[Review] Power Up! Korean Vocabulary

Yesterday, I finally got through to the end of one of my study materials that I’ve been holding on to for a very long time! I started working my way through this book months ago and I feel very satisfied having finally gotten to the end. It’s quite a small book, so it only made a very small dent in my large pile of Korean textbooks, but it’s a dent all the same.

Power Up! Korean Vocabulary is published by Korea University and includes 500 useful Korean vocabulary words as well as an illustrated index with even more words. Today I will be going into detail about the structure and contents of this book, as well as my preferred methods for studying with this text.


Table of Contents

As you can see from the pictured Contents, this book is arranged into 25 lessons. Each individual lesson contains 20 vocabulary words and a short “Check Up” to review the words learned in that lesson. After every 5 lessons, there is a longer “Review Exercise” which is composed of multiple choice questions. There is also an appendix with more useful vocabulary, words not included in the previous 25 lessons, that is divided into topics. Each topic has an illustration labelled with the vocabulary to help visual learners.


Lesson 1

Here you can see an example from Lesson 1 of the kind of information you can find in each lesson.

  • On the left hand side is the Korean word in blue. If the word has irregular conjugations, they will be provided directly beneath the word. Sometimes the hanja (chinese character) for that word will be provided directly to the right of the word.
  • On the right hand side is the part of speech and the English translation.
  • Below the translation, you can find many useful example phrases, sentences, and short dialogues to see the word used in context. In these instances, the word is in red.
  • Below the examples, you can often find synonyms, antonyms, and related words. If there is a small green box with numbers (as pictured above), then that word can be found in the corresponding lesson. For example, a similar word to 달리다 (to run, dash) is 뛰다 (to run or jump) but they can be used in different contexts, so it’s important to note the difference. According to the green box in the above picture, 뛰다 can be found in Lesson 24, 5th word in the lesson.
Lesson 1 Check Up

After each lesson, there is the Check Up section. It’s a very short, simple way to review what you learned. You simply match the words from the bank to the definitions below. For some lessons, you may find a topical list of interesting words, for example, common university majors or common careers, on the page following the Check-Up.

Lesson 1-5 Review Exercies

After every 5 lessons, there will be some review exercises. As you can see, all of the questions are multiple choice, but there are usually three types of questions:

  1. Choose the one which is most appropriate in the blank.
  2. Choose the one which can replace the underlined part.
  3. Choose the one which means the opposite of the underlined part.

Each Review Exercise contains approximately 20 multiple choice questions. An answer key is provided at the bottom of the last page of each Review Exercise.

Appendix I

Here is an example of one of the appendices. These are mostly topical lists of everyday nouns. It’s worth going through these pages and seeing if there are additional words you don’t know.

My Study Method

My go-to stationery – Zebra Mildliner, and Uniball Jetstream 0.38
A postcard I picked up in Buyeo. You can literally use any piece of scrap paper.

To study with this book, I only needed a couple of items: a highlighter, a pen, a card or scrap paper, and small flashcards.

On my first pass through the lesson, I would use the card to cover the English translation and try to define it on my own. Once I revealed the definition, I would get my highlighter ready. I was really strict on myself! If I didn’t know the word, thought I knew it but was slightly off, or even if I knew the word but hesitated to identify it, I would highlight the word. Then I would take time to read through all of the example sentences and explanations. I read every word and sentence out loud a few times to get my pronunciation just right and practice my overall fluidity since I sometimes stumble when reading. I’d use my pen to take the Check Up quizzes and complete the Review Exercises.

Small, simple flashcards on a ring from Art Box

Any words I highlighted went into this deck of flashcards. (I found these at Art Box for very cheap.) After every five lessons, I would go through the cards one by one, quizzing myself. If I made a mistake, I would go back to the very beginning. Once I got through all of the cards without any mistakes at least twice, I would allow myself to move on to the next five lessons. It was kind of a tedious task, but it helped me to better memorize the words.

I took a long break from this book so I have a lot of flashcards to review, but I finally got through the last lesson so all of the words that I need to learn are now officially all within this one deck of flashcards, so I don’t need to reference the book anymore (although there are many great example sentences for each word that would be worth rereading). Out of 500 words, I ended up with 92 flashcards.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed the format of this book and how everything was divided into short, digestible lessons. I would recommend this book to people who are upper beginner to low intermediate learners. There is no romanization so you should already know hangul before using this book. This book has many essential words, but if you’ve studied a bit with other materials, you might already know quite a lot of them like I did. And to get use out of the example sentences, you should already know some basic grammar. So again, I think this book is ideal for upper-beginner/low-intermediate learners.

As I was writing this blog post, I came across a Youtube channel by a Korean professor who made a few videos lessons for this book. If I had known about these video lessons before, I would have watched them to aid my study, and since this book doesn’t come with audio, these videos are a great resource for someone wanting to practice their pronunciation. I will link them here for anyone interested, and may even go through them all myself as a refresher!

I hope this post was helpful to anyone considering using this particular book, or for anyone who is interested in studying more Korean vocabulary.

Thanks for reading!

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