Introduction to the TOPIK

South Korea is becoming more and more well-known these days. Whether it's because of Samsung electronics, the amazing sights in Seoul, or Korean pop music, the country has made a mark on the world in the past few years. With this comes an increase in the number of people interested in learning the language, for personal or professional reasons.

When I first arrived in Korea around a few years ago, there were plenty of expats - English teachers, military, and so on - but not so many people interested in taking the time to master the language. That's been changing. Thankfully the amount and quality of resources has increased in the past years - but what about those of us who want an extra challenge, or a little proof of our Korean skills to put on our résumé?


Enter the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), a standardized test for the language. This article is more of a brief introduction to TOPIK, rather than a study guide. There is very little information about the test in English and I hope this quick guide gives you an idea about what to expect from it.

The test administered four times a year in South Korea (but only twice in non-Korean countries), and comes in three different difficulties - Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. TOPIK tests your ability in various aspects of Korean. It has sections for grammar and vocabulary, listening, reading, and even a brief writing portion. Depending on your score for each test, you can earn different levels (from 6 to 1). For example, if you take the Beginner's TOPIK and barely pass, you can early Level 1. Do exceptionally well and you can earn Level 2. (I personally earned Level 3 on the Intermediate exam last year).


There are other Korean proficiency exams out there - such as the KLPT - but the TOPIK is really the standard if you want to use Korean for your academic or professional life. For example, I believe that Level 4 is required for admission into some graduate schools and study abroad programs in Korea.

In Korea, you must be a foreign resident to register - because the site, like many on the Korean internet, requires your Alien Registration Number to use it. If you are overseas, contact your nearest Korean consulate or embassy for information on test dates and when to register.

The TOPIK is a challenge, but a worthwhile one for those interested in Korea and its culture. I hope this guide has given you a good introduction to what it's all about.

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