Will the New TOPIK be Easier or Harder? 

 June 10, 2014

By  Satish Satyarthi

The New TOPIK test - easier or harder
Many readers have been asking us whether the new format of TOPIK test will be easier or more difficult than the old one. Frankly speaking it’s difficult to say for any of us now as we haven’t seen a real test paper based on new pattern yet. But in this post, we will try to give you an idea of the change in difficulty level of the test, based on the analysis of sample papers and feedback from people who took the mock test organized by NIIED.

TOPIK-I (Beginner Level 1-2)

The beginner level has definitely got much easier now. In fact they have made it so easy that many are saying there is no practical use of this score. No companies, school or organizations are going to take TOPIK level 2 seriously now. Moreover, the gap between beginner and intermediate levels of TOPIK was already big; now it will become huge.

Complete Guide to the TOPIK - Self Study PackageThere is no writing involved in the TOPIK-I now. There are just 2 sections – reading & listening and you just have to choose one correct answer out of 4 options and color the answer sheet. So even if one doesn’t know how to write Hangul but can read, listen and understand it well, s/he may pass TOPIK I. Most common weaknesses of Korean language learners, like – spelling mistakes, grammatically incorrect sentence formation, inability to write a coherent and cohesive text in Korean will not make put any negative influence on the TOPIK score. But on the other hand, some people think Grammar & Vocabulary section was a scoring one; removing it will affect the score negatively. Also, a big number of test takers think increasing the number of questions in the reading section will make the test more difficult as this section was already boring and difficult.

In conclusion here are the plus and minus points of the New TOPIK-I (Beginner Level).

Plus points:

  • The test has become shorter – earlier it was 104 questions and 180 Minutes. Now it’s 70 questions and 100 Minutes.
  • There is no writing section. No essay writing or short answered questions.

Minus Points:

  • There is no grammar and vocabulary section. This section had shorter and easier questions and was a scoring one.
  • The Reading section is bigger now with 40 questions.
  • There will be a really huge gap between TOPIK-I and TOPIK-II and you will have to study a lot to take the jump.

TOPIK-II (Intermediate-Advanced Level 3-6)

When it comes to TOPIK-II it is really difficult to say if the changes will impact the test positively or negatively. Many things are still not very clear about TOPIK-II, like- what will be the passing scores for different levels and what will be the difficulty level of the essays. We all know that the gap between intermediate and advanced levels of TOPIK is really big. The level of people at TOPIK level 3 and level 6 are just too big. Now all of them will see the same test and it’s really not very clear yet how NIIED is going to structure the test (difficulty level) so that it fits such a diverse range of test takers.

In TOPIK-II the most difficult part mayl be the essay writing section. Now you just have 2 short answer questions and 2 essays; no multiple choice questions. So the essays will have 80% of the total marks in the section. Now if the essay topics are of intermediate level, they will be too easy for people who are attempting for level 6. But if any of the topics are of advanced level (let’s say between 4 and 5), the people attempting for level 3 might not even be able to understand the essay question. And if they leave the essay they lose huge marks. But a good thing here is that unlike the old pattern it’s not mandatory to get a minimum passing score in all the sections now. Which means if your total score reaches the passing passing cutoff it won’t matter even if you have 0 marks in any one section.

The removal of grammar and vocabulary section is also a negative point for Intermediate level test takers as this section was much easier than the reading section. The new reading section has 50, yes 50 questions! And the reading texts are really lengthy. I think that’s one of the worst changes in the new pattern. People who took the mock test said that after 30-35 questions they had no energy and concentration left and just wanted to give up even though they had time left and they could answer the remaining questions if they tried. You should really practice solving 50 questions from past TOPIK reading papers in one sitting. In the listening section also there will be 40 questions instead of 30. It appears like they will the audio of last few questions twice but the dialogues in the begging of the paper will be played only once. So even if you are attempting for intermediate level, you should practice with advanced level listening papers as well. The same can be said about the essay writing paper. Practice writing essays from both intermediate and advanced levels of past TOPIK papers.

Here is the summary of plus and minus points of the New TOPIK-II (Intermediate-Advanced Level).

Plus points:

  • It’s not mandatory to get a minimum passing score in all the sections now.
  • The essay writing section give you some hints which are helpful; you just have to elaborate them.
  • As the test has 4 sub-levels (3-6) the passing cutoff for intermediate levels may be lower (just my guess).

Minus Points:

  • There is no grammar and vocabulary section. This section had shorter and easier questions and was a scoring one.
  • The Reading section is bigger now with 50 lengthy questions. You’ll need a lot of concentration and stamina in this section.
  • Writing section has probably become more difficult for intermediate level students but it may be easier for advanced level students. You have to write two essays- one short and one big.

Let us know what you think, in the comments.

  • So after taking the test today, I can only say: trying to pass level 3 was difficult for me in the old format (and I failed just by some points in 2 sections). But today it was a nightmare. Starting with the listening section and the first 4 (?) dialogues heard only once, I did not even have time to read all the answers. The remainder was read out twice but much too fast for anyone not fluent in Korean. I really wonder what NIIED targets now.
    Also the sign-up process only in Korean is simply impossible. If you are studying at a Unversity, you are probably taken care of. All others are just lost.
    How frustrating. And outside Seoul we cannot even attend proper language classes.
    If my English was better, I would publish a ranting article in KoreaTimes tomorrow…

  • having passed 4th level last year and aiming for an advanced one this year, after giving the 35th test a try, i personally feel that the new format is less difficult for me. the lengthened reading section could be exhausting (which im not sure about since i took it at ease at home), but having experienced the nightmare so called advanced topik vocab-grammar section with its ridiculously difficult and rare structures, the new changes are really a relief for me. and personally im more comfortable with reading too. as for the listening, the length could strike a problem with concentration too and though the first few questions are comparatively easy, its still very easy to lose points because you only get to listen to them once. as for writing, im not sure about the topic range since it was different in the 35th test than in the sample one. it was all argumentative essays in the sample test but they turned to ask us to describe a graph in the real thing. graph description is no really big deal but it requires some accustoming beforehand, and the inconsistency is just confusing since im taking the 36th test for real this time, and its only the 2nd one since the change so i dont know what to expect

  • Hello ladies and gentlemens,
    I have a question? I wanna go to a University in Korea next year… but i am new to TOPIK tests… i never did one before. + i am from the Netherlands. So i can not do an exam here in my country. I can read and write Hangul already and can understand the basics.

    Now my question is, do i need to start with the TOPIK 1 Test or do they give you a placement test first? Or does the university provide the tests? Since i dont know wich level i have.
    I dont know if i need to do an exam before i go attend for the university.

    Can someone please explain it to me in detail?

    I would highly appreciate it.

    Best Regards,

    Carmen W

  • whats wrong with NIIED???? i appeared for July TOPIK test and it seems its impossible to get level-3. They want you to learn advance thing even if you’re attempting for intermediate!!!! how is it even possible to prepare same test for intermediate and advance level!!! Hope some sensible people show up in NIIED and change it to previous format again.

  • I am learning korean on my own….no classes available….not a single korean speaking person that i know of…it’s really hard for me but I’m trying to learn it and pass atleast level 3 by april 2017.

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