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[Korean Textbook Review] Real TOPIK 리얼 토픽 1

I mean… is there fake TOPIK?

Okay, I don’t mean to sound so sarcastic, but the title kinda asked for it.


So.. this is one of those ‘TOPIK guide’ books which essentially consist of practice questions. I usually shy away from such books, since I can easily download past year papers via the TOPIK website. They now have up to 36th TOPIK (35th and 36th are based on the new test format).

For JLPT, past year questions are not available online. Hence I’ll gladly pay for a book with just practice questions and an answer booklet. But for TOPIK, I would only pay for such books IF and only if they offer me something more.

A book needs to have a purpose. A good book always have a clear one, showing that the author put in thought into the structure of the content, target audience etc. Which is why I always read the preface, especially in a non-fiction book.

As I flip through the pages, a nagging question arose. What is the purpose of this book?

The more I looked at the book, the stronger the question. Have to come to the conclusion that there isn’t much purpose. Can’t blame me for misinterpreting, the book didn’t even come with a preface. -.-

Review under cut. Only Book 1 is reviewed here.

Structure of book:

1. Introduction and details of new TOPIK format (in Korean, English and Chinese)

2. Specimen paper 1

3. Specimen paper 2

4. Answers and explanations for paper 1

5. Answers and explanations for paper 2

6. Transcript for listening in paper 1

7. Transcript for listening in paper 2

Aimed at beginners of Korean, I appreciated the fact that they included English and Chinese translations. But I think I should only be glad for the Chinese translations, because I gave up reading the .. “English” version and switched to the Korean one. -.- It’s one thing to have awkward language, but another to have plain spelling mistakes. And very awkward language.



To be brutally honest, I don’t know how this book is gonna be of help to beginners besides the fact that it contains practice questions.

Case in point.

“Explanations” are all in Korean. I don’t even think they can be counted as explanation. For example, there is a section where you are asked to listen to a dialogue and choose an option that is in line with dialogue.

Option 1 (wrong): The man is going to the bank now

Explanation for Option 1: The man is going to the hospital now


It’s also a chore to have to keep flipping to and fro if one really wants to study from the answers and explanations. I rather they make a separate booklet.

The conclusion is that I can hardly see any evidence that this book is made with the user / learner in mind. D:

Know how a decent TOPIK guide book should be like? Check out Complete Guide to the TOPIK (Basic). Although it’s based on the old syllabus, it’s useful.

Instead of going on and on about the book and how I think it can be improved, let’s just jump to the summary.

NOTE: I do understand that the two papers are kinda like “specimen papers”, so it should be done cold – ie. without any explanations/answers/glossary in the paper. But then again, I can download past year papers……. So it all boils down to the purpose of the book…. But there is no preface…. 

What I like:

To be improved:

  • Find a way to make it easier for the learner to check the answers/explanations. Make it into a booklet / include explanations + relevant grammar points etc alongside
  • Include an overview of important grammar points etc as an appendix
  • Have explanations in English
  • Have more valuable / value-added content
  • Find a purpose

On a side note, mp3 files can be downloaded at www.pjbook.com. The website is a mess on my mac. ><

I have a lot of good things to say about 박이정 published books in general, so don’t let this spoil your impression 😛

외국인을 위한 한국어 문법 >> excellent grammar book

빈도별 토픽 (중급) >> another highly recommended one

 Purchase at TwoChois (linked)

Price: 9,500won

ISBN: 978-89-6292-663-7

Thank you TwoChois for sending me the books! 😀 If you are looking for an online bookstore with impeccable service, look no further (: I love how they always include something extra in your order <3


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  • Reply
    24 October, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    안녕하세요. Thanks for the honest review as always. I’m sure that it would help to publish better books for the learners. 🙂 감사합니다.

  • Reply
    24 October, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Thank you for the review. Now I won’t get the book unless I’m shopping at Kyobo in Seoul. That store makes you wanna buy everything. The book says “Explanation in English” but then all the explanations for the answers are in Korean.

    I usually download practice tests online. But it would be nice to find a practice book with explanations in English.

  • Reply
    24 October, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I went to check this out the day you posted the picture on instagram and I was just O.o I guess it’s better to download the old papers and 36th topik papers are out anyway.

  • Reply
    24 October, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    I bought this book, but haven’t started using it yet, because I want to start focusing on TOPIK. But after reading your review, I think it won’t be good for me anymore because of the reasons you listed. >< Thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    24 October, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    Thank you for a detailed review of this Topik book. Since the new format of Topik, a lot of Topik preparation books come out, which makes me feel difficult to choose.

  • Reply
    25 October, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    Yeah, there’s a lot of books out there. In order to get them all and save on shipping costs I have to hit up Kyobo in Gwanghwamun. When I was there this year I bought 토픽(TOPiK) 한국어능력시험. 2 실전모의고사, EBS 교육방송 토픽(TOPiK) 한국어능력시험 한 번에 통과하기. 2 and 합격의 신 New TOPIK 2 읽기 중 고급(3-6급).

    Here in Vancouver, Canada, I rent rooms to international students/workers. Many of them come from Korea. So when I went to Seoul this year they showed me around. After walking out from 종각 I was surprised I was in 광화문 already. You can go to 경복궁 first and then finish the day at 교보문고.

    I wanna get the following books:
    1. Test Guide to the New TOPIK 한국어능력시험 2 실전 모의고사 : 한국어능력시험 대비서
    2. 핫 토픽 HOT TOPIK. 2 : actual test 한 권으로 합격하기
    3. 합격의 신 New TOPIK 2 실전 모의고사 중 고급(3~6급)
    4. TOPIK 한국어능력시험. 2

  • Reply
    Arjun Moore
    25 October, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    Hello shanna,
    Could you please make a post about how one should go about learning korean in the intermediate stage. I am in a slump, and I don’t know what to do please help.

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