What is the TOPIK Exam and How to Prepare

For anyone studying Korean, the ultimate way to demonstrate your skills is by taking the TOPIK exam. Your TOPIK exam test score can help you qualify for jobs, visas, and scholarships both in Korea and abroad. It is an extremely important, anxiety-inducing test. However, the best way to reduce stress while preparing for a test like this is to be as informed as possible. And so, here is a little information about the exam itself and some tips on how to get your desired score!

What is TOPIK?

TOPIK or Test of Proficiency in the Korean language is offered to non-native speakers and is an exam organized by the National Institute for International Education(NIIED). The first exam was conducted in 1997. The results of the exam are only valid for 2 years. As a result, most foreigners residing in Korea will need to take the exam more than once.

The TOPIK exam is actually separated into two parts, which you can register for and take separately. Plus, in 2021 an additional speaking exam began being offered.


This exam has 2 sections: listening and reading. This exam is mostly taken by students enrolling in Korean language schools or KIIP (immigration program). It can allow them to skip the most basic levels of their programs.


This exam has 3 sections: listening, writing, and reading. This is the most popular exam. Scores are taken into consideration when applying for visas, jobs, and scholarships.

TOPIK Speaking

The third TOPIK Speaking exam will be held in the Spring of 2022. While not many people have taken the exam yet, it is most useful for those applying to jobs and who would like to quantify their Korean speaking abilities. The test is conducted in an interview style.

General Information

The TOPIK exam will significantly increase the chances for you to get a scholarship or a well-paid job in Korea. Especially if you manage to get level 4 or 5. The test is conducted 6 times a year in Korea and it usually costs 40,000-50,000 won.

How to register for the TOPIK exam


You can register for the TOPIK test online by Clicking Here or, if you are already a student in Korea, your university may help you register. However, if you plan to take the test outside Korea, it is better to contact the Embassy first and ask them for more details. The schedule and the test fees may vary from country to country.

TOPIK Listening Section

The listening part of the exam consists of 30 questions for TOPIK I, and 50 questions for TOPIK II. For each question, you will have 4 options to choose from. The maximum grade you can get for this part is 100 points. While doing the listening part of the test, make sure you underline keywords and important phrases. Also, l recommend spending no more than 1 or 1.5 min per question. Attempt all the questions. You have nothing to lose!

TOPIK Writing Section

The writing part of the exam comes right after the listening section, without any breaks. You will have to answer 2 short questions, analyze a graph, and write an essay on a given topic(education, environment, Korean culture, hobbies, etc). The highest grade you can get for this part is 100 points as well. How much time does it take? 70 mins. Before you start writing, organize your time wisely and write down some important ideas. Be clear, and concise. Use intermediate/advanced grammar structures to support your ideas. Answer all the questions to the best of your ability.

TOPIK Reading Section

Before you begin the reading portion of the exam, you will have a 30 min break. Use it to refresh your brain, eat something sweet, or drink some water. Your brain will thank you later.

The reading part will squeeze even the smallest drop of energy out of your body. So, you need to be prepared. 50 questions. 70 mins. l dare to say that knowing a lot of vocabulary will be more useful than grammar for this part! I usually start with the longer questions and l finish the test with the easiest ones. But it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

TOPIK Speaking Exam

In 2021, a new type of TOPIK exam was introduced in Korea. TOPIK speaking exam aim to help learners improve their speaking and communication skills. Also valid for 2 years, the TOPIK speaking test is offered to non-native speakers and overseas Koreans who plan to take university courses in Korean or work in a Korean company.

The exam consists of 6 questions of varying difficulty. For one of the questions, you will have 20 seconds to prepare, and 30 seconds to speak. Another question will have a 30 second prep time and 40 second response. Then, two questions will have a 40 second prep time, and 60 seconds to respond. The final two, most difficult questions, will allow 70 seconds to review the information and prepare before giving an 80 second response.

Tips for Reaching Your TOPIK Goals

Practice Writing

First of all, practice creating sentences. Get familiar with formal and advanced grammar structures. You will need them in the writing part. Practice every single day if possible.


Improve your comprehension skills by reading short texts, stories, and news whenever you can. It will help you better understand how words and grammar are used in a neutral context.

Advanced Vocabulary

Learn advanced keywords and use them in your essays. Using everyday, practical vocabulary won’t help you pass the exam. Generally, the less common the vocabulary you use is, the more points it will earn you.

Get Speedy

When you don’t know a question, especially in the listening section, just skip it. You won’t have enough time to read it twice or 3 times. Speed is the key.

Use the Mock Exams

Practice using the mock tests available online. You can get so many questions wrong just by being unfamiliar with the way exam questions are asked and the type of questions they are looking for. Plus, with timing being key, you can get comfortable with pacing yourself using the exams.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid to take the exam! Even if it may seem like a nightmare at first, if you prepare well and practice enough, you will be okay. Plus, even if you don’t get the score you’re looking for it is a great learning experience. Most of us don’t reach our TOPIK goal the first time around.

The score we get on one test can never be enough to quantify our abilities. Be prepared to take the exam several times, and don’t get discouraged if it takes a while for you to reach your goals. Failure shouldn’t scare you. It’s an important part of the learning process.

For more details and resources regarding the TOPIK test, please Click Here. You can find plenty of useful resources including mock tests.

Have you ever taken the TOPIK exam? Which part of the exam was the most challenging for you? We want to hear about your experience. For five tips on acing your TOPIK exam, Click Here. Thank you for supporting us^^

🇷🇴 Emilia Bucsan

Teacher. Writer. Explorer. A.R.M.Y. Enchanted by the beauty of Korea.