There are those days when just everything seems to go wrong on the day you least want it to and for me, Saturday was one of those days.
On Saturday I sat TOPIK II, the upper level of the Korean proficiency exam. Now it wasn’t my first time sitting the exam, I sat it once before in my third year of university. Back then, the test had been split into three levels, each level containing two sub levels to give a total of six ranks from beginner through to advanced. At the time, I’d sat the intermediate level and achieved a high level four (upper intermediate).
In the two years since sitting that exam, not only has my Korean improved a lot so I figured it was time to sit it again but the test format also changed. The six ranks still existed but the three levels had become two; TOPIK I and TOPIK II. TOPIK I contains levels one and two while TOPIK II contains levels three through six. What this meant was that where previously you could test in one of three levels knowing you’d either score within that bracket or fail. In the new TOPIK II, the intermediate and advanced papers merged to produce one paper which is both a good thing and bad thing depending on how you look at it. On the plus side, the chances of failing the exam itself are much lower – I’d just walk out with an intermediate score. On the minus side, it meant targeting study to the advanced level was much harder since there’s no clear differentiation between what is intermediate and what is advanced – I’m not sure if there’s even a difference but rather if it’s just a case of the score you come out with.
Anyway, so not only did my train get cancelled thanks to a member of the train crew not showing up, the next train which I jumped on got delayed by someone jumping on the tracks at East Croydon. There hadn’t been any seats on the train when I’d got on so I’d ended up sitting in the luggage rack. The icing on the cake of my joyful journey was being yelled at and sworn at (no exaggeration) by a husband and wife who objected to me sitting in the luggage rack. It wasn’t that they had any luggage (or that anyone else had luggage for that matter) they just objected to me sitting there because I wasn’t luggage… they were not very nice individuals. When it became clear that explaining I was trying to study for an exam and that they weren’t helping wasn’t going to make a difference, I stuck my headphones and tried (admittedly rather unsuccessfully) to tune them out.
With everyone due in the exam hall by 12:20pm and the exam due to start at 12:30pm sharp, I knew I was cutting it fine when the train pulled into London Waterloo at 12:21pm. With no choice but to leg it, I ran like a mad woman from the station to the Korean Cultural Centre (next to Trafalgar Square) in exactly 9 minutes. At least the workouts have been paying off! The man in charge looked at me with raised eyebrows as I came sprinting through the door before motioning for me to calm down and follow him to the exam hall – goodness me I was lucky.
I missed the first question as I settled down into exam mode so followed the advice of my Year 8 Science teacher : “if in doubt, go for C” and with that I was off. The exam was better than expected. As expected, the questions started off easy (almost painfully so), gradually getting harder as the test went on. The reading was quite challenging but that’s probably a reflection on my lack of study more than anything else. In comparison the writing was really challenging in terms of content, only in terms of time and I had to scribble to finish on time.
Three and a half hours later when I walked out of the exam, I left feeling good. Now it’s out of my hands and I’ll be looking forwards to getting the results in a few weeks time. In the meantime, I’ve started the Super Language Challenge! Between now and the end of the year, I’m aiming to read 100 books (total 5000 pages) and watch 100 films (total 9000 minutes) in Korean and Chinese. I’m also aiming to do half that in Japanese…because why not?