The Terrifying TOPIK: Resources and Reflection

Finally, after much urging from numerous people I’d ignored, I decided to take the TOPIK. TOPIK stands for Test of Proficiency in Korean, and it’s needed for some jobs and study abroad programs. Do I need it for my job or am I planning to study abroad, you ask?

No, not in the foreseeable future, but I would like to continue studying Korean and someday become fluent.

Then why bother with the TOPIK? I asked myself that many times too.

In retrospect, it would’ve been better to take it early on in my first grant year, when the results might have motivated me to seek out language classes or take my self study more seriously. However the urgency of leaving is what pushed me to finally sign up.

It is possible to take the TOPIK abroad, and in the US, but the nearest location to me would be in L.A. That’s a 3 hour flight or a 2 day drive. Would I realistically ever travel that far for a test? Not likely. So before leaving Korea, I thought I might as well take it.

I signed up for to take the 47th TOPIK II on July 17th, just a little over a month before the exam date. There are 6 levels in the TOPIK, divided into two tests TOPIK I (levels 1-2) and TOPIK II (levels 3-6). I opted for a challenge and was aiming to pass level 3.

I definitely didn’t give myself enough time to seriously study, so while I can’t recommend following my example, I can recommend some resources that probably would have given me better results had I taken more time to study them.

TOPIK Study Resources

Online Resources

Official TOPIK website (

The most obvious place to go is the TOPIK website itself. Beware, however, that it may not function properly on a browser other than Internet Explorer. South Korea has a strange affinity for the outdated browser that I hope gets dropped soon. Registering for the TOPIK took quite a bit of patience. Here’s a quick link to the test information in English.

However, on the website you can also find previous tests, which will be some of your most valuable study materials. If you have difficult accessing the website, you can also download previous tests here and here.

TOPIK Guide (

This site has everything you need to know about the TOPIK, all in English. It was most useful for looking up information about the test structure, grading and study tips. I also bought their self-study package for $29 (actually I was only going to buy it because I thought I could get $10 off).

The package is a lot of information and resources, but not compiled in the most readable way. There are 15 e-books, but they mostly consists of lists – lists of vocab, grammar structures, proverbs and so on. It was a lot of material for the price, but you definitely need to pull from other resources and develop your own system to study effectively.

The final part of TOPIK Guide that I’ll mention is that they have online mock tests, which seem good to try out early on in your studying.

Key To Korean (

This is one man’s blog about learning Korean. He seems to have quite a lot of experience with the TOPIK and provides quite a few resources for it.

Hanguk Drama Blog (

This blogger had a particularly helpful post, detailing her experience taking the TOPIK as well as tips for each section. She’s already passed level 6, so she knows what she’s talking about. There are also other language learning resources and textbook reviews on her site.

Talk To Me In Korean (

Talk To Me in Korean is a wonderful resource that I used before coming to Korea. They provide podcasts introducing Korean grammar points and encourage listeners to practice in the comments section. The hosts are light-hearted and easy to listen to and everything is completely free. They seem to have expanded quite a bit too; a quick look around their website reveals videos, pdf versions of the lesson and even books (those aren’t free though). I study by downloading a few lessons at a time and listening to them on my commute to school.

Print Resources

In Korea the only TOPIK books I could find were all or nearly all in Korean. That made studying new grammar concepts difficult, but I supplemented the books below with online language learning blogs.

Intermediate TOPIK 어휘 문법 다지기

TOPIK book grammar vocab

A little unsatisfied by the TOPIK guide e-books, I went to my nearest book store to just buy some real books already. I’d just been browsing through Hangukdrama’s  textbook reviews, so I bought this one on her recommendation. Her review is much more extensive, but I’ll add that this book was a good guide for me to run through the types of grammar structures I’d be seeing and (hopefully) using on the test. You can take a look at the book in Korea here or in the US here.


TOPIK Writing 토픽 쓰기 (중급) 10일완성

TOPIK book writing

I was especially concerned about the writing portion, since the only time I do any “writing” is in text messages that are auto-corrected for me. This book had a good format that was easy to follow, and sample writing topics in every chapter. There’s an extensive answer key, which was essential for someone studying on their own. Check it out here.


News in Korean

News in Korean book

Produced by Talk To Me In Korean, this book is one of my favorites. It’s easy to do just a little everyday, and the textbook layout and content is interesting enough to keep me engaged. I purchased it long before I signed up for the TOPIK and have been really satisfied. Pre-TOPIK, I thought it was really challenging…hahaha. Now the English explanations and vocabulary are a welcome relief. News in Korean is a great way to ease into news articles and more specialized vocabulary.

I’m currently in the middle of waiting for my results to come out. This post is a little risky, since I’ll now feel obligated to share my results. Unfortunately prospects  look pretty dire for me, as I bombed the writing portion, but there’s still a slim chance I could pass level 3.

Fingers crossed! (But not too hard!)

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