The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is the only official standardized test of the PRC for Chinese proficiency. The test is designed to assess the proficiency of students applying to universities and jobs in China. The HSK is also useful for those who just want to assess their progress in Chinese, as it covers writing, reading, and listening.
- HSK- Level 1 (Vocabulary: 150 words, Characters: 178, Length: 40 minutes)
Designed for learners who can understand and use some simple Chinese characters and sentences to communicate, and prepares them for continuing their Chinese studies. (Test includes pinyin for all characters).
- HSK- Level 2 (Vocabulary: 300 words, Characters: 349, Length: 55 minutes)
Examination candidates who reach HSK-Level 2 can communicate simply and directly on daily topics they are familiar with. Level 2 have reached the advanced stage of beginner level. (Test includes pinyin for all characters)
- HSK- Level 3 (Vocabulary: 600 words, Characters; 623, Length: 90 minutes)
Examination candidates who reach HSK-Level 3 can complete basic communication tasks in daily life, study and work. If traveling in China, Level 3 can handle most communication tasks they encounter.
- HSK- Level 4 (Vocabulary: 1200 words, Characters: 1075, Length 105 minutes)
Examination candidates who reach HSK-Level 4 can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and are able to communicate with native speakers.
- HSK- Level 5 (Vocabulary: 2500 words, Characters: 1711, Length: 125 minutes)
Examination candidates who reach HSK-Level 5 can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, appreciate Chinese films and television, and are able to write and deliver a full speech.
- HSK- Level 6 (Vocabulary: 5000+ words, Characters 2633, Length: 140 minutes)
Examination candidates who reach HSK-Level 6 can easily understand what they read and listen and express themselves fluently in written and oral Chinese.
Below you begin preparing for the test, you should be sure of which level you are going to take. You can use the resources below to decide which test you are going to prepare for, and then use our study materials at the end of this guide to prepare.
Character tests– Hanzitest and Clavisinica both provide short free tests that estimate how many characters you know. They are obviously not completely accurate, but you can use your score to compare with the character requirements above to get a general idea of which test you should take.
HSK Vocab Lists– Check out the HSK Vocab Lists/Flashcards (Excel) for a full list of the vocabulary required for each test.
Sample questions- You can look at some free sample tests from the HSK registration website here to see which test is best for your level. Wohok also has short descriptions and examples of the format of each test. Keep in mind you only need a 60% on the test to pass, so it is okay if you find some questions in a specific level too hard. If you are getting all the questions correct, than that level might be too easy for you.
HSK also provides three levels of speaking tests: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Universities and employers do not usually require HSK oral test certifications, but they can be useful to assess your speaking skills. Test outlines for each level can be found here, courtesy of chinaeducenter.com. Unless your speaking skills are very different from your reading/writing skills, you should take the oral test that corresponds with your written test level seen below.
- HSK Beginner (200+ words, HSK Level: 1-2, Class Experience: 2-3 hours per week for 1-2 semesters)
- HSK Intermediate (900+ words, HSK Level: 3-4, Class Experience: 2-3 hours per week for 1-2 academic years)
- HSK Advanced (3,000+ words, HSK Level: 5-6, Class Experience: 2-3 hours per week for 2+ academic years)
In order to register for the test, create an account at chinesetest.cn. Then click on the “test registration” page, choose your level, test center and date, and pay the registration fee. Below is the schedule of dates and test centers for the HSK Written and Spoken tests for 2013. Print the admission ticket and bring it with you on the day of the test.
|AK||CI at the University of Alaska Anchorage||4/20, 6/16, 10/20, 12/1||4/20, 10/20, 12/1|
|AL||CI at Troy University||3/24||Not available|
|AL||Center of Chinese Education Services in North America||3/24, 4/20, 5/12, 10/20, 12/1||Not available|
|AR||CI at the University of Central Arkansas**||3/24, 10/20||Not available|
|CA||CI at SF State||3/24, 10/20||3/24, 10/20|
|CA||CI at SF State-Fremont||3/24||3/24|
|CT||Glastonbury High School Confucius Classroom||3/25||Not available|
|DE||CI at University of Delaware||All Dates||Not available|
|FL||Florida International University||8/11, 12/1||Not available|
|FL||CI at Miami University||3/24, 4/20, 10/20, 12/1||Not available|
|FL||CI at Miami Dade College||3/24||3/24|
|GA||CI at Kennesaw State University||5/12, 8/20, 12/1||Not available|
|GA||CI in Atlanta||3/24||Not available|
|GA||Confucius Classroom at Germantown Academy||4/20, 5/12, 9/7, 10/20, 12/1||5/12, 10/20, 12/1|
|IN||CI in Indianapolis||5/12, 12/1||Not available|
|IN||The CI at Valparaiso University**||5/12||Not available|
|KY||CI at Kentucky University||3/24, 4/20, 10/20, 12/1||Not available|
|MD||CI at the University of Maryland－CIM||4/20, 5/12, 12/1||5/12, 12/1|
|MI||CI at Western Michigan University||4/20||Not available|
|MN||CI at the University of Minnesota||5/12, 12/1||10/20|
|MO||CI at Webster University||3/24||Not available|
|NC||CI at NC State University||3/24, 12/1||3/24, 12/1|
|NE||CI at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln||3/24||3/24|
|NY||CI at State University of New York College of Optometry||3/24, 5/12||3/24, 5/12|
|NY||The CI at Stony Brook University||3/24||3/24|
|NY||CI at Alfred University||4/20, 12/1||Not available|
|NY||CI at Pace University||3/24, 4/20, 10/20, 12/1||3/24|
|NY||CI at Buffalo University||3/24, 12/1||3/24|
|NY||SUNY CI for Business**||3/24||Not available|
|OR||CI at Portland State University||4/20, 5/12||5/12|
|OR||CI at University of Oregon||4/20||Not available|
|SC||CI at the University of South Carolina||4/20, 10/20||Not available|
|TN||CI at the University of Memphis||3/24, 5/12, 10/20, 12/1||3/24, 5/12, 10/20, 12/1|
|TN||CI at Middle Tennessee State||3/24||3/24|
|TX||The CI at Texas A&M University||4/20, 10/20||4/20, 10/20|
|TX||CI at the University of Texas at Dallas||3/24, 4/20, 5/12, 9/7, 10/20, 12/1||3/24, 5/12, 10/20, 12/1|
|UT||CI at the University of Utah||4/20, 9/7||Not available|
|VA||CI at George Mason University||3/24, 10/20||3/24, 10/20|
|VA||The College of William and Mary CI||3/24, 5/12, 10/20||3/24|
|WA||Washington State CI||4/20, 10/20||Not available|
|WA||Seattle University||5/12, 10/20||Not available|
**- Test is internet-based
There is no key method to succeeding on the HSK tests because higher levels simply require more experience with the language. However, there are many ways to prepare in the short-term that will help you improve your score. The guide below is split into three sections: vocabulary, practice tests, and review materials.
Hanban releases a list of words that students should know for each level of the HSK that can be found here: HSK Vocabulary Lists The corresponding word requirements for HSK levels can be seen below:
Online Resources- Many dictionary/flashcard websites have built-in HSK practice tools that you can use for free like Yellowbridge. This is a good resource to casually practice HSK terms in your spare time. Nciku also provides a collection of all of the unique characters you need to know for each level that you can find here.
Mobile Apps- The apps available for studying HSK vocabulary are actually much better than most of the resources online.
Hanping Chinese Dictionary has preloaded HSK lists that you can scroll through to practice vocabulary. You can also use hanping widgets on your phone’s home screen to display random words from the HSK lists. If you just plan on quizzing yourself on random words, you do not need to pay for any apps. Just install Hanping and look through their pre-defined vocab lists for HSK.
There are many other HSK vocab apps that have more functionality and give you quizzes on words you are having difficulty with. Babelquiz is free but only has levels 1-4. For levels 5 and 6, StarChinese is the best and costs $6.31. If you plan to do most of your vocabulary review away from home than it is worth it to purchase an app like StarChinese. Otherwise, you can use free apps for review and do more serious studying with Anki at home (see below).
Flashcards- The best method for memorizing new words/characters is through spaced repetition software (SRS) like Anki. This software creates flashcards based on a list of words you provide and then organizes them by difficulty. Every time you use the software Anki learns which words you find difficult and increases the frequency with which they appear. Using Anki allows you to learn more in a shorter amount of time while still allowing you to review old terms. Check out the full description on our writing/vocabulary page.
There are many websites and apps that provide mock HSK questions and full tests that you can use for free. For many students, the free resources will be enough material to prepare for the HSK. However, if you feel that you need more practice in a specific section, you can purchase materials fairly cheap through Amazon.
Confucius Institute Online– We recommend that you visit the Confucius Institute page first before taking other mock tests. This is because the Confucius Institute makes you take practice tests in an “exam room”, an automated system that times you and tests you in the same way that an official exam proctor would. Click “缩减版” for a shortened version of the test and “完整版” for a full version. After creating a free account on the Confucius Institute website, you can access the “专题集,” which has 10 full tests available to be taken in the “exam room.”
www.chinesetesting.cn– The HSK registration website provides 5 free, full-length tests with listening, reading, and writing sections for all 6 levels. Most websites you find online that charge for HSK practice will just give you sections from these 5 tests.
BLCU Materials– BLCU has been in cooperation with Han Ban since the HSK test started and are therefore most knowledgeable about HSK material and preparation. If you need more practice with mock tests, you can purchase “Simulated Tests of the New Chinese Proficiency Test” (新汉语水平考试：模拟试题集). Otherwise, BLCU materials are best for focusing in on a specific section, like grammar, listening, reading, or writing. “Brushing up your grammar for HSK” (语法点速记速练) provides plenty of grammar points, practice questions, and explanations for specific patterns.
Prep courses are not recommended for the HSK simply because there are many resources you can use for free. However, if you think having a scheduled time to practice will help you prepare, then see below for info on prep courses.
If mock tests and vocabulary review still leave you feeling unprepared for the test, you can take a preparation class. There don’t seem to be any HSK prep classes outside of China besides Confucius Institute classes, so the best option is to find a tutor online that specializes in HSK preparation. They are usually fairly cheap and will cost you anywhere from $8-$20 an hour. If you just plan on using your tutor to go over problems you had on mock tests, DO NOT waste the money. You can always use italki or sharedtalk (see our writing/vocabulary page for more info) to find native speakers to help you answer your questions for free. Tutors can be useful if they already have lesson plans for the HSK and will go through specific grammar points and test taking techniques. When using any of the below services, make sure you ask what their HSK course entails before you sign up.
italki.com- Many of the professional tutors on italki have HSK courses or you can contact high rated teachers and negotiate a lesson plan for HSK prep.
Below are some more websites to check out for preparation:
- Confucius Institute
- Chinese Mandarin Online Courses