12-year-old girl gets perfect TOEFL score
By Kim Tae-jong

A first-year middle school girl received a perfect score of 120 points on the latest TOEFL exam, becoming the youngest Korean to achieve that result.

The 12-year-old student said extensive reading helped her learn English and get a perfect score in the exam.

“I really enjoy reading and learning English is more like a fun hobby for me,” said Sung Whi-yeon at Daewon International Middle School in Seoul.

She briefly attended an English hagwon or private learning school when she was an elementary school student, and has never lived abroad. However, she was able to learn English mostly at home thanks to her mother.

“My mom bought me many fairytale books written in English when I was young and read them over and over again, which I think helped me a lot naturally to learn the language,” she said, adding that she also enjoys watching American movies and soap operas without Korean subtitles.

Her teacher said she is just an ordinary girl but well prepared for her studies at school.

“She always places first in class and enjoys reading a lot,” her teacher Kim Hyo-jin said. “Apart from that, she is just like any of her other classmates.”

Sung received perfect scores on all four sections — reading, listening, writing, and speaking — on the Internet-based TOEFL exam she took on Aug. 13.

In Korea, adults and high school students occasionally get a perfect score but she is the second middle school student to do so. The former record-holder is her senior at the same school, who received a perfect score in 2009 at age 13.

Sung said it made her develop a strong sense of rivalry and motivated her to challenge herself to become the youngest to get a perfect score in the exam.

She said she wants to become a doctor in the future, “I think the job seems to be very rewarding, and for the goal, I’ll do what I have been doing.”