Here is an interesting fact about South Korea; South Koreans make up 22 percent of all Olympic gold medalists in the world—a staggering figure almost as impressive as their love for food. The country is also known for its rich culture, world-renowned universities, strong economy, delicious food like kimchi, and vibrant energy.

Additionally, South Korea offers many scholarships for international students to pursue different programs in the country. These aspects make South Korea one of the most popular destinations for international students. However, international students must demonstrate their proficiency in Korean (or Kugo as is known in Korea) before being accepted into a Korean university.

If you are looking for the language tests needed in South Korea for international students and how to best prepare for them, then this comprehensive article is for you. Let us dive in!

Language Proficiency Tests Needed in South Korea

To ensure you meet the minimum language requirements as an international student, you need to take the Korean language and English language tests. These are important for universities to get valuable data about the overall proficiency of international students, helping them make more informed decisions about admissions and identify areas for improvement to make the classroom experience more successful.

Here are the language tests needed in South Korea for international students:

Korean Language Tests for International Students

The Korean Language tests assess international students’ fluency and ability to communicate in Korean. There are many language tests widely accepted in Korea, but these are the two widely accepted exams: the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) and the Korean Language Ability Test (KLAT). Other language tests include the Korean Language Aptitude Test (KLAT) and the SAT II Korean Language Test at an advanced level.

1. Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)

TOPIK is offered by the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation and consists of listening, reading, writing, and speaking sections that are graded from level one to level six. It is administered four times annually and is available from beginner to advanced levels. This is one of the most popular language tests needed in South Korea for foreigners.

You must pass TOPIK level 3 or higher for undergraduate programs and TOPIK level 4 or higher for graduate programs. For the beginner level, you need to score at least 80 points in level 1 and 140 points in level 2. At the intermediate and advanced levels, you need to score at least 120 points in level 3, 150 points in level 4, 190 points in level 5, and 230 points in level 6.

Many universities in South Korea accept the Test of Proficiency in Korean. For example, post-graduate admission for international students at Seoul National University requires a TOPIK Level 6 proficiency certificate for selected majors or departments. Other Korean universities that accept TOPIK include the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea University, and Yonsei University, among others.

2. Korean Language Ability Test (KLAT)

KLAT (formerly known as the Korean Language Proficiency Test) is based on the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) and offered by the Korean Language Society. It aims to test the learners’ proficiency in the practical Korean language. The test starts at beginner level, intermediate, to Advanced level proficiency.

The score range is 80-200 for the beginner and intermediate levels and 150-300 for the advanced level. You can use the KLAT score report within 30 months from the exam date before it expires.

Many universities across South Korea accept the KLAT for international admissions. For example, Yonsei University requires a KLAT level 4 (140-200) proficiency certificate for international students. Other Universities that accept the KLAT include Ajou University and Changwon National University, among others.

3. Korean Language Aptitude Test (KLAT)

The Korean Language Aptitude Test is a specialized test offered by the Korean University (KU-CLEIA), which looks at basic knowledge about the Korean language, including grammar and vocabulary. It consists of two parts; the multiple-choice questions and the written responses.

Depending on your study program, you may need scores ranging from 70-90 points total to gain admission into an academic program.

Did you know that several universities in South Korea offer scholarships for students with exemplary scores in TOPIK? Here are a few scholarships you can check: Chungwoon University offers Undegraduate TOPIK Scholarships with up to 100% tuition waiver for students who has a TOPIK Level 6. And if you are degree-seeking student planning to study at Hanyang University and holds a Level 5-6 in TOPIK, you can then be eligible for the Hanyang Scholarship for Excellence in TOPIK.

English Language Tests for International Students

English Language tests verify that your English skills are at the required level and that you can communicate with professors and classmates effectively. The most popular language tests needed in South Korea are the IELTS, the Duolingo English Test, and TOEFL.

1. IELTS – International English Language Testing System

The International English Language Testing System is one of the most popular English Language tests for non-native English speakers. It evaluates English skills like listening, reading, speaking, and writing. It has nine score bands that identify the different levels of proficiency ranging from non-user to expert.

Generally, a minimum score of 5.5 is required at the undergraduate and master levels, while six is at the Ph.D. level.

Some universities that accept the IELTS test include Pohang University of Science and Technology and Pusan National University, among others.

2. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

The Test of English as a Foreign Language assesses English language skills in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Its focus on academic English makes it a resource of choice for universities and other higher educational institutions to evaluate potential international students.

Typical test scores range from 0-120 points depending on how well you do in each section. A minimum score of TOEFL 71 is required at the undergraduate and master levels, while a minimum score of TOEFL 79 at the Ph.D. level is generally accepted. For South Korean universities, a test score of 79-80 is typically considered adequate for admission.

Some universities that accept TOEFL include the University of Seoul, Korea University, and Hanyang University.

3. DET – Duolingo English Test

The Duolingo English Test is a great English language test alternative to IELTS and TOEFL for international students. It is faster, affordable, and convenient as one can take the test from home with the help of a computer and a webcam. The test evaluates your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in the English language.

Proficiency in the test rates from 10 to 160, with the average acceptance score for international students being 115-120, an equivalent of 92-192 points in TOEFL, and a 6-6.5 score in IELTS. The Duolingo exam validity is two years from the original date. One of the universities in South Korea accepting Duolingo English Tests is Yonsei University.


Language tests needed in South Korea for international students vary according to the university and programs offered. If you’re an incoming international student here, you need to do a lot of research to know the required tests, so that you can prepare for them!


We hope this article on the Language Tests Needed in South Korea For International Students is informative and helpful. You can also visit the Available Programs for International Students and Study in Korea pages for more study options!

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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  1. Anonymous June 16, 2024 10:04 pm - Reply

    Hii sir, this year I’m going to apply GKS undergraduate by University track. I’m diploma holder in ECE it’s 3yrs course after I completed my 10th and joined in diploma. Am I eligible? Do I need to submit my 10th marksheet too or my diploma marksheet is enough? And one more question sir, I don’t have any language proficiency certificate. Does that will affect my scholarship chance? But have a extra curricular activities like projects, symposium cert, internship and course completed certificates etc

    • Hyun Lee June 22, 2024 11:56 am - Reply

      Hello, so you do need a high school diploma or equivalent. I’m not sure if your qualification counts as high school diploma. You will have to ask them. Regarding language proficiency, you should either have English or Korean language proficiency scores to have a better chance

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