I had to take the Level 5 exam twice, unfortunately. The first time, I received 59 points, which was just short of the 60 point passing score. Fuck, right? I was only slightly upset because it was kind of hilarious.
The writing questions on both tries of Level 5 were very similar. The first time I tried, I had to write a 200-character length or so essay, introducing a hometown food item to Koreans, and explain how it’s made, how it tastes, etc. The second was similar: introduce a well-known hometown location to Koreans and explain why you’re fond of that location. Easy. I couldn’t think of locations in my podunk hometown that would interest the examiner. Gotta milk those points, you know? So, I pretended to be more exciting than I actually was. I pretended I was a New Yorker introducing thin crust pizza (sorry), and for the second exam, I wrote about Hollywood and all the MOVIES! STARS! RANDOM SIGHTINGS OF CELEBRITIES!! (insert jaded eyeroll here)
The speaking test was hard, in my opinion. There was a piece of paper taped to the desk that I sat at, and it was a couple of paragraphs about job interview etiquette. I was asked to explain the passage, then give my opinion on what kind of person should be hired by the company, and what other additions I had to the suggestions of appropriate job interview etiquette. Second round was about Korean family units – compare and contrast, then and now. The answer is extended families vs nuclear families, single households, etc etc. The last round of questions was a bit wild: give a brief breakdown of the Korean War, and explain what problems might occur after reunification. What the hell, I didn’t even know how to explain that in English. Anyway, 59/60 it was. My Korean co-workers were shocked when they found out about the third set of questions, saying that surely immigration shouldn’t expect foreigners to answer that sort of thing? But then again, I think if they’re applying for permanent residency, maybe they should? I don’t know. It’s a sensitive issue and I had actively avoided forming any sort of opinion on it AT ALL … and then there it was.
At my second try at the Level 5 exam the following month, it was much easier. The questions were about the Korean education system – give a quick summary of it, contrast it to your home country’s education system, and explain the problems that occur from the high level of Korean enthusiasm for education. The second round of questions was about the internet. I had to explain what it’s useful for, what Korean websites I usually visit and why, and also explain the problems that arise from internet usage. I was surprised that there wasn’t a third round of questions, because there has always been three rounds of questions for my placement exam, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and the previous Level 5 … I suspect it was because my testing partner and I had taken up too much time talking during the first two rounds. I later found out from another tester that the third round of questions was about urbanization.
My complaint about KIIP exams is that cheating is rampant. There’s zero cheating during the objective and written portions, because it’s really strict. But, it’s a free-for-all during the speaking test. During my first go at the speaking test, after the first round of people got out, they were mobbed by other test takers, asking about the questions. While I was in the waiting room, people were openly on their phones and textbooks, even though the rules said we couldn’t have our phones or textbooks. Our invigilator would occasionally scold them but never really did anything about it. During the second speaking test, the phone rules were stricter … but! While the invigilator was out, walking the current round of test takers to their test rooms, someone came in to pick up his bag after his test … and whispered the questions to his friends, who then told everyone else. And when the waiting room had dwindled to the last 25% or so, the invigilator straight up told us all the questions on the speaking test, and held an open discussion of possible answers.