Studying Abroad 2: Yonsei exams

Studying Abroad south korea yonsei kli exam explanation

I’m 2 days away from finishing my second semester here at Yonsei’s Korean Language Institue, and I think it’s safe enough for me to say that I’m definitely used to the exam system here now. That doesn’t mean I find the exams a breeze at all, any form of speaking under pressure – aka being marked on a spoken performance – still sends me into a mini mental breakdown, and I’ll always be just that bit under-prepared for listening exams (those tapes are nightmarish); but I’m 90% sure I’ve sussed the way these exams are marked and how to prepare for them.

So I guess if you’re planning to study at Yonsei, or any of the other Korean Language programs the different unis over here offer – since I’m pretty sure they operate on a similar kind of structure, then I hope you’ll find this kind of useful.

Placement Test:

This is the first ~exam~ you’ll sit if you want to study Korean in Korea at a university and not a hagwon. (That’s the Korean word for a kind cram school type thing). It generally consists of two sections: writing/reading and speaking. It’s a bit of an ordeal if you don’t know what to expect, so hopefully this prepares you a little bit.


Midterms!: I will just point out that these midterms are Yonsei-specific!!!! I know SKKU has presentations and speeches that you have to prepare for… but I don’t know fully as I don’t attend that schools’ program!

These are about four weeks after you start your course properly. At Yonsei, the midterms test the material you’ve learnt in chapters 1-4(inclusive) of the level you’re sitting for grammar/vocabulary and you’ll be told what chapters to revise in your reading classes. The midterms consist of four overall sections: speaking, writing, listening and reading. It’s a good idea to work hard for your midterms, because good midterm results mean you don’t have as much pressure on you to do extra well in finals!



These are run in the same way as midterms – speaking, writing, listening, reading – only you’ll be tested on chapters 5-9(inclusive) instead of 1-4. The questions will be harder, since you’ll be building on your korean knowledge from the first half of the semester. For the speaking part of finals, it’s still split into two segments, the first is a role-play, the second is the interview. Also, your class participation activity will be used as some of your speaking mark too (5%). So make sure you attend that!

Will I know how many marks a question is?

Yup!! The marks for each question are in brackets at the end of the sentence, or at the end of the explanation that is relevant to the question set you are about to answer. The format will be a bit like this:

queeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeestioooooooooooooooooooooon?  (4)

explanation of question set, ooh look here’s an explanation please read me carefully. (4 x 2)

The first is an example of a 4 mark question, (most of the questions are 4 marks, actually), the second is an example of a question set that contains 4 questions at 2 marks each. 


Overall Marking + pass/fail thresholds:

Marking of the papers is done in lovely red pen, and can take some getting used to. A circle around a question number tends to mean a right answer, and a line through a number tends to mean you got it wrong. You can also have marks deducted for incorrect spelling, spacing, use of particles and slight misuse of grammar points – so please be careful, and don’t try and be too clever if you’re not 100% sure that you use that like that.

Pass/Fail threshold:

In South Korea, the pass mark is 60%; so if you get 60% overall or higher in each module, you have passed the module. The two scores from Midterms and Finals are added together to give you an overall mark. This is then calculated into your final percentage which determines whether you pass or fail the level. 

If your final percentage is 60% or higher, you have passed the level. This can happen even if you fail one or two modules (receiving lower than 60% overall for speaking/writing/listening/reading); providing your other marks are very good. If this happens you can retake the modules you need to pass. If your final percentage is less than 60%, you have failed the level, and, unfortunately, have to resit the whole thing. (Though in some very special circumstances you can ask to resit/remark etc).

Welp. This has been a super long post but I hope it helps those intending to study at Yonsei’s KLI!! I always find having an insight into things like this really helps – and I really don’t want anyone to be in the position I was in before I started at Yonsei: aka completely lost and panicked because no one had told me how the placement test was done – let alone what to expect come midterms. 

If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to ask! 

And yes, I passed my finals. ~ woo!!!

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14 responses to “Studying Abroad 2: Yonsei exams”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I'm planning to study abroad at Yonsei this fall (Fall 2015) and I want to take a Korean language class there as well. This post was very helpful! 🙂 Thank you ^^

    • Fii Cridland says:

      No problem! If you're taking the class as an additional, then you'll be in the afternoon sessions I think – good luck, it's hard work and really intensive, but a great way to learn korean 🙂

  2. Sara Ahn says:

    Heyy im taking the placement test next month.. i was wondering if you can give me more tips on the placement test… is there a lot of fill in answers and which level did you place if you dont mind me asking.. thanks hope to hear for you soon

    • Fii Cridland says:

      Ooh ok! There are a couple of multiple choice questions, a few where you have to find the answers from a passage of text, The amount of writing you have to do increases as you get to the harder parts of the placement test. I placed in level 2 because of my absolutely terrible speaking part~I hope your placement test goes well!x

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi,Can i check with you, after you are done with one level and want to continue on with the next level, do you have a break in between? Like after you end with one level, there will be 1/2 weeks break then you will proceed to the next level?

    • Fii Cridland says:

      Yep there's usually a break in between – september semester ends with winter break (early december to early january), january semester ends before easter break (two weeks around easter) and there's a break in between both of the summer semesters too, that are usually a couple of days. Since Yonsei is a Christian University they follow the Christian holidays 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I'll be studying at Yonsei this fall (Fall 2015) and I was planning on taking a Korean language course. In your opinion, how good does your Korean have to be to test into the 2nd level? I have already taken of year of Korean at my home university.

    • Fii Cridland says:

      I think you'll have a pretty solid grounding to place in level 2, perhaps even level 3 if you have a really good knowledge/grasp of reported speech 🙂 The speaking part of the placement test will also help determine whether you're level 1 or 2, so try and respond as fully as you can. Good luck!! xo

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Fii !! Thank you so much for your post, super useful as I'll be also be taking placement test for coming fall 🙂 Could you advise us the books usually used in Yonsei for level 2 ? Super curious ! Thaaaanks, xo

    • Fii Cridland says:

      No problem and good luck! Remember not to panic (too much), and get lots of sleep the night before!The books I used for level 2 were the yonsei specific ones (you might be able to find them online? though i don't actually know if you can). For additional resources, I used the internet (forums, talk to me in korean, korean101) a l o t. And if you have korean friends get them to help or explain things you're not sure of 🙂 (Make a lot of korean friends!!)Good luck again, and enjoy your time at yonsei 🙂 :)xo

  6. Светлана Ким says:

    HelloThank you for your post, I wish I've read it earlier as today I had a placement test. In my country I've passed 2levels and began 3 level but I still have a big problems with speaking. And I'm afraid today I've failed speaking. I was so nervous that I could hardly say anything though questions were rather easy and in common situation I could answer them but not today. I hope I've passed writing test for 2 level but my speaking was so awful that I think they'll place me into 1 level. It will be a big tragedy for me. You say I can go to administrator and explain him, so I wonder is it really possible that they'll listen to me and agree to place me to 2 level?

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