learning Korean from scratch.

If you cannot afford that much time and commitment, but are willing to take even a small chunk of time every day and study consistently, then in about a year, you can pass level 2.

And for level 3 or 4, I’d say if you study consistently for two years, you may be able to pass.

But for level 5 or 6, it’s really hard to say because you need to have quite advanced level of Korean (especially level 6) and it really depends on how much time and commitment you put into learning. Just for your information, there used to be a Chinese friend of mine who passed level 6 after four and a half years of studying Korean in Korea.

Again, these are just estimated numbers that can differ by learners. I hope you don’t focus too much on how much time you need to pass, but more on actually getting yourself to study. Because after all, the harder you study and the more time you commit to it, the sooner you’ll be able to pass.

“Is TOPIK really necessary?

TOPIK is definitely not the only way you can study Korean, but I think it is a good exam to study for, because studying for a test can be a good motivator that keeps you going. If you have a set goal in mind, it’s easier to convince yourself to keep studying than otherwise. Even in the days you feel kind of lazy, you’ll make time to study for at least a few minutes, because you don’t want to fail the test and waste your money and time. It can also be useful to have a TOPIK certificate when you have to prove your proficiency, like when applying for schools or jobs.

But even if you are not registering for the actual test, you can always practice with mock/practice tests provided by TOPIK website or books. And they can be great materials for you to learn.

You can click over here and you’ll find several files of the actual tests conducted in the past. Also included are the audio files, script for the listening section, and answer sheet. You can also go to studytopik.go.kr and take the same tests online. This way, you don’t have to physically download all the files. Also, you can check your score right away and the correct answers for each question.

But when taking the actual test, you don’t get to take it on a computer. They give out physical sheets of test paper, and you mark the answers in a scantron (OMR card.) So to practice for that, using the printed test would be a better choice. But it’s up to you. I personally prefer the online one because it’s more convenient and saves time. But when coming to class, I recommend actually printing out the tests, so that you can take notes on it. –> Edit: I heard it depends on countries and also the test-takers’ preference. Make sure to ask TOPIK committee in your country about this, whether the test is computer based or paper based.

If you’d like to get books that provide more practice tests, there are many books available. I personally have these two books for TOPIK I and TOPIK II. The test sheets in the books are not the actual TOPIK tests conducted in the past. They are made by each publisher based on the analysis of the actual tests. So they are quite reliable and of good quality. You can look into books like these if you’re interested.

So that is what I have for you about TOPIK. Hopefully this post answered some of your questions. Feel free to explore more of TOPIK website here if you have more questions. They pretty much have all the info you would need. You’ll also find more free learning materials other than test sheets.

I really hope this post helped you understand what TOPIK test is.

[How to Take the Test]
You can take the test here : http://www.studytopik.go.kr/sub-1/link_url.asp?ma_url=sub_1 You can take the first two segments: TOPIK I 듣기(listening) & 읽기(reading.) Here’s a screenshot for you just in case you’re lost on which one to tak:

You can also print the test file here ↓

The 64th TOPIK I (Listening & Reading)다운로드하기

and bring it to class. The file is provided for free at https://www.topikguide.com/download-64th-topik-test-papers/

You can also find answer sheets, audio file, and listening transcript in the link above.

Below two videos are the live classes conducted in the designated date:

[Link to my YT Classes]

1. Listening Part (Sept 19th) :

2. Reading Part (Sept 20th) :