Archive for the ‘TOPIK’ Category

On the TOPIK and Being Okay with Failure

Friday, May 31st, 2013

I failed the Intermediate Topik again.

I took the test in April, and have been anxiously awaiting the results ever since. The results came out yesterday at 3 and I ran up to my co-teacher’s office to use her computer because mine was too slow. The score finally came up, right as the bell signifying the next period rang. 불합격. I had failed. The tightness in my chest I had felt while waiting for the test results further constricted, and surprisingly I found myself struggling to hold back tears. My co-teacher looked at me, concerned, and I left to go teach.

I have spent the last three years “studying” Korean, but to be honest with myself I have spent only the last year and a half intensively studying Korean. I’ve done classes, private lessons, and studied on my own. My focus ever since I submitted my graduate school applications has been the TOPIK, and I’ve given up a lot of other extracurricular activities to further focus on studying for this test. However, according to the Korean government I’m not good enough at Korean to be considered an intermediate speaker – I’m just a beginner.

This is obviously just me feeling sorry for myself, as I’m not a beginner by any stretch of the imagination, but I spent most of yesterday down in the dumps. You see – I didn’t expect a failing grade, I actually thought I would pass.

In order to pass the Intermediate TOPIK with a score of 3 you have to get a 50% on all 4 sections, the grammar/vocabulary, writing, reading, and listening. In order to receive a score of 4, you have to get a 70% on all of the sections. A 50% is pretty low, so even if you feel like you failed the test, there’s a chance you passed it. I had taken the TOPIK once before and had failed it then, so when I left the building this time around I felt much better, and it turns out I should have. I got a 70% on grammar/vocab (enough to qualify me for a 4 in that section), and a surprising 66 on the reading – which last time around was my worst section. I felt a little nervous about my listening score, but as listening is normally my best section I assumed that I had passed it and I did with a score of 59%. Writing is what killed me, with a score of 35%. 35%. One percent worse than I did last time. Where I improved by leaps and bounds, almost doubling my listening and grammar/vocab scores, my writing score actually got worse and I was so frustrated that I probably would’ve burst into tears if I hadn’t had class.

Today I finished teaching my content matter a little early, so I let students relax for the last five minutes of class. A student called me over and asked if she could talk to me about something. She ended up telling me about her English grades, and how her teacher had told her that her English was getting worse because her test scores were dropping. She was really upset because she thought that her English was pretty good, but both her score and her teacher were telling her that she wasn’t.

I sat down and told her that I couldn’t say that scores don’t matter, because unfortunately they do, but we both know that she has a high English level. Of course she wants to improve her score, and she should try, but a lower test score doesn’t mean that her English is bad. I then told her that I had just failed a Korean test. Her eyes got wide, and she exclaimed “but you’re good at Korean!” and I replied “I know. But sometimes we get bad scores.” It took talking to this student for me to remember that scores aren’t the end all be all. We tell our students everyday that the score less important than your actual ability, but I had to tell a student this in order to apply it to myself. Yes, I failed this proficiency test – but I’m still good at Korean. And I will pass this test the next time around.

TOPIK Update

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Most of my energy outside of school has been put into figuring out my future (finding promising looking jobs to apply for, updating my resume, cleaning my apartment) or studying Korean. I have my proficiency test this Sunday, and I’m hoping to pass the intermediate level test. The intermediate level is much more difficult than the beginner, so while I’m miles above the beginner there is a fair chance I wont’ pass the intermediate. This would be unfortunate because then the only level documentation I have (other than my certificates of completion for various Korean classes) would state that I was at a beginning level.

Furthermore, this test is only offered once every three months, and the next time it’s offered in Korea will be after my contract ends and I will probably have already left the country. I CAN take it in America, but it’d be much better if I could just pass the intermediate this time around.

Wish me luck!

Words Words Words

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Japan, my time in Seoul, and the TOPIK exam (the Test of Proficiency in Korean). The most difficult thing about the TOPIK is the sheer amount of vocabulary I’m expected to know. The listening section is alright, and I actually do okay with the grammar, but many times I’ll read a sentence and understand it, only to be told that I should substitute in a synonym for an underlined word and realize that I don’t know what any of the options mean! At that point the only thing I can do is guess.

I’ve been thinking a lot about language. In July I’ll be heading back to America (for good?) and I’m scared that I’ll lose all the Korean that I’ve gained. Though I’ve been studying for over two years, sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I’ve been reading a lot about language acquisition, and I’ve been observing my students struggle with English, and part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to “fluency,” however you define that. I read an interesting article written by Antonio Graceffo about fluency, and how many words it takes to read a newspaper, and started thinking about my own vocab level. How many words do I know?

I wasn’t always, but these days I try to be methodical when studying vocabulary. It’s too easy to “think” that you’re actually learning and retaining a word, and then realize that you can only recognize it, and not produce it. Halfway through last year I started using an awesome website called Memrise to study vocabulary, and my rate of retention skyrocketed. It’s the only program I know of where in order to get the flashcard “right” you have to actually type out the word, which is great because then I’m being tested on spelling and there’s no cheating. If I can remember the spelling, then I’ll know how to pronounce it correctly.  When you get a word right the “plant” associated with each word is “watered.” With every successful watering, you have to water that plant less, so words I get wrong are frequently shown to me, whereas very simple and easy vocabulary is brought up once every few months or so in order to refresh my memory. I highly suggest Memrise to anyone who struggles with vocabulary (be my mempal – Memrise friend- I’m AnnPotski!).

Anyway, in the article Graceffo takes eight different articles from the New York Times online and through what seemed to be a painstakingly painful process counted all of the unique words (counting conjugated forms as separate words, so word would be counted once, and words would be counted separately). Apparently to read the New York Times you should have a vocabulary of approximately 4,000 words. Holy mackerel. After reading that, I headed over to Memrise to see how I was doing.

memrise

 

Considering that not all of the words I know are actually on Memrise, I have a vocab of at least 1,000, probably closer to 2,000. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Time to go water some plants.