Reading. Ironically, this is longest section in the new TOPIK, but there’s still not enough time. Basically in this new TOPIK there is never enough time.
Like with the other sections, my biggest advice is to figure out where you personally are strongest, and spend your time there. Finding a strategy that works for you is most important.
If you are trying to get level 5 or 6, it’s also really important to cut down on the time spent in the beginning of the test.
For reading, I’ll go part by part.
These are intermediate level grammar questions. 1-2 ask you to fill in the blank with the correct grammar. 3-4 ask you to find the grammar point with a similar meaning to the underlined part of a sentence.
Basically, you have to know the grammar. If you never learned one of the choices, chances are it’s not the answer. These are level 3/4 questions, so advanced grammar will not be the correct answer.
If you know the grammar point in the sentence for questions 3-4 then you probably don’t need to read the whole sentence. If you don’t know it don’t panic. You can usually approach it like questions 1-2. Think of it like a fill-in the blank.
These will be some sort of advertisement or instructions. You need to figure out what it’s for.
The first ones are usually an advertisement for some object (refrigerator, glasses store, air purifier, etc.) and you should think of what it is.
The later ones are usually some sort of warning or instructions, and you should choose what for. (Telephone manners, instructions for use, etc.)
These are the reading version of the 내용 questions in listening.
“내용과 같은 것을 고르십시오.”
Question 9 is a poster advertising an event and 10 is a graph (usually). For these two personally I like to read the answers first and look for the info. The way it’s organized, it’s usually pretty easy to locate the info and determine whether it’s true or false. This way you can skip any info that isn’t necessary to answer the questions.
For 11 and 12 you have to find the info in a short paragraph, so for these two personally I like to read the paragraph first and then the answers.
For these questions you are given 4 sentences and you have to put them in order.
There are four answer choices, but there will be only two possible starting sentences. Read those first, and chose which is a better starting sentence.
If it starts with 그 or 이 (그런, 그래서, 그 때문에, 이는, etc) or another connecting word (하지만, etc) or ends in 때문이다 then it is not the first sentence.
If it’s not that obvious you want the sentence that seems to be introducing the topic better.
Once you have a opening sentence you’ll have narrowed it to 2 possible answers, which means you now have two possible closing sentences. Find the one that sums things up best, and you have your answer. If you’re still unsure read them in the two possible orders and decide.
These are fill in the blank questions. The first fill in the blanks were looking for specific grammar points, but these are asking you to pick the appropriate meaning.
Unfortunately, all of the choices will probably sound like possible answers if you just read the sentence with the blank, so you do need to read the whole paragraph.
As with listening, don’t panic if there are words you don’t know. Try to infer the meaning from the words you do know.
These are the last of the intermediate level questions. There are 3 paragraphs, with two questions each.
19 & 20
20 is about finding the correct information (내용과 같은 것), so you’ll need to read the whole paragraph.
19 is a fill in the blank. Probably a connecting word, so think about the relationship between the two sentences it connects.
21 & 22
21 will be an idiomatic expression or proverb. You’ll probably have to read what comes before the blank to figure out which is appropriate. As for learning idiomatic expressions and proverbs, mostly you just have to study them, which is annoying because there’s only one question that asks about them. But if you get some under your belt, you’ll probably get better at guessing the meaning of others, so don’t feel like you have to memorize long lists of proverbs or idioms.
22 is about the main idea or 중심 생각. For these look at the first and the last sentence again. These two sentences should give you the main idea, and keep you from getting distracted by other information that may be in the paragraph, but is not the main idea.
23 & 24
This paragraph is usually from literature. 23 is about the 기분 or 심정 of someone as indicated in the underlined part. So how were they feeling? Korean has so many ways of describing emotions… So if someone knows of a good vocab list of these emotion words, please point me to it. This is one of my personal weaknesses.
24 is a “내용” question.
The dreaded newspaper questions. These give you a title for a newspaper article, and you have to find the sentence that describes what the article is about.
Essentially you are looking for a sentence that says exactly the same thing as the article title in different words. The hard part is the vocabulary. Aside from just learning tons of vocab, look for the explanation that seems most like news, fits the best with the words you know, and doesn’t “translate” the hard words too literally. If it looks like it’s trying to trick you, it probably is. Looking at Korean news headlines is also good preparation. Often they pull TOPIK questions from real current events, so keeping up with the news and just getting used to what Korean headlines look like and common vocab can help.
These are the advanced versions of questions 16-18, the fill in the blank questions.
These are the advanced versions of 11 & 12, they 내용 questions.
These questions ask for the 주제, which is the same as the 중심 생각, or main idea.
First of all, be careful that you’re at least skimming the directions because coming right after the 내용 questions it’s possible to forget what you’re looking for.
Second, if you’re running out of time, and by this time you might be, you may be able to save time by only reading the first and last sentence of the paragraph. The introduction and conclusion of the paragraph should state the main idea, so not only can you save time, but you can avoid other distracting information. This method is not for everyone, so you should practice ahead of time to see if it works for you, but if it does work you can cut out a significant amount of time.
These are the advanced version of questions 13-15, the correct order questions.
Instead of arranging all of the sentences, you’ll be given a paragraph and an extra sentence, and you have to decide where the extra sentence fits.
Read the extra sentence first. Look for key words that tell you its function in the paragraph. Is it defining something? Giving a reason for something? What kind of info should come before?
Then read the paragraph and decide where it goes.
These are the advanced multi question paragraphs. They include a sampling of all the question types that came before in much longer paragraphs. There are three paragraphs with 2 questions each, and the last one has 3 questions.
42 The feeling of the person in the underlined part.
44 Main idea (remember first and last)
45 Fill in the blank
46 Insert the extra sentence into the paragraph (remember to read it first before reading the paragraph)
48 The author’s reason for writing
49 Fill in the blank
50 The author’s attitude/intention of the underlined sentence
At this point, unless you’ve moved super quickly through the first 40 questions, you probably will be running out of time, so I’d pick and choose the types of questions you’re good at, and the topics you’re more familiar with.
Overall, I’ve talked a bit about strategy for people aiming for levels 3 and 4 before. If you are aiming for 5 or 6, you’ll want to be able to get to around 35-40 at the least.
My personal plan for timing was:
1-18 About 1 minute per question (average), 20 minutes total
19-24 About 2 minutes per paragraph, 6 minutes
25-41 About 1.5 minutes per question, 24 minutes (Total so far 50 minutes)
42-50 About 4 minutes for the 2 question paragraphs, and 8 for the 3 question paragraph. (Total 70 minutes)
That was my ideal, but honestly, if you’d be really happy just to get level 5 (while leaving room for the possibility of 6) I’d completely ignore 42-50. They’re long and hard and by that time you’re totally exhausted. Ultimately any of those I got right was pure luck anyway. Obviously if you happen to have time at the end then go for it, but I wouldn’t rush through the rest, and stress yourself out to leave all that time for the last questions. Depending on your current level you might want to make a plan that’s a little more leisurely.
So that’s the end of how I approached the TOPIK. I’m not sure how much help it is…
I’m not writing this because I think I’m totally awesome at Korean. Actually, I’m writing it because I don’t think that.
I know that level 6 does require a certain degree of knowledge, so I’m proud of myself for that. But I also recognize that knowledge about the test and a little luck is what put me over the edge, so I wanted to pass that knowledge on.
In the end, for me, level 6 is not the goal, but the starting line. It’s what I needed to get me to the next step in my plan, but there’s still so much more to learn before I really feel comfortable with Korean.
Hopefully in two years when my current result is no longer valid, I’ll be able to pass with a much higher score…
Good luck to everyone in your TOPIK journey! If you have any questions or personal strategies please leave them in the comments!