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Lesson Transcript


Michael: What are some common Korean proficiency tests?
Kyejin: And how do I choose the right one for me?
Michael: At KoreanClass101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following scenario, Jack Jones is talking to his friend Eugene Eom about his attempts to motivate himself to study Korean harder. He says,
"I have to take the TOPIK test."
Jack Jones: 토픽 시험 봐야해.
Jack Jones: 토픽 시험 봐야 해. (topik siheom bwaya hae.)
Eugene Eom: 한국어능력시험? (Hangugeo neungnyeok siheom?)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Jack Jones: 토픽 시험 봐야 해. (topik siheom bwaya hae.)
Michael: "I have to take the TOPIK test."
Eugene Eom: 한국어능력시험? (Hangugeo neungnyeok siheom?)
Michael: "The Korean Language Proficiency Test?"

Lesson focus

Michael: People have different reasons for learning the Korean language, and you definitely have your own. Perhaps you want to live in Korea or study for a few years—or maybe you want to work in the country. Regardless of what your reasons may be, obtaining proof that you are proficient in Korean can come in handy. In this lesson, we will talk about the proficiency tests TOPIK, and the The Korean Language Proficiency Test.
Michael: Let’s take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Jack Jones says "I have to take the TOPIK test?"
Kyejin: 토픽 시험 봐야 해. (topik siheom bwaya hae.)
Michael: Now, let’s take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Eugene Eom says, "The Korean Language Proficiency Test?"
Kyejin: 한국어능력시험? (Hangugeo neungnyeok siheom?)
Michael: There are two major proficiency tests you can take to measure your knowledge of the Korean language. The first one is the
Kyejin: 토픽 (topik)
Michael: or TOPIK test, more formally known as Test of Proficiency in Korean, or
Kyejin: 한국어능력시험 (Hangugeo neungnyeok siheom)
Michael: The TOPIK test is administered by the
Kyejin: 국립국제교육원 (Gungnipgukjegyoyugwon)
Michael: meaning the “National Institute for International Education” also known as NIIED, a branch of the Ministry of Education of South Korea. The test is designed to evaluate non-native speakers in their ability to comprehend Korean and to express themselves in the language. The first TOPIK test was administered in 1997 and was taken by over 2,000 participants. The test was held annually at first, but changes in Korean government laws have adjusted the frequency of the test, and it is now held six times a year in Korea and overseas. The TOPIK test measures an individual’s proficiency in reading, writing, and listening comprehension in Korean and is designed for three categories of students: “Beginner,”
Kyejin: 초급 (chogeup)
Michael: “Intermediate”
Kyejin: 중급 (junggeup)
Michael: and “Advanced”
Kyejin: 고급 (gogeup)
Michael: In terms of structure, the TOPIK test has two levels, which are TOPIK I and TOPIK II. TOPIK I is the beginner level with two sublevels. TOPIK 2 is the Intermediate-Advanced level and has four sublevels. Depending on your final score on the test, you will score a level between 1 and 6. Those who pass the test will receive a certificate with one of six possible grade levels. Level 1 is the A1 level or the low beginner level, or
Kyejin: 초급 하 레벨 (chogeup ha rebel)
Michael: At this level, the speaker is able to carry out basic conversations, such as doing self-introduction, purchasing goods, or ordering food. The speaker is also able to create sentences based on 800 core vocabulary items, as well as able to compose simple but useful sentences applicable to daily living.
Level 2 is the A2 level or the high beginner level, or
Kyejin: 초급 상 레벨 (chogeup sang rebel)
Michael: At this level, the speaker is able to carry out basic conversation related to everyday routines, such as using public facilities, making phone calls, or asking for favors. The speaker is also able to use between 1,500 and 2,000 vocabulary items and knows how to appropriately use formal and informal expressions.
Level 3 is the B1 level or the low intermediate level, or
Kyejin: 중급 하 레벨 (junggeup ha rebel)
Michael: At this level, the speaker is able to perform simple linguistic functions to help with the use of public facilities, as well as building and maintaining social relationships. The speaker is also able to express and understand social subjects and knows how to use both written and spoken language according to their distinctive characteristics.
Level 4 is the B2 level or the high intermediate level, or
Kyejin: 중급 상 레벨 (junggeup sang rebel)
Michael: At Level 4, the speaker is able to understand simple portions of news broadcasts and newspapers, as well as understand expressions related to abstract subjects and be able to fluently express ideas related to those subjects. The speaker is also able to understand cultural subjects and use related idiomatic expressions based on one’s understanding of Korean culture.
Level 5 is the C1 level or low advanced level, or
Kyejin: 고급 하 레벨 (gogeup ha rebel)
Michael: At this level, the speaker is able to perform linguistic functions necessary for tasks in professional fields, such as research, to some degree. The speaker is also able to understand and utilize expressions related to politics, economics, society, and culture, whether or not the subject is familiar.
And, finally, Level 6 is the C2 level or high advanced level, or
Kyejin: 고급 상 레벨 (gogeup sang rebel)
Michael: At this level, the speaker is able to perform linguistic functions covering all previous levels, plus perform functions and convey meaning with no difficulty at all.
TOPIK I is composed of two sections, which are Reading, or
Kyejin: 읽기 (ikgi)
Michael: and Listening.
Kyejin: 듣기 (duetgi)
Michael: Meanwhile, TOPIK II is the combination of the Intermediate and Advanced tests, and includes Writing, or
Kyejin: 쓰기 (sseugi)
Michael: Each of the six sections is graded 100 points. Test takers can get a total of 200 points for the first two sections in the Beginner level and 300 points for the four other sections under the Intermediate-Advanced level. TOPIK I is usually held in the morning on the day of the test, while TOPIK II is in the afternoon.
Each test takes 90 minutes to complete with a 30-minute break between each session. The first session includes the writing and vocabulary and grammar tests, while the second session includes listening and reading tests. If you’re wondering how many questions each test involves, for the Listening test, there are 30 questions, while, for the Reading test, there are 40. For TOPIK II, the Listening test involves 50 questions, while Writing and Reading have four questions and 50 questions, respectively. Anyone who is studying the Korean language can take the TOPIK exam. If you pass the test, your TOPIK certificate will be valid for two years.
The TOPIK Test is the official Korean language proficiency test, although there’s a similar test you can take to evaluate your proficiency in the language. This test is called
Kyejin: 세계한국말인증시험 (segyehangugmal-injeungsiheom)
Michael: or, literally, the World Korean Language Certification Test, formally known as the Korean Language Ability Test. Abbreviated as KLAT or originally also abbreviated as KLPT before, this test is also a proficiency test for non-native speakers of Korean and is offered by the Korea Educational Testing Service. It’s acknowledged as a major alternative to the TOPIK test. However, unlike the TOPIK test, the KLAT is simpler in terms of structure. KLAT focuses on practical communication skills, or
Kyejin: 의사소통 능력 (uisasotong neunglyeog)
Michael: It’s made up of vocabulary, grammar, reading, listening, and conversation tests, but what it lacks is the writing part. The test involves 100 items. The highest score you can get is 500 points, and the test should be completed in 110 minutes. The general consensus is that KLAT is easier than TOPIK, since TOPIK is more scholarly in nature. The KLAT, on the other hand, is ideal for individuals seeking jobs in Korean-speaking industries.
Michael: In this lesson, we had a look at two major Korean proficiency tests, which are the
Kyejin: 한국어능력시험 (Hangugeo neungnyeok siheom)
Michael: and
Kyejin: 세계한국말인증시험 (segyehangugmal-injeungsiheom)
Michael: The websites of each of these tests will be linked in the lesson notes so you can find further information about them. These are the two major Korean language proficiency tests, but, in case you wish to apply at any university or workplace in Korea, it’s good to check first what is required so you know exactly which of the two tests to take.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: In 2007, ten years after the TOPIK test was first administered, the Korean government introduced a law requiring Chinese workers of Korean descent without any relatives in the country to attain 200 points and above in the Business TOPIK test, or
Kyejin: 실무한국어능력시험 (silmu hangugeo neungnyeok siheom)
Michael: This was a requirement to enter a visa lottery for people who wanted to work in Korea. The Business TOPIK or B-TOPIK test is a separate test designed for individuals who wish to work in Korea. The test evaluates the ability of a person in the Korean language in terms of practical communication skills, focusing on applied business Korean.
Kyejin: 실무한국어 (silmu hangug-eo)
Michael: Unlike the standard TOPIK test, the B-TOPIK test is not divided into grades or levels. Scores are simply added in each section for a total of 400 points. This format was changed in 2014. Today, those interested in sitting in for a Korean language proficiency test only need to take the standard TOPIK exam.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We’re here to answer them!
Kyejin: 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo)
Michael: See you soon!


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