Korean language resources

How to Estimate the Size of Your Korean Vocabulary

Here’s the review of 3 different Korean vocabulary size tests. I used them for my first progress update where I decided to track my knowledge of Korean language as it (hopefully) grows over time.

I used TOPIK mock exam to estimate my knowledge of grammar and reading, but I wasn’t sure how to measure my Korean vocabulary size.

I looked around a bit, found several sites, and wrote below how good each one of them is in helping you determine the size of your Korean vocabulary.

These three Korean vocabulary assessment tests are ordered from my most favorite to the least:

How Many Korean Words Do You Know

https://howmanykoreanwordsdoyouknow.com

My rating: ☆☆☆☆

Online quiz how many Korean words do you know

This is my favorite online vocabulary level test for Korean.

It is the most precise one because it has the largest sample size, meaning it has the largest number of words you will be tested on. Consequently, it also takes the longest to take this test out of the three (scroll down to my second favorite site if you would rather do something quicker). The good thing is that you can choose the sample size. Choose less if you’re in a hurry (or lazy:) ), choose more if you want a more precise estimate. You can go as low as 10 words, or as high as 1000 words to be tested on. 10 didn’t give a good estimate.

The only downside to this test, and the reason why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, is that it’s really easy to cheat. Not just on purpose but by thinking you know the word when you don’t. I have to give the test some credit though, every word is a link to Naver Korean dictionary so you can check, but if you choose large sample size, and you’re being tested on 500 or 1000 words, it takes forever.

I chose 250 words and despite not knowing that many out of those, but because I was extra careful and went to confirm each one in the dictionary before I put a green circle next to it, it took a while. Trust me, in the beginner stage it’s easy to think you know the word when actually you don’t. For example, I mixed up 닫다 and 듣다 during the test. Never again.

The way I saw this problem solved in English vocabulary size test was to include nonsense words that looked like they could be English words but weren’t, and if you said you knew what the nonsense word meant you would lose many points. The goal was to not tick any nonsense words, that way you could be sure you really knew the words you ticked in the end.

About my results, I took each test twice on two separate days, to get as accurate Korean vocabulary size estimate as possible. Here are my results on day 1:

Results:

1947 words

The words are broken down into groups A, B, C from easiest to hardest. Hover over the words to see their group designation. Based on the sample above, here is how many you know in each group:

Group A: 835 words = 85% of sample * 982 total words
Group B: 657 words = 31% of sample * 2111 total words
Group C: 455 words = 16% of sample * 2872 total words

So the first Korean vocabulary size estimator said I know about 1947 words.

I took the test again on the next day, again with the sample size of 250. This time around it was estimated that I knew a bit more words in group A (938 as opposed to 835) and group B (722 as opposed to 657), and fewer words in group C (312 as opposed to 455), but I got a surprisingly similar result: 1972 words.

Results:

1972 words

The words are broken down into groups A, B, C from easiest to hardest. Hover over the words to see their group designation. Based on the sample above, here is how many you know in each group:

Group A: 938 words = 96% of sample * 982 total words
Group B: 722 words = 34% of sample * 2111 total words
Group C: 312 words = 11% of sample * 2872 total words

Final verdict: It’s a well-designed test, easy to click and check the word in the dictionary, giving you the control over how precise the results will be, and the results fit with what I expected my vocabulary size to be (a bit higher than I thought, but not by much).

Korean Placement Test

https://www.17-minute-languages.com/en/Korean-placement-test/

My rating: ☆☆☆☆

How many Korean words do i know placement test

My second favorite. Its biggest advantage is how short it is without sacrificing much on precision.

The estimator consists of three parts.

In the first part of the test you get a list of 30 words, 10 per each level of difficulty and you just put a check mark next to the words you know. Here I didn’t have to use the dictionary to check, because each word conveniently has its meaning next to it, blacked out, so you can hover or click on it to reveal the meaning and check if you were right.

(To understand the results of this test you should know that there’s a thing that’s called Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which marks the level of knowledge for languages from lowest to highest A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.)

I also took this test twice. The first time, in the “Assessment Test Part 1” I knew 5 words in the A1/A2 category, 3 in B1/B2 and 3 in C1/C2.

After I finished the first part I got this message:

You have marked this number of words: 11

Based on the first test, we can estimate the extent of your vocabulary. You know between: 900 and 2400 words
Please do a second test now. With this test we can determine exactly the extent of your vocabulary. You can therefore begin at the optimal position.

I guess one more test to go. “Assessment test 2: A detailed assessment of your knowledge.”

This test was definitely tailored to me based on my previous answers. I knew a lot more words this time around and this was their final assessment, in the 3rd part:

You know approximately: 1900 words

This corresponds with level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR 9 of our Korean intermediate course.

Referring to your current knowledge we highly recommend the following course…

I guess the test was a way to advertise their course, but I just ignored that :)

1900 words. Their assessment was surprisingly close to the first test I reviewed above! I totally disagree I am an intermediate, though. I’m not even sure if I understood them right that I’m at an intermediate level because A2 is a beginner level. And TOPIK says I’m A1. I also think I’m A1.

I took the same test one more time to make sure there wasn’t any luck involved. I got a very similar result.

Based on the first test, we can estimate the extent of your vocabulary. You know between: 900 and 2400 words

Now this was the final result

You know approximately: 1800 words

This corresponds with level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR 7 of our Korean intermediate course.

1800 words. I think that’s very accurate considering the test takes only a few minutes.

One thing that was a bit strange, although this is not important for estimating the size of vocabulary, was how they sorted the words into categories. For example, 묻다 was sorted into C1/C2 levels, the highest knowledge of foreign language one can attain, while in Naver dictionary one of its meanings “to ask” has three stars, signifying it’s the among the most commonly used words in Korean language. It was also one of the first words I learned.

Final verdict: Short and sweet, without sacrificing much accuracy in estimating. Easy to check the meaning of the word.

Online Korean Vocabulary Size Test

https://www.arealme.com/korean-vocabulary-size-test/en/?ag

My rating: ☆

Online Korean vocabulary size test

Don’t take this one.

Several gripes I have with this test: It asks complex questions in Korean and gives multiple choice answers. You have to have a good grasp of Korean grammar which shouldn’t be a part of vocabulary test, and there are only 4 possible answers which means if you have never even seen Korean in your life you will still get 25% of the answers correct just by clicking randomly.

There were questions (from my limited understanding) that asked to pick out Korean word that hasn’t been borrowed from English. Knowing where a word came from, while certainly some type of useful knowledge, is not the knowledge that reflects someone’s vocabulary size.

Just like my vocabulary in English doesn’t shrink if I don’t know if a word hails from Greek or French, as long as I know the meaning of the word and how to use it.

Funnily enough, those questions are probably harder for Native Korean speakers to answer than us English speakers.

Your Korean Vocabulary Size is: 2810

Last 41.17%

Your vocabulary size is like that of an 8-year-old child in Korea.

Yeah… no.

8-year-old child is the 2nd grade of Primary School. They are fully able to communicate and understand almost everything. I can’t even understand Korean cartoons for toddlers. Up until a few days ago I didn’t know how to say a goat!

Anyway, the test is a mess and the results are a mess.

I think if they didn’t claim it measures Korean vocabulary size it would be fine, and I’m sure native speakers can have fun with it.

However, it’s next to useless for us foreigners. My vocabulary size is nowhere close to 2810 words, and why do they say that’s the vocabulary of an 8-year-old child? I checked and by age 8, children have a vocabulary of 20,000 words.

Final verdict: Nope.


Now you know how to estimate your Korean vocabulary size (and if you’re not satisfied with the results here’s a list of 6000 most common words in Korean so you can get to work). I hope you take those test, at least the first two and let me know how many Korean words you know and how accurate you think the estimate is in the comments.

3 thoughts on “How to Estimate the Size of Your Korean Vocabulary”

  1. It’s okay. All I have to do is turn on an episode of a Korean drama/news/podcast without subs and be put in my place lol because there’s always words I don’t know or stuff i can’t catch and sometimes it’s to the point I have no idea what the hell is going on. Actually since you mention kids just turn on an episode of Korean dubbed and be put in your place lol… the kids understand it 100%

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