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Official Changes to TOPIK from July 2014

After hearing about rumored possible changes to TOPIK for the past year, we finally get the official announcements from the TOPIK committee. The announcements are currently all in Korean and it seems like the English version of the site has not been updated yet to reflect the new changes. A few other bloggers have already written about the changes, but I can’t miss out on this right! 😛

The TOPIK site released a 1 page pdf titled 한국어능력시험 개편 체제 안내 and I have tried my best to translate the main gist of it. For all minor details, it will be good to refer to the original document.

All changes will kick in from the 35th TOPIK (2014.7.20). The 33th (19 Jan) and 34th (20 Apr) TOPIK papers will not be affected.

The new format will be as follows:

New Format

TOPIK I (Level 1 – 2)

TOPIK II (Level 3 – 6)



–       Reading (40 questions)

–       Listening (30 questions)

–       Reading (50 questions)

–       Listening (50 questions)

–       Writing (4 questions)

70 questions in total

104 questions in total

Maximum score: 200

(100 mins)

Maximum score: 300

(180 mins)

Level passed will depend on the overall score
Eg: If you take TOPIK II and you score:Writing: 39, Listening: 60, reading: 62, your total score will be 161 / 300 and that will likely be a Level 3 pass* The cutoff points needed to pass each level will be announced separately after every test

The TOPIK team has also kindly compiled a Q&A pdf titled 한국어능력시험 개편 체제 Q&A. Swanlake1701 did a great job translating many of the important questions, so please refer to her post!

To access the original pdfs and also the sample questions pdf + answers pdf, go to the official website http://www.topik.go.kr/  (see picture below for where to click)

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at PM 02.14.33

To be honest, I think these changes are just “good to know”, since you shouldn’t take an exam without knowing the format/structure. However, I feel that there has been too much talk and worry about these new imposed changes and I know that some people are worried about the new changes hurting their chances to pass the exam, making it more difficult or what not and are trying to strategize by either scrambling to take the last few “old format” exams or to wait for the new system to kick in for awhile before taking the test.

It’s like a psychological thing. But what is more important is to improve your own proficiency and if you have good skills, you will do well in the tests (changed format or not). Obviously I speak as someone whose future (getting admission into universities, finding a job etc) does not depend on me passing the test but seriously if your future indeed lie on passing the test, you should work even harder on your true proficiency.

Because unlike other things, paper qualifications can only get you that far when it comes to language proficiency – whether you are good or not becomes painfully clear within a short time (you can’t smoke your way through).

So has TOPIK become easier / harder to pass?

Well, this is the question that is on everyone’s minds. I think TOPIK I is likely to become easier to pass, with the removal of the writing section that is usually the “killer” part.

As of TOPIK II, I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. In theory, with the removal of the “must pass all sections to pass the paper” criteria, it should be easier to pass. And the removal of the “vocabulary and grammar” section should make things easier too.


Instead of 30 reading questions, you get 50 reading questions. HAHAHA. Embedding vocabulary and grammar questions in longer reading questions is one sure way to kill and I think you are guaranteed a 멘붕 state after the exam. The old vocab/grammar section usually have shorter questions lolol.

So I’ve looked through the sample paper (TOPIK II) and here are some of my thoughts


역시. 50 long questions should be a niceeee challenge. I recommend test takers to brush up on speed-reading skills and reading skills in general. Is it just me or I feel that there is suddenly a lot of more words in the section? lol even the MCQ options look longer o.O



Even more interesting. Having two essays (and of different nature) is definitely pretty cool. The first essay asks you to write about the good / bad points of the Internet and then also to write about how to use the Internet properly.

The interesting bit is that they already listed the good/bad points out for you in the chart. Based on the sample answer, all you need to do is:

1. Write a short introduction that covers the two main parts of the essay. So the best way is talk about the need to use the Internet properly and to do so, we need to know what is good/bad about it.

2. Using the listed points, write a short para. So it’s about weaving the points in using correct grammar points. The 첫번째, 두 번째 way of listing does not work that well, seeing that you only have 300 characters (including punctuation). So it actually tests your summary skills. brilliant!

3. Write a short para on how to use the Internet properly, based on para 2.

Interestinggggg. The format feels less “free” than old essay topics, so practice should come in handy. You have to be concise, so all the long-windedness won’t work here.

Technique is important. Test-taking technique.

Essay 2

Ahh this feels more like the old essay topics! A overall question and a few points to guide you to write the actual thing.

The sample question is on environmental pollution.. makes me wonder if the trend is to have topic-specific questions instead of more general ones that were common in past year papers. If it’s so, it means that there is really a need to study for certain topics and to make sure that you have enough vocabulary to talk about such topics in Korean.

Makes the essay more challenging but this also means that self-learners may be slightly disadvantaged in that we don’t actually get to practice such questions like what those taking lessons would. But that’s a matter of self discipline!

Interesting to see how it will play out.

All in all, getting a level 6 may be more difficult than before and I’m actually curious enough to contemplate taking the Oct 2014 exam locally HAHA.

If I fail TOPIK 6…………………


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  • Reply
    17 January, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    haha didnt u already pass level 6? thanks for the awesome review, i was lazy to read the korean :p

    • Reply
      18 January, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      hahaha i did la (barely). Just wondering how I’ll do in the new test XD are you taking it soon?

      • Reply
        20 January, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        haha im thinking of trying for level 5 this year but i really have no time to study.. too tired from working ><

  • Reply
    18 January, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    The writing part seems to resemble that in IELTS based on what you said~

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