After the 38th TOPIK

So because of my scholarship I had to take the TOPIK one more time this past Sunday. (KGSP/NIIED pays, so they get to decide who has to take it. Of course NIIED is also in charge of the test, so they’re paying themselves…?)

Anyway, I hope that everyone who took it on Sunday will get the score they are hoping for (or better)!

From this test NIIED has stopped posting the questions/answers online, so I have no idea how it went. Personally speaking, listening was easier than last time, reading was similar, and writing… Writing was way out of left field…

In general, I don’t have a problem with the fact that they have stopped posting the tests. Someone elsewhere commented that “NIIED is making it harder for us to study Korean (by not posting the tests),” but I disagree with that… mostly. Studying Korean is very different from studying TOPIK. But even for the TOPIK, one of the most important things you can do is keep up with current events and read the newspaper. The TOPIK questions come from all kinds of different subjects, so you need to get used to reading a variety of things. Depending on your level that may mean choosing short articles and picking them apart, or using a reading textbook, or it may mean just reading the news on a regular basis. Of course watching the news, and listening to online radio is also good practice for listening.

In any case, studying old TOPIK tests is not going to make you significantly better at Korean, and that alone is only going to make you marginally better at TOPIK. In as much as it helps you understand the question types it is useful, but the content is totally different every time.

But writing is a little different.

As I detailed before, the reading and listening question types are always the same format. But judging from this latest test, they are still trying out different types of writing questions.

51 and 52 were not very new. 51 was a letter in response to a wedding invitation (as usual in the -sumnida form), and 52 was a short writing about meals and eating habits. Content-wise they were both pretty simple.

Question 53 and 54 were very different from what we’ve seen so far in the new test.

For Question 53, it has mostly been explanations from a chart. Analyzing a graph, comparing two things, etc. But this time, they gave details for an event (a singing contest/event) and asked us to introduce it as if we had gone to this event. On the one hand, the content was quite a bit easier than some of the #53’s in the past. On the other hand, it is hard to know exactly what they expect out of that question. Should we include our impressions after (supposedly) attending this (fake) event? In previous #53’s, you could mostly fill 200-300 characters just with information from the chart, but this time that was harder. (There was still a chart that included the date, place, who we went with, what we saw, and the purpose of the event).

Question 54 was also structured differently from the past tests. Usually they have given a short paragraph explaining a situation or issue. Then they’ve included 3-4 questions to answer in the essay. This time the questions were all in the paragraph (write at least 2 problems associated with internet comment boards, and possible solutions), and the place that usually had questions included examples of each (violent language in comments is one problem, and forcing people to post using their real name is one solution).

Overall, I have a feeling that both questions actually got much easier than anything that we have seen so far, but the problem is that now we can’t see the “perfect” answer, so it is harder to know what exactly is expected. For example, in 53 I included my (imaginary) impressions of watching the event, but I don’t know if that’s what they wanted. In 54, I used the two things they gave as examples, but I don’t know if they wanted us to think of two different things…

They may have decided that they had set the bar too high before, and actually are trying to make the writing section easier. Or it may be a fluke. Or I may have totally misinterpretted the questions. Only time will tell.

I guess I just have to wait and see how it is reflected in the score…

The 39th and 40th tests (March 21/22 and April 25/26) will both be available abroad, as well as in Korea, so keep an eye out for registration info if you are not in Korea. (From briefly looking at the lists of sites I think that it will not be available in every country on every international testing date, so please check with the TOPIK website or your local office in charge of TOPIK to find out when it will be available in your country.)

Good luck again to everyone now waiting for a score, and for those of you planning to take it some other time this year!