3 simple tips.
By not making it your end goal.
By doing everything else except studying for it.
By avoiding preparatory books until the end.
If you are looking to take language proficiency tests such as TOPIK (Korean) and JLPT (Japanese), one of the worst things to do is to actively prepare for it and to make the test syllabus the core of your learning.
Learning a language does not revolve around the proficiency test. Sure, it’s a very neat and structured way to base your learning on and it does make sense that if you progress from N4 to N3 syllabus you are improving.
No matter how much we proclaim to hate exams, it’s a part of our lives from young and our minds are conditioned to prefer having a 範圍 (syllabus) than not.
But it’s a black hole
When you find yourself learning Korean from TOPIK preparatory books, memorising vocabulary that are “commonly tested”, be able to identify what belongs to N2 grammar and what does not, and are looking at lists and lists of N3 Kanji or what not, you are doing it wrong.
Never try to learn a language from proficiency test materials.
It’s like doing things backwards and it’s a very very tedious way of learning. You are likely to feel that it’s a daunting task and learning a language is damn hard.
Well, it’s hard because you are doing it all wrong.
Take JLPT for example. There is a Kanji section in the test where you are given a kanji and asked to pick its correct hiragana version. Are you going to go through lists and lists of “N2 Kanji”, memorise them and hoping that you remember at least half of them?
Or are you going to take the less crazy route and do like 20 practice questions a day and learn the unfamiliar kanji from there?
Either way, it’s a lot less effective and a hell lot less fun than learning kanji by reading novels, articles, tweets (and what not) and watching dramas/anime etc.
If you belong to the “suffering builds character” mindset or feel that 고생 is needed to produce results or what shit, be my guest.
But I can tell you for sure (100%) that my way of learning is more effective and long-lasting than yours.
I’m not sure if it’s a result of JLPT being more established for a longer period of time or what not, but I feel that there is a stronger classification of N2/N3 vocabulary and it’s less common (as of now) to hear learners talking about a Korean word being classified as a TOPIK 4 word.
Basically I think that’s bullshit. If you can actively tell me this word is N2 and that word is N1, I’ll first admire your brainpower and then question your learning methods lol.
By having the mindset that a word is of a “higher level” than the other, you are simply setting limits on yourself. Are you really going to ignore that N1 word just because you are studying for N2 and the N1 word is “not important” for now?
Oh, and never try to outsmart the exam (and yourself) by predicting what grammar points / vocabulary are frequently tested and prepare for the test that way.
The right way
Learn the language with all kinds of materials except proficiency preparatory materials. If you are aiming for TOPIK 4, try out one or two practice papers to see the how far away you are from that level. If it’s damn far, stop thinking about TOPIK and just focus on your learning. If you are doing things the right way, you will be improving in the meantime and the next time you attempt a practice paper (maybe 6 months later), you will find yourself naturally able to do more questions.
If you are just like 10% away, then it’s worth doing more papers and looking at preparatory materials to fill that minor gaps you have.
The only TOPIK / JLPT books I like are those that have loads of practice questions. Exams are exams, you need practice to get the hang of the type of questions asked and the format of the paper.
Do those questions to get a gauge of your level but do not make use of them to fill the gap. You should fill the gap by doing other things.
In that, I am of the opinion that exam preparatory classes and books like 1000 words tested in XX exam are ways of eating your money. lol. But sadly there are a lot of people who believed in such stuff.
I had friends who enrolled in TOFEL classes to improve their English…… o.O
Maybe those classes do help you get a better score, but improving your true proficiency……… mm.
How do you prepare for language proficiency tests? Do you believe in buying books focused on those tests or enrolling in those specific classes?