How to Study for TOPIK: 12 Ways to Prepare Ahead of Time

The score you get from TOPIK (or EPS-TOPIK) is important – it can land you a job, get admitted to a university, or simply give you a boost of confidence in knowing your current level.

Knowing this, wouldn’t it be wise to prepare ahead of time for this exam?

It’s safe to say that your performance on the actual day is the result of your prior preparations, like how much time you allotted to studying Korean.

Simply put, the sooner you start the better.

So what can you do to prepare for TOPIK if you have plenty of time in your hands?

Listed below are the various ways to ready yourself for TOPIK.

1. Build a Korean Learning Habit

If you haven’t built a language learning habit until now, you can use TOPIK as a reason to begin one.

A habit is simply an activity or behavior you do over and over on a regular basis. Learning Korean can be a habit you create, which will only benefit you in the long run.

But what particular habit can you begin with? Since you’re preparing for TOPIK, you can learn new words, read Korean stories, or practice listening. Or take any of the succeeding tips below (#2 to #12) and build a habit out of them.

This is where a luxury of time could prove beneficial, because the longer your habit the more knowledge you’ll accumulate and skills you’ll build when the exam is near.

2. Constant Immersion in Korean Content

One of the best ways to get good at Korean is by exposing yourself to the language, also known as immersion.

Immersion makes the foreign language become a part of you, which happens in a gradual but steady process. Given you have a lot of time to spare, immersing in Korean allows you not only to acquire the language, but also lets you have fun in the process.

The key is to focus on obtaining comprehensible input – input which you don’t perfectly understand but could manage to grasp with the help of context. Comprehensible input comes from content that’s suited for your current level.

Which type of content should you choose from? Turns out there are many for Korean:

  • Dramas
  • TV Shows
  • Podcasts
  • Music
  • Web Novels
  • Fiction Books
  • Videos
  • Vlogs
  • Blogs
  • Mobile Apps
  • Games

Choose content which you can have fun with. There’s no point in acquiring Korean through content that isn’t enjoyable.

Over time, as you continue your study of Korean you get to unlock more content that will be within your reach. You’ll have more content types to have fun with.

3. Grow Your Vocabulary and Grammar Bank

Learning new Korean words and grammar points is a productive use of your extra time in preparation for the proficiency test. By the time the date arrives, you would have accumulated a huge bank even if you only learned a little every day.

But don’t try to memorize a list of words. Simply start with vocabulary you already know and then work up from there, using natural means of learning new words such as through immersion.

If you want, you can set up spaced repetition tools like Anki and Quizlet or whichever flashcard tool you want to use. Spaced repetition is useful especially when you still have plenty of time to study.

Same goes for grammar, just notice the rules happening in a natural setting and observe how it influences the thought and context of the situation. Initially, you can learn about the explanation of the concept through video lessons (or books). But the sooner you can see it being used during immersion, the better.

4. Practice With Mock TOPIK Tests

Taking TOPIK mock tests will give you an idea of how the actual TOPIK looks like. This is helpful so that when you sit in the exam room, you won’t be too surprised by the surroundings and the test itself.

You get to learn about the question patterns that will commonly appear in the test, which is great so that you can focus specifically on those types of questions.

And besides, wouldn’t you like to preview your potential score in the listening and reading tests before you take the exam? You can see which level you’d fit in and have ample time to prepare and increase your score.

It can also help you build endurance since testing is a mentally draining task, especially when you get to the end where the questions get more complex. The more you practice with mock exams, making sure you simulate it like the real exam (continuous timer with no distractions), the better your focus will be without tiring out in the middle.

5. Tackle Your Weak Points

The sooner you start preparing for TOPIK, the more opportunities you have at addressing your weak points.

Personally, I needed to attend to my writing skills since I lacked writing practice, which I used for the TOPIK II writing test. That section contains open-ended questions, meaning I could get zero if I don’t write an answer to those questions (not unlike listening and reading where I’m able to guess the answer).

This is where a mock test can prove beneficial, as it will tell you which part you struggle the most. Is it with reading or listening? Or maybe writing since you lack experience of it?

You’ll find that if you can just get a couple more points by strengthening your weak areas, it will increase your overall score.

6. Strengthen Your Current Knowledge

Not only should you prioritize your weak points, make sure to secure your strong points as well. Nothing’s more frustrating than making a mistake with an easy question.

You don’t want to lose points simply because you had gaps in your fundamentals, right?

That’s why it’s important to reacquaint yourself with the basics once in a while. You can review the common everyday words, basic grammar like Korean particles, levels of speech, or the more advanced vocabulary or grammar you “think” you know, but might contain gaps in understanding.

I once went back to the Hangul lessons at Duolingo. Although I already knew it to be easy especially with romanizations (the English equivalent of the Korean characters), I discovered that some characters tend to be silent when spoken. Imagine if I miss those silent sounds during the listening test, that would change the meaning of the dialogue and it could make me confused, making it more likely I get a wrong answer.

Bottomline, by attending earlier to those gaps in knowledge, you could look to gain extra points in the exam.

7. Read Widely Across Domains

Having command of the most common everyday conversations is usually the gauge for reaching the earlier levels in the language.

But what if you need to get to the advanced levels of the language? Then you need to read more about specialized topics.

That’s why if you want to reach the highest levels in TOPIK (L2 for TOPIK I, L5 or L6 in TOPIK II), it’s an imperative to read and listen widely across different domains. This is how you’ll stand a chance at the harder parts of the exam.

But overall, I would advise everyone taking TOPIK (whether I, II, or EPS) to go the extra mile, especially if you have the luxury of time to do so. Because as I’ve said, the more you can accumulate the better.

You could learn some specialized knowledge about science, economics, statistics, or whatever you’re curious about. Preferably something you already enjoy in your native language, and try to learn them in Korean. See if you’ll find it interesting.

8. Jot Down Lessons and Create Notes

Having a long time to prepare enables you to create notes for you to study, just like a student.

So why not grab yourself a pen and paper and start writing notes? In this way you have a reviewer to come back to when you need to review or relearn the language.

Make sure to write them down by hand, since it slows down your pace and gives you room to think about the lesson. Not to mention, you can be creative with how you create notes.

But it’s up to you. You can use digital notes if that’s your thing. Everyone’s preferences are different so I respect that.

9. Practice Writing Korean by Hand

Handwriting Korean is important especially if you’ll take the writing test. You’ll be writing your answers on the paper provided in Korean, meaning it has to be done manually.

As you can imagine, handwriting Korean is a skill, therefore you need ample time to get familiar with the strokes. It’s a nice plus if you already know it, but for those looking to catch up, now is the time to do it.

Since Hangul is easy to learn, then it would be easier for you to practice. At least you need enough speed to be able to write an entire essay in the time allotted.

The writing test uses a special paper called wongoji, so it helps to consider this in your preparations while getting good at handwriting Korean.

10. Get a Tutor or Course for TOPIK

If you have money to spare, there are ways to get help from an expert especially online. You can pay for a tutor specializing in the TOPIK exam or purchase a course that helps you get better at TOPIK.

I used TOPIK GUIDE to prepare for both I and II exams, but you can use any material you want to supplement your preparations.

But if you have no budget, that’s okay. YouTube has plenty of tutorials and teachers that cover the TOPIK exam. You’ll find that they will even guide you to answer every question type, whether it be reading, listening, or writing. There are also blogs that give advice on how to pass the TOPIK exam (such as yours truly), which are often shared by people who already took the test and have success to show for it.

My point is, you could use some extra help from other people when preparing for the proficiency test. Especially if the result of the test matters to you.

11. Be In Physical, Mental, and Emotional Shape

It can be tempting to prepare hard for the TOPIK exam that you sit all day in your room to study.

But don’t just focus on the test – make sure you’re also in shape when it comes to your physical, mental, and emotional health.

For physical, always stay well-rested and if possible, do some exercise like outdoor walking as it helps you think better while studying. Combine it with healthy food so you don’t get sick as the exam date nears.

Mentally, make sure to be in focus while studying and never succumbing to too much distractions. If you have a dedicated quiet place to study, that is a plus as you’ll be able to absorb everything you’re studying. Don’t cram – given you have a lot of time to prepare, trust that your brain will figure out the information you’re giving it.

Emotionally, if you can seek support from your friends and family – like when they cheer for you in some way – that would be a nice boost. Or if you’re in a community of Korean language learners or TOPIK test takers, you could support each other and give yourselves a boost.

12. Get Clear on Your Purpose for Taking the Exam

This goes back to the WHY of preparing in the first place – you want to score high on the test, giving it the best that you got.

Otherwise, why would you apply the strategies above when you can just cram near the exam date?

That’s why it’s important to keep reminding yourself of your purpose for taking TOPIK. This will vary with every person.

Because without clarity of purpose, I don’t think you’ll sustain your efforts at all (unless you’re in it just to check yourself out).

Constantly remind yourself of the reason to take TOPIK. Use it as fuel to keep you going. And see how it inspires you to keep studying.

Ready to Take On TOPIK?

I hope you’re readying yourself right now.

Be an early bird. Don’t wait until the exam day is near before starting to prepare.

Your attitude will play a factor towards your success with the exam, as well as your target goal for the result – whether you need employment or simply to pass Level 4.

So what are you going to do today? The tips are provided, go pick one and try it now.

Do you know of other ways to prepare for the TOPIK exam? I’d love to know through the comments.

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