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[Korean Textbook Reviews] Complete Guide to the TOPIK (Basic)

Apologies for the lack of replies to the comments ^^ I’ve been reading them! ^^ Will get down to the replies soon. Keep the comments coming in 😀 I love receiving comments.

Came across this book in the school library today. Decided to borrow it to do a review! ^^ It’s difficult to review a book which I have not/not going to use, but I’ll try to be as objective as possible. There are 3 books in this series: beginner, intermediate, advanced. My school library only has the beginner book, so I’ll base my review on it. Since I’m past the beginner stage now, it’s hard to judge whether the book is suitable or helpful for beginners who wish to take the TOPIK test, but I’ll try my best! (being long winded >,<)

Usually, I shy away from books that claim to be ‘topik guides’ since all they do is to provide past year papers which I can download for free on the official site. However, this book is different and is genuinely a guide book.


Part 1: Introduction of main type of questions
One example question per type of question is given. Further explanatory notes are provided for each question and basically it explains what the question is asking for.

Part 2: Practice Questions
For each question type, a few practice questions are given, followed by explanatory notes. The explanatory notes are really detailed and it sounds like the kind of explanations teachers will provide in the classroom.

Part 3: Mock tests 1/2
After the preparations, it’s time for attempting the real paper!

The book comes with 2 CDs for the listening practice and the listening scripts are provided in the appendix. What is more awesome is that the scripts are given in both � and English side by side!!

Overall comments
This preparatory guide is extremely suitable for people who are thinking of doing the TOPIK but find it hard to navigate through the Korean official site. In the preface, the book starts with an explanation of the TOPIK exam, up to the minor details of the countries offering it and the address of TOPIK centres in Korea. The one very cool thing about the book is that it is essentially both in Korean and English. Although I would question the usefulness of including Korean explanations in the beginner book, it is an awesome idea for the intermediate and advanced level (i suppose they want to make it more consistent). You can see the effort put into organizing the book and it’s well structured and easy to navigate through.

I’m rather conflicted whether I’ll recommend buying this book or not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent guide book but personally, I’ll not shell out the money for the basic guide. Instead the intermediate/advanced book may be more worth it. It’s a matter of perspective. If you are looking for a basic guide book, this is THE ONE. (:

I’m actually very curious about how the advanced book will be like! It’s a pity our school library does not carry it. ):

Good points

  • written both in korean and english (explanations)
  • provides an english translation for the listening script
  • clear explanatory notes at the bottom of the pages
  • well organised and easy to work through
  • detailed introduction of the TOPIK exam in the preface

To be improved

  • more practice questions will be welcomed
  • notes/tips on the writing section will be a plus (after all, this is the ‘killer’ section for most)

Complete Guide to the TOPIK (BASIC)
KRW 16,000
ISBN 987-89-5995-810-8

p.s. apologies for the bad writing. >.< My head is a mess of thoughts now.

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  • Reply
    10 March, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    I have this book! And the intermediate one too, can lend you if you like to check it out! ^^ But personally I find that the reading passages here are much more difficult than those in the actual TOPIK test. I couldn’t really understand half of the passages back then (can only probably catch some key words and try to guess the answer), which made me very worried for TOPIK =/ but I’m glad TOPIK turned out fine! (: Maybe it’s pitched at a slightly higher level so people can ace the test? haha! (:

    • Reply
      10 March, 2011 at 10:49 PM

      ohh cool! 😀 i’m thinking of getting the advanced one but urm i dun think i should be spending more on books >,<

      haha yeah the beginner book looks like it's more difficult than the actual test too. good tactic though, it makes ppl more prepared for the test.

      does your school lib have a good collection of textbooks? frankly, ours is quite pathetic ):

      • Reply
        11 March, 2011 at 9:42 AM

        i bought this series from gmarket haha! my school lib has Sogang, Ewha and Sungkyunkwan series. plus a few integrated korean and those random ones people use for crash course before going overseas. i guess our libs just have different books? i never saw this TOPIK guide there before haha =p

        i actually looked through the Ewha series and quite liked it! wanted to borrow but figured i have many many books in my house alr too =/ the Sungkyunkwan series is more dry, and not colour-printed. maybe that’s why people don’t borrow it? it looks super new haha ^^

    • Reply
      27 March, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      I read this blog post and comments few days ago but I forgot to write this comment, saved it for today ㅋㅋ

      I bought this book exactly an year ago but unfortunately I never really did much of it. I registered for TOPIK this year, the test is on 16th April. And after seeing the passages and writing section in this book I thought I won’t take TOPIK seriously this time as I am not at that level, but seeing your comment I want to try my best, as you said the passages are tougher in this book.

      Thank you very much for the comment, I just have 10 days, but I’ll at least try to go through the practice questions in this book.

  • Reply
    14 March, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    안녕하세요! 🙂

    I’m from Malaysia.
    I’m learning Korean language and still a beginner.

    I’d read your recommendation of Korean books.
    But how do i get some of those textbooks / workbooks?
    I’m doing self-study and it’s kinda hard for not having any books.
    I’ve been searching in many bookstore here, but they seems to not having a good Korean textbooks nor workbooks.
    All this while I’ve been learning through TTMIK.

    제발 도와주세요.. ㅠㅠ

    • Reply
      14 March, 2011 at 7:55 PM


      you can get them online ^^ either amazon (for the english books) or gmarket (for the korean ones). Maybe you can check out the online bookstores in ur country

    • Reply
      22 March, 2011 at 7:58 PM

      If you can afford, you can try this too: http://www.hanbooks.com/kolate1.html

    • Reply
      28 April, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      wow, it is really helpful.
      but the price is kinda expensive if converted into my currency.
      but many thanks to for those answer.

  • Reply
    4 April, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    May I know where can I obtain all the revision books in Singapore. I’m currently studying my korean in Daehan Korean Educational Centre. I’m currently Basic 3 student.

    Me and my classmates are really interested in getting more revision and guide books.

    Could you please recommend some books or publishers that you used to revise.

    Thank you so much~~^^

    • Reply
      7 May, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      eeks i’m so sorry for the one-month late reply ): I don’t think this book available in bookstores in singapore, you can buy it online.

      most of the books that i’ve used are reviewed on this blog! ^^

  • Reply
    I Purchased “Complete Guide to the TOPIK” « Korean Vitamin
    6 November, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    […] “Complete Guide to the TOPIK (Advanced)”. Hangukdrama wrote a review of the basic level here. The composition of advanced level is completely the same with the basic level. So just read […]

  • Reply
    9 January, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    I have Complete Guide to the TOPIK Advanced. There’s nothing in English. All the explanations are in Korean. I guess they do expect you to understand Korean once you reach the advanced level but it would be nice to have vocabulary and grammar explanations translated into English.

    • Reply
      9 January, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      is it helpful? ㅋㅋ I don’t have any books for TOPIK advanced at the moment. Preparing for it with just two grammar books!

  • Reply
    10 January, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    I wouldn’t say it’s that helpful. If you have two grammar books that’s OK. Even though I use Complete Guide to the TOPIK Advanced I still have to look up grammar online. I wouldn’t buy it if I had time to read grammar books.

    I also have TOPIK Master Advanced. It’s a collection of ten practice exams with explanations for every question at the back. Since all of the explanations are in Korean I still have to look up vocabulary in the dictionary and grammar online. But it does a good job of pointing out what I should look up.

    I think these books are for busy people like me who don’t have time to study individual grammar, vocab, reading comprehension or listening books.

    My business involves dealing a lot of Japanese and Koreans so I can pass JLPT N1 as well (barely – 103 points out of 180). But when I speak these languages I find that most of the vocab and grammar we study at the advanced level never gets used. I do very well in reading comprehension and listening but not so well in vocab and grammar.

    • Reply
      10 January, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      wow that’s amazing ><;; You are in the advanced level for BOTH Japanese and Korean? I somehow find that I can only be good in one of them. At least at this moment. Can I ask how long have you been learning Korean and Japanese? 😀 I hope to be able to make use of both Korean and Japanese in my work next time too!

      • Reply
        11 January, 2013 at 1:55 AM

        I’m better in Japanese because I’ve been using it since 2008. I can have conversations with Japanese people. When it comes to Korean I’ve only recently begun to study the advanced materials so I still can’t have conversations with Koreans just yet.

        If you use a language long enough you’ll eventually get better at it. I’ve been surrounded with Japanese people since 2008 so I’ve noticed how they speak, act, etc. and gradually my listening/speaking abilities has gotten better. Now I’m doing some more business with Korea so I think my listening/speaking abilities will improve.

        I think there’s no need to study for the listening part of the comprehension tests. As long as you understand conversations, the news, etc. then you should be OK. I don’t think you can study for reading comprehension either because the articles and questions are different every time. With Japanese even though I don’t understand a lot of words when I read I can still get the gist of the article so I can pass the reading section.

  • Reply
    24 January, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    I saw the new edition of this book in the bookstores here in Korea. I thought it was rather nice looking and it actually came in two separate books. I think it was called TOPIK Master. I am going to go look at it again today because I feel lost when studying from only the Sogang books as I feel like the only goal is to complete the book instead of finish the book for a purpose outside of the book itself.

    I am currently using Darakwon’s Korean Grammar in Use Beginning, and although the title is a total ripoff of Grammar in Use (an ESL book), the content is really good. Unlike most Korean language books here in Korea, there is a lot of content in the pages. Usually books here tend to be mostly the same kind of ugly artwork, which this book does have, but the majority of the book is useful information instead of ugly artwork. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in studying for TOPIK or needed additional explanations with grammar in Korean.

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