Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TOPIK tests and Cherry Blossoms

It's that time of year. Cherry blossom season and time to take the TOPIK exam....


Finally, the much anticipated day of the TOPIK exam arrived. I found the test site at Kyunghee University without problem thanks to bumping into a friend from my Korean class on the way there. The entrance was a buzz with people selling pens, pencils white out etc., people selling text books, and lots of people giving away free stuff. I scored some awesome red/black pens. I've been meaning to buy a new red pen for a while so it worked out perfectly. 

After getting into the test building I had to find my classroom by looking up my registration number on this chart along with the other hoards of testers. 

I made it up to my classroom and got myself settled down. I had read on other blogs not to bring any stationary supplies to the test room, but looking around everyone had white out, pencils, pens, pencil cases and I felt a little self conscious. I almost didn't bring my pencil case with me, but I figured just in case I would. I had no white out and I was feeling a little nervous looking around seeing so many other people with it. Finally the test administers entered the room at exactly 1:40 and started to explain the rules. 

  • Put everything into your bag and take the bag off the table.
  • Take the battery out of your cell phone (and iPhones must be securely off). If a cell phone goes off during the exam it's big trouble
  • Mark the test with the black computer marker only, except for the writing portion of the exam. For the writing test, you may use the black computer marker if you like but as it would be messy and hard to correct errors you can use your own ball point pen or pencil. 
  • If you make a mistake you can correct it with your own white out tape. Liquid white out is not allowed. If you don't have white out tape you can raise your hand and the admins will lend you theirs.
 Then at 2:00 exactly, a bell rang to start the exam. Unfortunately, our test administrator started to walk around checking IDs after the test began. This was a huge distraction. At one point he got to the guy in front of me and started speaking really loudly for several minutes about how the photo on his registration paper was inappropriate and he was unable to verify his identity because of it. Finally he told him that they'd discuss it more after the test was finished. And then told the guy "don't worry, take your test and don't let this distract you..."... like I'd be able to do my test well after being yelled at that my photo was invalid. They need to check IDs before the test begins, not during the testing session.

Anyway, the first 90 minutes was grammar and vocab/ writing. I feel I did about the same as I usually do on grammar and vocab, which usually hovers around the 45-50 point mark. I think my essay was good enough (though I wish I had had time to proofread more), but I was thrown for a loop because this time the points for the  문장 만들기 and 빈칸 채우기. The 문장 만들기 was always 6 points each and the 빈칸 채우기 always had 3 questions which were 6 points each as well. On yesterday's test the 문장 만들기 questions were 7 points each and on 빈칸 채우기 there were only 2 questions, 8 points each. Good news, though, I think I finally may have gotten a 빈칸 채우기 problem right, which has never happened before. Bad news is I think I got one if not both of the 문장 만들기 wrong, so it probably equals out. After that, we had a half hour break before starting the listening/ reading.

I think I did alright on the listening, as I usually do, though under the stress of the testing conditions I don't think I did as well as I have in practice. My biggest problem was the reading. I think I may have gotten 75% of the questions that I had time to answer correct (I've improved a lot in this area in the past week or two, something just clicked in my brain) but I'm still a really slow reader and I was only able to do about 18 of the 30 questions before the time was up. I just filled in the rest of the bubbles and am hoping for the best.

But, the lovely part of the TOPIK was being at Kyunghee University in time to catch the cherry blossoms. It's a marvelous campus and I wanted to wander around more but I didn't have time. I'd like to go back if I have some time. I was told by my Saturday Korean teacher that this place was much better than Yeoido because there are lots of beautiful scenery but with way less sightseers. 

But, it seems to be a local hot spot anyway for catching the seasonal flora.  There was a bit of traffic on campus and lots of people who probably weren't students wandering around with cameras and pizza boxes looking to enjoy the afternoon.

So, if you happen to be around Hoegi station on line 1/ Jungang line, make your way over to Kyunghee University and check out the cherry blossoms before it's too late!


  1. I'm not sure I followed all that about your test experience, but it sounds like a tough test and you did quite well no matter what the final result!
    The cherries there look very nice indeed, but to be honest, I kind of like the "crowd" at Yeouido--it was very managable!

  2. I must say that I haven't been to Yeouido to catch the flower blossoms, so I shouldn't judge. I've just been told by so many Korean friends that it's a waste of time because of the crowd that I am a little biased. I should make it down there and check it out for myself at some point though! It must be beautiful or people wouldn't go there!!