Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)

Category : Learning Korean / Education/Teaching
Nov 28, 2014

Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)


Founded in 1997 by the Korea Research Foundation, TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) is the most widely-recognized Korean language proficiency certification. Now held four times a year in 49 countries around the world, TOPIK has come a long way since its beginnings 15 years ago. TOPIK was originally created to evaluate overseas Koreans and non-native speakers in their Korean language abilities. Today, more and more people are considering working or studying in Korea, and in many cases, need to prove a certain level of Korean proficiency in order to do so - that’s where TOPIK comes in.


Levels of TOPIK

TOPIK is divided into three categories and six different levels:



















Level 1

  • Can complete basic everyday tasks like: ordering food, taking a taxi, greeting people, or talking about the weather.
  • Can understand basic sentences.
  • Limited to an 800-word vocabulary.

Level 2

  • Can make phone calls, ask favors, use public facilities (ex: bank, post office)
  • Can minimally distinguish between formal and informal Korean and when using each is appropriate.
  • Can use a vocabulary between 1,500-2,000 words to create and understand dialogues.



Level 3

  • Can maintain social relationships with Korean-speakers
  • Has no difficulty in day-to-day tasks (ex: using public facilities or communicating with native speakers)

Level 4

  • Can understand newspaper articles.
  • Experiences no difficulty in everyday tasks.
  • Can fluently express abstract themes.



Level 5

  • Can function at a basic level in the workplace,
  • Can talk about abstract subjects like politics, philosophy, economics, or culture.
  • Can confidently alternate between formal and informal Korean.

Level 6

  • Can perform research and work-related tasks without difficulty.
  • Speaks fluently or at a nearly-native level.



TOPIK Test Structure

The TOPIK test consists of four areas and two sections. Both sections (worth 200 points each) have two areas. Each area is weighted with a score out of 100, finishing with a final score out of 400. The test should be completed in 110 minutes or less.


Section 1: (40 multiple choice + 4-6 short answer)

1. Vocabulary & Grammar: 30 MC (100 pts)

2. Writing: 10 MC (40 pts) + 4-6 short answer (60 pts)


Section 2: (60 multiple choice questions)

3. Listening: 30 MC (100 pts)

4. Reading: 30 MC (100 pts)

In the writing area, students are required to express themselves in full sentences and paragraphs (when necessary). The test ends with a final essay, the length of which being determined based on the student’s level:



(Level 1 and 2)


(Level 3 and 4)


(Level 5 and 6)

150-300 words

400-600 words

700-800 words



Is TOPIK Needed to Work or Study in Korea?



Korean proficiency is not required to gain work sponsorship in Korea. You will not need a TOPIK score to work in Korea. However, if you’re hoping to stay in Korea for the long-term, having a certain TOPIK score is certainly beneficial. You will need a TOPIK score if you want to apply for an F-2 visa.


à For more information on visas, visit WorknPlay’s articles: The F-Series Visas in Korea and Employment Visas (E-Series) in Korea.



TOPIK is almost always needed to study in Korea. However, many Korean universities have arrangements with foreign partner schools, where exchange students can come and take courses in English for one to two semesters. Some universities offer a large selection of English courses while others offer very few. Exchange students are sometimes also allowed to take courses in Korean. In this case, university policy usually requires that students meet or exceed TOPIK Level 4 (certificates need to be submitted with their application).


In the case of international students, who come to Korean universities independently and without a partner school agreement, a TOPIK Level 4 certificate is almost always required. Some schools administer their own customized Korean placement test, in which case, submission of TOPIK documents is not required. Some programs, such as those offered through some universities’ MBA or GSIS (Graduate School of International Studies) programs do not require a TOPIK score, as they are all taught in English.


à To learn more about studying in Korea, visit the following articles:

  1. Universities in Korea
  2. Korean University System
  3. University Korean Language Programs
  4. GSIS Programs
  5. MBA Programs
  6. International Student Life in Korea


Preparing for TOPIK

Lots of TOPIK prep resources are available online. While the official TOPIK website does provide some practice tests, the only way to access them is in Korean – not very helpful for those who are just starting out at a beginner’s level. However, TOPIKGuide.com does provide step-by-step instructions with screenshots on how to access these practice tests. Several other website below also have practice exams, as well as tips and tricks on how you can do your best on the TOPIK test.


Practice Tests and TOPIK Prep Websites


Naldaramjui (날다람쥐)

This website has online practice questions divided into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.



This website has several practice tests online, as well as a variety of TOPIK study tips. The website creator also posts tips and other useful TOPIK-related info on the website’s corresponding Facebook page.


Introduction to TOPIK

This site is geared towards TOPIK beginners. It includes several examples of Beginner-level essay questions and answers, as well as a few TOPIK tips.


TOPIK Practice

This isn’t exactly a website. It’s actually a like to a zip file which includes nine PDF practice TOPIK tests and their corresponding answer keys.


Matthew’s Korean Study and Reference Guide

This site mostly contains vocabulary and phrases commonly found on the TOPIK test. Also included are tips on basic grammar, Hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), and writing samples.


TOPIK Test Locations

The TOPIK test can be taken at 16 different locations around Korea, as well as in 53 different countries around the world. International TOPIK examination sites are listed here. Check the TOPIK Website for test schedules and registration.


Seoul (5)


Kyunghee University

Hoegi 1dong Dongdaemungu, Seoul

+82 2-961-0081/2


Soongsil University

511 Sangdodong Dongjakgu, Seoul

+82 2-820-0781,0784


Konkuk Univeristy

120 Neungdong-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

+82 2-450-4172


Dongguk University

Dongguk University, 30, Pildong-ro 1gil. Jung-gu, Seoul

+82 2-2260-3471~2


Sungkyunkwan University

25-2, Sungkyunkwan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

+82 2-760-1221


Gyeonggi Province (2)


Ajou University

5 San Woncheondong, Yeongdonggu, Suwon City, Kyeonggi Province

+82 31-219-1677


Inha University

Inha Institute of Continuing Education, 253 Yonghyundong, 
Namgu, Incheon City

+82 32-860-8271


Around Korea (9)


Chungnam National University

220 Goongdong Yusonggu Daejeon

+82 42-821-8804


Daegu University

15 Naeriri Jinryangeup Gyungsan City, Kyungbuk Province

+82 53-850-5692-3


Jeju Halla University

38 Halla Street, Nohyungdong, Jeju City

+82 64-741-7421 


Hallym University
39 Hallym College Streat, Chuncheon City, Gangwon Province

+82 33-248-2971


Cheongbuk National University

644-14 Dukjindong 1-ga, Dukjingu, Jeonju City, Jeollabukdo Province

+82 63-270-2454


Kyungnam University

449 Wolyongdong, Changwon City, Gyeongsangnamdo Province

+82 55-249-2221



Tags : Language. Education.

Gabrielle interned as a Content Creator for Work'n'Play during her exchange trip to Chung-Ang University in 2012-2013. She graduated from Vancouver Island University in May 2014 with her BA in Global Studies. She is now a Master's student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. The things she misses most about her year in Korea are: going for makgeolli + jeon with friends, exploring Seoul's new and old hidden treasures and getting to practice Korean every day. You can connect with her on Twitter at @MsGabrielle or email her at gabrielle.bishop@hotmail.com.

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