Now people have sat the TOPIK, found out how to check their scores, and now comes the question “what is a good score?”
I suppose that depends on what you need it for, how long you have studied for it, and your own expectations?
I guess most will first look at the level and then at the margin by which they passed. If you need a level 5 to enter a study programme in Korea, passing level 5 is the primary concern. As long as that little green table says 5급 you’re home safe. In this case it’s not about the actual numbers but about having a score that is “good enough”.
By what margin?
I passed level 2. But the margin wasn’t absolutely great. A few more questions off in the multiple choice sections or a few more blunders in the essay and I would have gotten a level 1. Is it better to get an average of 97 than a straight 70? Yep, absolutely, but when it comes to the overall level, there are two options: you either passed a given level or you didn’t. It’s not like a uni grading scale where the specific margin is important because it determines an actual grade.
The margin will in most cases be a matter of personal pride and a way to figure out which skill needs more work.
The specific score will of course also say something about how much you have to work to pass the next exam if that is your goal. For instance I will have to work much harder to be able to successfully sit the intermediate exam than someone who got an average of 97 in the beginner exam since I have a greater gap to cover having an average of 71.25.
For how long did you study?
Someone who takes the beginner exam 3 months after finding out that Korea even exists and juuuust manages to get a level 1 might run a victory lap in the living room singing “we are the champions” while someone who studied several years for the beginner exam and got a 98 average is likely to be a little more stoic about it.
What else did you do? / other things in your life
Did you spend 8 hours a day drilling Korean grammar for four months before the exam or did you spend 18 hours per day writing on your thesis, crying yourself to sleep at night because your focus group didn’t turn up and your supervisor was getting antsy?
Or were you sick when taking the exam, eating pain killers during part 1 and desperately trying not to cough during the listening section?
What I’m trying to get at is: did you do well “considering the circumstances”?
So what is a good score?
Who knows? There are some objective measures such as passing a given level or not, but the rest really is one big grey zone.
I think the most important question is: are you happy with your score considering the amount of work you put into it and considering the circumstances under which you sat the exam?