Are you an international student looking for a Korean-medium university program in one of the Korean universities or colleges? Then, you must prove your Korean language skills by taking TOPIK, a standardized test applicable to non-native Korean speakers or learners worldwide.

The popularity of learning Korean is increasing due to the role of the Korean language in popular culture, arts, and music, as well as business purposes and global partnerships. More and more people around the world have started learning Korean with a dream of studying in Korea and experiencing the Korean lifestyle. The growing global interest in the Korean language emerged the need to test one’s skills and progress in learning it, which is why in this article, we cover everything you need to know about TOPIK.

Read our guide to take TOPIK if you are an overseas student aiming to study at Korean universities or colleges.

What is the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)?

The Test of Proficiency in Korean, or TOPIK, is a Korean proficiency test taken by Korean learners around the world seeking a university degree in Korean-medium programs. The test is only for non-native Korean speakers wishing to prove their Korean language level with an official certificate from The Korea Research Foundation.

The aim of TOPIK is to promote the globality of the Korean language by designing a standardized proficiency test with international recognition. To be eligible for TOPIK, test takers must be non-Koreans learning Korean and planning to study at Korean higher education or overseas applicants seeking employment in Korea.

Benefits of Taking the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)

A valid and advanced TOPIK score allows international students to be admitted to their desired higher education programs at Korean colleges and universities, benefit from various scholarship opportunities, engage with Korean society to build friendships, get higher chances to find part-time jobs during their studies, and obtain an advantageous position over other overseas applicants in South Korea for career advancement after graduation.

What is the recommended score to find a study program in Korea? Most Korean universities and colleges require a minimum of Level 3 in TOPIK II, equivalent to a minimum score of 120. However, international students with higher scores can be more competent and stand out above other applications; in other words, higher exam results can lead to more benefits for international students wishing to study in South Korea.

When and Where to Take Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)?

The purpose of taking TOPIK is to contribute to the spread of the Korean language worldwide, and it is for this reason the exam can be taken almost anywhere in the world. To take TOPIK, overseas applicants must contact the Korean embassy in their country to learn about the registration procedure and test schedule. To learn about the nearest embassy of the Republic of Korea, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs web page.

It is important to note that TOPIK can be taken only six times a year: three times in Korea only (in January, May, and November) and three times in Korea and other countries (in April, July, and October). Thus, we advise all applicants to plan their practicing and registration process wisely before taking the exam.

Cost of Taking the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)

The registration fee for TOPIK varies per test center or country, which is announced by the official authorities in the location. However, generally, the cost is KRW40,000 (30$) for TOPIK I and KRW55,000 (40$) for TOPIK II in Korea. For Seattle, USA, however, the fee for the TOPIK I exam is $40, and the TOPIK II cost is $55.

Below are some of the countries with TOPIK registration fees. To find out the actual cost of TOPIK I or II if taken in your location, kindly visit the nearest Consulate General of the Republic of Korea.

Country Fees
The U.K. TOPIK I: £35 / TOPIK II: £40
Australia TOPIK I AUD40 / TOPIK II: AUD45
France TOPIK I: €40 / TOPIK II: €55
Germany TOPIK I: €35 / TOPIK II: €40

Overview of TOPIK Levels

There are two TOPIK levels: TOPIK I and TOPIK II. Each level evaluates certain linguistic competence of the test taker in reading comprehension, listening, and writing, with six sublevels in total.

Most Korean colleges with Korean-medium programs expect international students to obtain a minimum of Level 3 in TOPIK II for undergraduate applications, which requires 120 scores to pass, and Level 4 for graduate applications, which requires 150 points or more. However, it is important to acknowledge that higher levels in TOPIK will have more scholarship opportunities. Additionally, international students are expected to pass Level 4 by their graduation to prove their advancement in Korean.

Level Sublevel Linguistic Competence
TOPIK I 1 The test taker can express himself/himself with basic everyday expressions on occasions such as self-introduction, ordering food, shopping, talking about the weather, and other daily topics. The test taker is expected to have a vocabulary of about 800 basic words and should be familiar with basic grammar to form practical sentences in everyday speech.
2 The test taker has a vocabulary of 1,500 to 2,000 words and is competent in talking about everyday life, including requests while using public facilities. He/she can understand and write basic paragraphs as well as distinguish formal and informal speech.
TOPIK II 3 The test taker can proficiently express himself/herself, engage in daily activities, and socialize with others. He/she can understand paragraphs with familiar social issues and distinguish colloquial and literary language.
4 The test taker has competent language skills to use public facilities and socialize in different environments. He/she can efficiently but limitedly use his/her language skills at work. He/she can talk about social issues or abstract concepts somewhat fluently with recognition of Korean culture.
5 The test taker has the language skills for professional or research purposes to a specific extent. He/she can talk competently about politics, culture, economy, and more. He/she can use appropriate use of language by considering formality and informality.
6 The test taker has the language skills for professional or research purposes with fluency and accuracy. He/she can talk about familiar and unfamiliar topics in various fields such as politics, culture, economy, and more. The level of fluency may not be as much as a Korean speaker, yet he/she can speak with no trouble.

Overview of TOPIK Test Structure

TOPIK test structure consists of two or three components for each major level. The test mainly has multiple choice questions except writing in TOPIK II, which requires two short answer questions and an essay writing section. Below, more detailed information is available about the TOPIK test structure with levels, periods, sections, point distributions, and so on.

TOPIK Level Period Test Section Description Duration (min)
TOPIK I 1 Listening 30 multiple-choice questions equivalent to 100 points 100 (including Reading)
2 Reading Comprehension 40 multiple-choice questions equivalent to 100 points 100 (including Listening)
TOPIK II 1 Listening 50 multiple-choice questions equivalent to 100 points 100 (including Writing)
Writing with 2 complete-the-sentence questions and 2 essay questions equivalent to 100 points 100 (including Listening)
2 Reading Comprehension 50 multiple-choice questions equivalent to 100 points 70

Ways to Prepare for TOPIK

TOPIK can be a critical exam for international students wishing to study in Korean-taught programs in Korean higher education as it is one of the most important criteria for admissions. Moreover, higher TOPIK scores will have more and better advantages in finding scholarships or employment while studying, as well as career prospects after graduation. Thus, the overall intent of the international students planning to take TOPIK should be to aim above the minimum TOPIK level and get the highest score they can.

What you need to obtain your highest score in TOPIK are time management, passion, and willingness to study. Below, we indicated some of the best ways to prepare yourself for TOPIK and how to arrange your study plan effectively and efficiently.

1. Craft an effective study plan

Without a study plan, it is very difficult to get the intended results in TOPIK as it is a very systematic language test that demands clever and hard work. Test takers must create an effective study plan considering the allocated time by the exam date, needs of the TOPIK level, skills required for the test, and test taker’s proficiency of the language as well as needs to cover by the time of the test.

For instance, a wise study plan for a short-term period before the exam should focus on intense reading and listening for vocabulary and comprehension with longer study hours a day; for applicants with longer periods till the exam, however, the study plan schedule can have fewer study hours per day yet definitely more intense practicing with listening, writing, grammar, reading, and vocabulary tasks.

2. Familiarize yourself with the test format

Just like any other language proficiency test, TOPIK applies a certain format and structure to the tests. Thus, it is of great importance to get to know how it works and what is tested, no matter how fluent you are in Korean. Considering TOPIK levels, question forms, time allocations, test objectives, and so on allows you to be well-organized and use your time till the exam wisely.

3. Practice

Practice makes perfect, as everybody knows. For TOPIK, this is exactly the case because no matter what your current Korean proficiency is, you ought to practice hard and smart and spare a certain amount of time in your life per week or day. Regular practice can lead to unimaginable progress in your Korean fluency; therefore, do not think of skipping practicing for TOPIK and make it your main goal in your daily life until you take the exam.

4. Maximizing the use of study materials and resources

Using various materials and resources will allow you to be familiar with the question forms of TOPIK so you can use your time effectively while taking the test. Thankfully, there are tons of sources for TOPIK available online and in stores, including Korean Grammar in Use for practicing grammar, mastertopik.com for video practicing, TOPIK ONE (available on Android and iOS) as an online application, and many more.

Additionally, you can try keeping coursebooks or short notes with you at school or work so you can revise what you have practiced so far. Or, if you are able to use a tablet, PC, or even your smartphone, you can download some apps or record your notes to check them regularly while on public transportation or during your lunch break.

Universities and Institutions Accepting TOPIK

A great majority of the higher education institutions in Korea accept TOPIK as the official proof of Korean proficiency, yet their minimum score can differ. Below is a list of the universities accepting TOPIK with their minimum score requirements.

University Name City / Location Minimum TOPIK Score Accepted
1. Seoul National University Seoul Level 3 or above
2. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Daejon Level 2 or above
3. Yonsei University Seoul Level 3 or above (for Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing; Level 5 or above)
4. Ewha Womans University Seoul Level 3 or above
5. Korea University Seoul Level 4 and above as a graduation requirement
6. Hanyang University Seoul and Ansan Level 3 or above
7. Sungkyunkwan University Seoul and Suwon Level 3 or above for undergraduate, Level 4 or above for graduate applications
8. Sogang University Seoul Level 3 or above
9. Sejong University Seoul Level or above (for Arts and Physical Education majors, Level 2, for Korean Language, Business Administration and Communication majors, Level 4 or above)
10. Dongguk University Seoul Level 4 or above

 

Obtaining a good score in TOPIK will allow international students to use plenty of advantages in finding study programs and scholarships in Korean universities and colleges. However, it takes hard work and determination to improve your Korean language skills; hence, read our complete guide to prepare for TOPIK and start practicing today.

 

Hopefully, this complete guide on TOPIK will give you the headstart you need to ace the Korean proficiency test. Visit our Available Programs for International Students Page and Study in Korea page for more study options in Korea!

 

Are you curious about what language you need to learn in other countries, you can visit the Foreign Language Proficiency Exams for more information!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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