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Topik Intermediate Essay Topics

Yay! Just sat for the 제43회 한국어능력시험 TOPIK 2. The last time I took TOPIK advanced was in 2013, so this is the first time I’m taking the new format ^^

I’ve already passed TOPIK 6 (although by a narrow margin only) but given that each cert is valid only for 2 years, it’s time for me to “renew” it and hopefully score better.

And yes, quite a long post ahead – I always have loads to say.

Quick recap of main changes to the format:

  • 2 essays instead of 1, one of which you have to look at a simple chart or graph and explain the stats
  • No more grammar, vocab section, it is integrated in Reading
  • Level 3-6 is now included in the TOPIK 2 paper

Personal experience:

Overall, I found the paper to be very manageable! First time I left the hall 3 hours later feeling very clear-headed and not in the 멘붕 state.

For paper 1, I finished with 3 mins to spare and I checked though my essay.

  • Listening was the easiest and I could feel that my proficiency did increase in the past 2 years lol.
  • Writing was ok!! The topic for the main essay was quite commonsensical. I actually found the stats one harder.

For paper 2, I finished with 10 mins to spare. Actually I did the first 40 questions within 30 mins or so and it’s the last 10 that made me slightly >< and I was getting a little tired and restless. Didn’t check through all.

Overall, I thought the new paper is actually easier for advanced students and slightly tougher for intermediate learners! I’m very surprised at how grammar seemingly does not feature much, although you can argue that it’s all incorporated. I used to do badly for the advanced grammar questions where they test the more obscure and yet similar looking structures (건마는, 려마는 or dunno what). Advanced learners are usually quite comfortable with reading so the passages are not so intimidating. I thought they were all quite understandable with the exception of 1 lol. Not very technical too.

For the intermediate learners and those who are taking it for the first time, I can see how it’s actually more difficult now. The writing is tougher, with 2 eassys to plan out and 50 mins is very tight. Reading wise, it’s a lot on stamina as much as your skills.

Here are some of my key takeaways for each section and tips! Of course they might not work for everyone.

Listening:

  • Focus on listening when it’s listening time

I have a friend who advised to start prepping for the writing section during the easier listening questions. I tried and it didn’t work for me. I got distracted on both sides, so I stopped that. Just concentrate on what is in front of you and don’t worry about what’s next!

  • Try to allocate time to read the next question and options before the dialogue.

Not easy I know, but it works. Listening and reading at the same time is tougher and it’s easier to pick out important points in the dialogue if you already know the options and know what you are looking out for. Try to develop a systematic system. For the longer dialogues where it’s repeated twice and with two questions to answers, I actually read the following 2 questions when the dialogue is being repeated. In that way, I can eliminate the wrong answers straightaway as the dialogue is being played for the first time and concentrate well instead of panicking.

I know there are people who actually wrote the answer in the booklet and decide to shade after listening. That’s a terrible move. It eats into your writing time (which is already not enough in the first place) and you have to be careful of parallax error lol. It’s just a waste of time!

You won’t have time to go back to a question. If you don’t know, just make a guess. No point getting hung up on a previous question and never think that you will have time to go back to it. JUST SHADE SOMETHING.

  • Don’t get hung up on what has passed

Shit. I didn’t get that previous question. –> Don’t have such thoughts. Focus on the present (and the following questions).

  • To prepare, listen to a variety of topics / voices

I know you might be in love with a certain voice. I can listen to the likes of Kang Dong Won, Kim Woo Bin, Sung Joon, TOP, Lee Seon Kyun (okay you get the type of voice I love) for the whole day, but it’s good to be comfortable with a variety of speech styles / tones etc. For the exam, they usually have a young male / female speaker voice but occasionally they do put in an ajusshi / grandfather voice! If you are too hung up on textbook speakers who speak at a certain speed and have extremely clear enunciation, you are doing yourself a disfavour, not just in tests, but in real life.

  • Listen to dramas, podcasts, documentaries, variety shows – everything 

Listening to your textbook CD 20 times over is not going to help. You need exposure. Period.

Writing:

  • How to use your 50 mins: 5-7 mins for the first 2 fill-in-the-blanks questions (more if you have time left during listening), 25 mins for 2nd (main) essay, 15 mins for first essay

Time is REALLY TIGHT for the writing section. So please don’t dilly-dally. Plan fast, write faster.

  • Sequence: 2nd (main) essay, 1st essay, fill-in-the-blank questions

Main Essay

Go with the mark allocation. The main essay makes up 50 marks, of course you should do that first. The requirements of the questions are usually easy, so take a quick 3 mins at most to plan. A short intro, the (usually) 2 main points, and a sentence or two to conclude. You don’t need minute planning, just the key things you want to write so there won’t be an overlap of points. Write fast, the sentences just have to keep on flowing. Take note of your spacing though!

First Essay

I think intermediate learners will find this rather tough since you are given a simple chart / graph and you have to explain the stats. It requires the use of quite specific grammar structures, which I believed is usually taught in the advanced books. For those level 3 learners who are not familiar at all with this, just anyhow write and focus more on the main essay (personal opinion). The most commonly used is ~에 따르면. You can find a list of such expressions in a google doc I compiled >> Describing statistics in Korean

It might look like an intimidating component but it’s not. It’s actually easy if you prep for it (which I didnt hahahaha). There’s a fixed way of describing stats.

Fill in the blanks 

I actually thought the questions are quite easy compared to the same question type in the old format. I remember always having ZERO clue for these questions in past papers. Don’t think too much, if you know, you know, if you don’t, just write something. There are usually clues on what goes in the blank before and after.

  • How to prepare: Write more? Read more

I mean, what else can I say. You won’t be able to miraculously write one day if you haven’t been practicing. Reading also helps you become familiar with the grammar structures used in a particular type / style of writing.

Reading:

  • Just start from the front, but be aware that you shouldn’t be too slow. 

I think there will be quite a lot of differing opinions on this. My logic is that if you are not yet at a good proficiency level, the last 10 questions would be super tough too so it doesn’t really help even if you read them first and you might end up spending a lot of time on it (and still don’t understand) and have less time to concentrate on questions that you can clearly answer. That being said, don’t be too slow. I spent 30 mins on the first 40 questions. To save time, if you are damn sure that an option is right, don’t have to bother with reading the rest in detail, maybe just glance through to double check.

  • If you don’t know, skip 

If you read once and you don’t know, time to skip. But make sure you don’t commit parallax error and you come back to it again afterwards. Even if you don’t have time, make sure you shade something.

Just anyhow shade once time’s up! hahaha.

  • To prepare, read regularly and beyond your abilities

This section needs a lot of stamina, so you have to be comfortable with reading and reading and reading more. You need to also read widely, so don’t be selective. Modern history, ancient history, environment, politics, culture, arts etc – everything. Always go beyond your abilities too and keep challenging yourself with increasingly difficult texts. I actually found the texts quite understandable this time (save for one….) since I’ve been working on 국어능력시험 questions for the past 1 years or so already (Korean proficiency test for native speakers). But then again, understanding the passage doesn’t translate to getting questions correct, so not saying that I’ll do well!

Overall, it was a very good experience and I always find myself loving Korean more and being more motivated to study after taking TOPIK HAHAHA. This is the 4th time I’m taking the exam already, time flies!! Took 16th TOPIK (intermediate) back in 2009, 26th (adv) in 2012, 30th in 2013 (adv) and now it’s 2015!!

Can’t wait for results to be out.

I love love love reading about other people’s opinions on TOPIK and experience too!! Share please!!! 😀 😀

Related

TOPIK

The readers of TOPIK GUIDE have frequently been writing to us for some guidance on the Essay part of TOPIK Writing (쓰기) section. So Here We are putting this detailed article about this.

Most of the questions in TOPIK are multiple choice and objective type where there is, clearly, only one correct answer. You don’t even need a human to check if the answers are right or wrong. Mostly OMR recognition softwares do the job.  The problem is with the subjective type questions. In these questions there is no ‘one correct answer’. Different persons can give different answers and they all may be correct. Sometimes it is difficult to even say whether the answer is right or wrong because it may be partially right and partially wrong.

This type of questions generally appear in the Writing section of TOPIK. And believe me, you are not the only person who find them difficult. Evaluating this type of questions is the most difficult task for Examiners as well. As these questions are evaluated by real humanss and not the machines, there are high chances of variation in evaluation process depending upon the personality and psychological status of the examiner. And that”s why it confuses the test takers on what and how to write the answer of such questions so that it looks correct to the evaluator. Particularly, the TOPIK Essay writing part is the most difficult of these subjective questions.

Most of TOPIK test takers are confused at some point of time about what and how exactly they are expected to write in the essay. Do they want to check your grammar vocabulary, spelling etc? or Do they want to test your writing skills, like how beautifully and logically you put your thought, how great your thoughts are? or Do they want to see how beautiful your handwriting is? Will using difficult words and complex sentences get you more marks? There are many such questions that confuse the mind of test takes, specially when they appear for the first time. Many people find themselves in a very difficult situation when the topic of the essay is related to Korea. I know many people  who thought writing anything wrong about Korea or Koreans will fetch them poor marks. 😉

In this series on TOPIK essay writing, we are going to clear all those doubts. We are going to tell you exactly how TOPIK essays are evaluated and marked. The series is based on ‘model evaluation guideline‘ from NIIED, the organization that conducts the TOPIK test.

We have divided the series in to 3 parts in which we will take 3 model essays each from beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of TOPIK and will analyse the evaluation system by giving detailed marking pattern of 3 model answer essays.

Below is the model guideline that all the evaluators have to follow, according to NIIED:-

I think all the points are pretty clear in themselves. Still I will try to explain a little more. In the first part they expect 3 things from you;
first, you have to understand what exactly they are asking you to write. It seems quite obvious but many people do a mistake here. They just read the first line and think they have  got the question and start writing. Sometimes we don’t know certain words in the question and just try to guess the topic. that’s better than not writing at all but reading the question a few times always makes your answer better. And always write about something about which you know and think in advance which words and grammar patterns you will need to write about that TOPIK. For  example in this question, you have to write about ‘Someone you want to meet’. You can definitely write that ‘I want to meet some nuclear scientist from my country’ or ‘I want to meet Jesus’ but these topics would most probably demand difficult vocabulary and grammar patterns that you might not know. So it’s always better to chose something simple like ‘I want to meet an old friend/ my girl friend/ my grandma’. you know a lot about these people and it would not be difficult to write 10 simple sentences about them.
Second, if you read the question properly you will find that they always ask the question in 2 or more parts and they want to include something about all those points in your essay; even a single sentence will do. For example, in this question they ask you- 1)Who is the person you want to meet? 2)Why do you want to meet him/her? 3)What do you want to do when you meet him/her? It’s very easy to forget one or more points when writing. So, always cross check whether you have included all of them or not. You don’t need to equally cover all of them. You may answer any two points in just one sentence and write the rest of the essay about the other one point.
Third, i think you must already be knowing the importance of coherence in a writing. Just try to keep all your sentences connected and relevant, don’t jump to another topic suddenly, make the transition smooth.
In the second part (Essay Development and Structure) they see whether overall essay looks natural or not. Here the thing I want to emphasize is ‘Focus on the beginning and closing of the essay’. many a times, we are short of time and we leave the essay in between; abruptly. When you know you don’t have time to write more just write a finishing line and stop. That single sentence can get you 2 or more marks. For example a simple and good finishing sentence for this essay may be like: 그   친구(or whoever)를 빨리 만날 수 있으면 좋겠다. or 그 사람을 정말 보고 싶다. or 제가 좋아하는 그 사람 만날 수 있을까? The second important thing is- Don’t try to make your sentences too complex by putting a number of grammar sentences. Most of language learners think a long sentence with many grammar patterns and difficult words will put a good impression on the examiner. But believe me, most of the times it’s the opposite. small and simple sentences are natural and pleasant to read. For example: 제가 만나고 싶은 사람이 제 할머니입니다. 할머니를 만난 지 정말 오래 됐습니다. 그래서 보고 싶습니다. is much better than 제가 만나고 싶은 사람이 제 할머니이고 할머니를 만난 지 정말 오래 돼서 보고 싶습니다.
In the third part, they check your real Korean language ability. I mean the use of grammar, vocabulary etc. Here again don’t think difficult words and grammar are better. The evaluation of TOPIK papers is not comparative. So it does not influence your marks if someone has written a really great essay with native Korean level grammar and words. If you have written a good essay with proper use of beginner level vocabulary and grammar, you can get all 30 marks. But yes, the sentences should not be unnaturally simple and short. For example: 제 친구는 A입니다. A는 미국에 삽니다. 저는 A를 만나고 싶습니다. A가 좋은 사람입니다. 같이 영화 보고 싶습니다. This type of unnaturally simple writing will probably not get you 30 markes even if it has no mistake.

We will start with the Beginner Level.

Here is the Essay Question that we will take as a model:-

Q46. 다음을 읽고 150~300자로 글을 쓰십시오. (30점)
여러분은 누구를 만나고 싶습니까? 그 사람을 왜 만나고 싶습니까? 그 사람을
만나서 무엇을 하고 싶습니까? 여러분이 만나고 싶은 사람에 대해 쓰십시오.

I am leaving you with three example answer essay. read properly and think how you would mark them if you were the examiner. In the next post we will see how the TOPIK evaluators marked them.

TOPIK Beginner Model Essay 1

TOPIK Beginner Model Essay 2

TOPIK Beginner Model Essay 3

Go to TOPIK Essay Writing Evaluation Analysis – Beginner Level

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