Okay, so today I took the entrance exam into the SNU KLEI program. We had to arrive a bit before 10am and the process was a bit intimidating. The test center seemed very organized, so it was even more official looking than four years ago when I took this exam. When I arrived at the school I had to search for my name and matching ID number. Then I signed in with the number at my test room (there were two or three rooms) and then had to find my desk with my matching ID number. What a pain! What was worse is that after I sat down I realized that the seating system was a great way to segregate us. The Middle Eastern students, American students, Chinese students were sitting in their own groups. I’m not sure who represented the “American” group but we were pretty diverse. The exam was supposed to start at 10am, but we started a bit later and listened to a 10 minute orientation on ID cards, book fees, and attendance policies. The SNU attendance policy holds that students may not miss more than 5 days or they fail the level and a level may not be repeated twice. Six tardies equal one absence, and one hour is equivalent to one late, four hours are equivalent to one day.
The exam has two parts: written and oral interview. I thought the exam would be mostly multiple choice as I remembered it had been in the past, however, this was 7-page writing exam. I was a bit shocked, but I think that you really had to be prepared to write a lot or you couldn’t complete the exam. If you don’t practice the workbook or the grammar structures, then the chances that you know what they are looking for are slim. I highly suggest studying the grammar structures just like how the SNU books teach it. This way, when it comes to the test time you understand what they are looking for. There were five types of written questions:
1. Open -Ended Questions: The first three pages consisted of fairly easy open ended questions (Ex. 한국어를 얼마나 배우셨어요? Ans. 3 학기를 공부했어요. or you can try to use harder grammar like 배운지 3 학기쯤 됐어요.). Most questions seemed to be targeted at levels 1 and 2.
2. Grammar Focused Sentences: These already had the grammar written and you had to fill in the blanks. (Ex. 어제 왜 못 갔어요_______느라고 ______. Ans. 공부하느라고 못 갔어요.). To play it safe I wrote as much as possible on the first three pages because I wanted to ensure that I could show what I knew in the easy questions. Most questions seemed to be targeted at levels 3 and 4. If you study on your own while preparing for SNU I highly recommend studying from the workbook and cramming the grammar.
3. Vocabulary, Expressions Essay: The essay was only about 5 sentences, but required the use of 5 various vocabulary and expressions that appear later in (I think) level 5.
4. Grammar Essay: There was only one essay that requested the use of discussing “food and culture” using at least three grammar points out of maybe 7. I think this was targeted toward level 5 learners.
5. Situational Essay: This had a situation or scenario that you had to first understand, then respond to by filling in the squares like a TOPIK exam. This was difficult because it required you to use persuasive and advertising-style speech. Maybe this is level 5 or level 6 (I have no clue). The scenario itself, I admit, was complicated to understand because it was about two paragraphs long and explained how we need to persuade people to donate to work overseas in preventing disease and improving living conditions. I think level 6ers can handle this.
The second part of the exam consists of the interview. A lot of people left the exam early and were able to take their interview fairly quickly. I had to wait about 20 minutes to take my exam but when I went in I recognized the teacher. I didn’t speak much except how long I had been in Korea and where I had studied. The interview was only about 8 minutes, maximum. I think most people take about 10-15 minutes. In any case, since the teacher recognized me things went quite smoothly. I heard earlier that I will hear my official placement results next week on the first day of classes, though I think I will go by the interviewing teacher’s words. For those who could be nervous about this process, I took this four years ago and I remember at the time of the interview the teacher also told me my placement up front. If you want to know, just ask and they will usually be quite frank. It seems that speaking skills (with focus on grammar) are more valued than writing skills when it comes to taking Korean placement exams (this has been the case for my entrance into Korean programs throughout university, graduate, and programs in Korea).