Wow, so it is already time for my final exam in level 4. It is bittersweet. I thought when I started level 1, four years ago, that level 4 must be quite difficult. The teachers had told me it was. I believed them. Since then I have come to realize that teachers and professors sometimes think they are giving advice to look out for you, but these can be obstacles and discouragements. Once I had an advisor told me not to take Korean because as an American it would be hard. Looking back, yes it has been difficult, but that is only because I didn’t have the right resources. Also I think over time language is more about enthusiasm, repetition, and motivation. If you get off the language horse, you really can’t get on easily. You need to reshape your attitude and jump on with confidence.
So here I am in level 4, which I think is actually equivalent to an 8-10 year old reading level, but the content is also adult level so sometimes you are on the edge of middle school level. The exam questions at SNU are not like TOPIK, which I learned during the mid-term. We have two days for the exam.
Day 1: 어휘/문법/쓰기/읽기
This will test are ability to “fill in the blank” thinking of all the vocabulary we can remember. There are about ten blanks, and I think this is the hardest because you have to remember the vocabulary. Your best bet is to memorize the handouts that they use to help you review. Also any words with multiple meanings (이르다: 1이르러요/2이러요), or various ways to write it (차라리 or 느니 차라라) will be bound to pop up.
As for writing, speed and grammatical review is necessary. You don’t have to be creative. You should remember anything Korean-culture related. For the midterm 임꺽정, and any Korean-related stories popped up either on the writing or in the interview portion. As for grammar, they will usually provide you with the form, you just have to make a sentence. (This is the same for the proficiency exam at SNU).
Reading also requires speed. If you can read quickly, you won’t have a problem. Review all the dialogues, because similar content is bound to pop up.
For this portion, I recommend reviewing the workboook and handouts heavily.
Day 2: Speaking
On the midterm exam we had an interview, which consisted of talking about book-related content. In my opinion Sogang’s mid-term speaking was more natural. While we did have to memorize grammar forms, we focused on regular everyday speech whereas SNU focuses on memorizing content from the book and regurgitating it. This has a skill in its own but its super boring and come on…how useful is it really?
For the final exam we have a debate that we have prepared for…I assume this will require memorizing. One student told me to try to use a lot of level-4 grammar to ensure a higher grade. I don’t think it matters much, but his grades are higher than mine so I’ll take his advice. Ah, the art of studying for Korean exams means thinking in the box. I guess that is okay, but kills creativity.