How good is your Chinese language? If you’re studying for a while or interested to start soon, you might know of the HSK test.
In the past few years, there has been a surge in demand for the Chinese language. This all has increased in the popularity of HSK, the most popular Mandarin exams.
This Mandarin test is an ideal way to measure your knowledge and identify your level, helping you learn and improve before moving to the next level.
Here in this post, you can discover everything, from dates, centers, test structure, fees, question format, scoring system, how to prepare, and much more.
So, let’s get the ball rolling!
What is the HSK test?
HSK is the abbreviation of Hanyu (Chinese), Shuiping (Level), and Kaoshi (test). Thus, this refers to the “Chinese Level Test.”
The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi / 汉语水平考试) is a standardized test for non-Chinese speakers to certify the Mandarin language skills.
The overseas Chinese and national minorities in China are also eligible to take the exam.
Who conducts the exam?
The center for language education and cooperation (CLEC) administrates the HSK test worldwide. It operates under the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the People’s Republic of China.
CLEC is a non-profit government institution that promotes Chinese language education and conducts various Mandarin tests like CTCSOL and HSK globally.
They also manage over 500 Confucius Institutes in several countries and run various flagship programs like “Chinese Bridge,” teacher training, scholarships.
They also foster study in China and student exchange initiatives.
Hanban is the former name. But because of controversy concerning how it functions, it changed the name to CLEC in July 2020.
Recognition of HSK worldwide
HSK came into existence in 1984, and in 1991, they conducted the first HSK exam outside China. Since then, it has become the world’s most famous Mandarin language ability test for non-native Chinese.
The Chinese Government institutions award and officially recognize different variants of HSK.
And that is the number one reason nearly all government organizations, businesses, and public and private educational institutions accept and trust HSK certification.
Advantages of HSK examination
There are many benefits associated with the HSK test. Here are some well-known ones.
1. Know your precise proficiency level
Do you fancy knowing how good you are in the Chinese language?
HSK can help you identify your current Mandarin proficiency.
If you’re studying Chinese for a while, you naturally want to confirm your current language expertise.
In that case, the HSK score gives you a well-defined competency level. That’s a tremendous confidence booster.
You will also recognize your shortcomings. And this can encourage you to concentrate on those parts that need your extra attention. These all can empower you to prepare better for the forthcoming HSK examination.
2. Study & Work in China
Do you wish to study or find post-study work in China?
HSK is a prerequisite for most Chinese organizations.
While the requirement differs, HSK can add significant value to your profile while applying to Chinese universities and companies.
In most cases, you might need to pass a specific HSK level, varying from 3 to 6.
Most Chinese colleges and academies essentially ask for HSK scores for the undergraduates and postgraduates admissions process for international students.
This is also beneficial as proof of language ability for employment applications in China.
3. The career advancement
The ability to speak Chinese is an added benefit for anyone looking for careers requiring the Chinese language across the globe.
Suppose you’re applying for a job in any company that deals with Chinese people or business. In that situation, the HSK diploma can be a valuable asset to your C.V.
The documentary evidence, included with other qualifications, will put you on your way to a successful interview process.
4. An opportunity to get scholarships
China provides an abundance of scholarships, allowances, grants, and fellowships to meriting students from different nations, and HSK exam marks are necessary for several.
This scholarship comprises a monthly allowance and other incentives throughout your stay in China. You can get a quality education at pocket-friendly or almost free is not something you’d like to miss.
China offers 100’s of scholarships ranging from the Chinese Government Scholarship (CSC) to various local government, enterprise, and university ones.
The understanding of the Chinese language is not compulsory for many such programs.
This mainly depends on your academic performance, courses, and overall profile. However, it can increase your possibilities to receive these scholarships.
5. This will hep you understand China
Language and culture are interconnected and profoundly rooted.
When you learn a new foreign language, you also acknowledge and get a better perception of the country’s culture and traditions where it originated.
You cannot pass the higher level of HSK without the study of the cultural aspects.
And this is how HSK can assist you to appreciate Chinese society, history, and customs better.
This awareness can support you with a comfortable stay in the country. And it also strengthens the chances if you desire to migrate to one of the Chinese-speaking regions.
Specialized HSK Examination
There are two primary varieties of HSK exams. The standard HSK has one test. In contrast, there are four specialized exams for different purposes.
Let’s find everything.
1. HSK Speaking Test (HSKK)
HSSK (also known as the HSK speaking test) evaluates a candidate’s verbal aptitude.
HSKK includes three sublevels — Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced. All three levels comprise 3 sections each — listen and repeat, picture description, and answer the question.
They organize the HSKK test in the mode of audio recording. This judges your pronunciation, tonal ability, flow, and overall fluency in the language.
The advanced level is comparable to the C level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
The maximum mark is 100, and one needs a minimum of 60 to pass the examination. The validity is for 2 years from the result announcement date.
As this is only an oral one, you can take this along with other Chinese proficiency tests. During the interaction, they also record the candidate’s speech.
2. Youth Chinese Test (YCT)
The new Youth Chinese Test is for young school-going students whose mother tongue is not Chinese.
YCT measures the test takers’ skills to express themselves in day-to-day activities, academic goals, and professional experiences.
The test structure has two independent tests — a written and an oral examination.
The written contains four levels (I, II, III, and IV), whereas the speaking has two (beginner and intermediate).
After clearing the test, you will get the result within three weeks.
3. Business Chinese Test (BCT)
Peking University designed BCT as per the direction of the office of Chinese language council international.
Business Chinese Test evaluates candidates’ knowledge to use Mandarin in business, daily communication, professions, or everyday working settings.
BCT has two independent tests: BCT (listening & reading) and BCT (speaking & writing). You can take either or both at the same time.
Each specific skill score (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) is 0-500, and 100 for each level.
They have also recently introduced two forms of tests, i.e., paper-based and computer-based.
The written examination has two levels — BCT (A) and BCT (B). There is no minimum or maximum age limit, and the score expires in 2 years.
4. Medical Chinese Test (MCT)
Do you aspire to pursue MBBS in China?
Then, take Medical Chinese Test. They will conduct the 2021 test in May and November.
MCT is for foreigners who want to study medicine or non-medical fields like clinical diagnosis and other related practitioners in China.
They designed MCT to evaluate the candidate’s familiarity to interact in the Mandarin language with patients, doctors, nurses, medical personnel, and hospital staff.
MCT comprises three components: reading, listening, and writing. The score you earn determines your language capability.
You also require learning hundreds of words and terminology related to the medicine and pharmaceutical domain.
Everything About Standard HSK
Let’s find out everything linked with the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi).
What are the HSK levels?
The current HSK test comprises six independent levels: level I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.
The HSK 1 and 2 includes include writing and reading skills. In comparison, HSK 4, 5, and 6 have writing, reading, and listening.
There is no speaking section. Thus, to check your speaking skill, take HSKK. The HSK oral test has three sublevels:
- (i) HSK (Elementary),
- (ii) HSK (Intermediate), and
- (iii) HSK (Advanced).
The new HSK levels
In May 2020, the Chinese Testing International (CTI) announced that they are changing the present six levels into “three stages and nine sublevels.” in the future.
They changed the existing HSK test structure to bring it closer to par with CEFR. The new format will look pretty much like below:
- HSK 1, 2, and 3 — Beginners, like A1 and A2.
- HSK 4, 5, and 6 — Intermediate, like B1 and B2, and
- HSK 7, 8, and 9 — Advanced, like C1 and C2.
The beginners consist of 3 levels, such as beginners, elementary, and pre-intermediate. HSK 3 will be close to A2. Similarly, HSK 6 and HSK 9 will look on par with B2 and C2.
The difficulty level, passing mark, cumulative vocabulary, and composition will also change.
One significant difference would be the number of words. For example, the highest level would cover over 10,000 vocabularies instead of an existing 5,000. This is necessary to keep it par with near-native level C2 of CERF.
I’ll update when they update with additional information.
Test structure and syllabus
While most questions are MCQ’s (Multiple choice question or True/False), there are subjective too in the higher levels.
Let’s find out the specific level outline, required number of words, and the test duration.
|HSK Levels||Description||Test Duration||Total Words Required|
|HSK1||HSK level 1 is the first and easiest level. You will understand simple Chinese phrases, greetings, beginner vocabulary, grammar, and straightforward sentence formation require communicating as a novice learner. This builds a necessary foundation to help you with further studies.||40||150|
|HSK2||In HSK 2, the candidates can write and read on frequently used situations and day-to-day activities. Here, you have a general idea of familiar subjects and can also hold basic conversations, but with some difficulties. The elementary level is the gateway to the lower intermediate.||55||300|
|HSK3||HSK 3 level goes beyond basic things and is the midway of Mandarin proficiency. You can make intermediate-level sentences and communicate for various purposes, like personal and professional. This level also assists you in communicating when you’re in a Chinese-speaking region.||90||600|
|HSK4||If you’re planning to study or work in China, aim for at least HSK 4. This level will help you write long essays and talk about an extensive range of topics with native Chinese. Your ability to use upper-intermediate words, tricky tones, and grammar will be significantly higher.||105||1200|
|HSK5||HSK 5 is an advanced level. It allows you to read Chinese newspapers, magazines, documents, and web content in the Chinese language. You can speak, read, and listen to nearly all topics. Besides, you can also watch movies for learning Chinese, tv-series and listen to music with little trouble.||125||2,500|
|HSK6||HSK 6 is the highest level, and obviously, the most challenging one. You can write and speak Mandarin comfortably. While you may or may not be near-native fluent, but you can use several idiomatic expressions, complicated tones and make complex sentences almost spontaneously.||140||5,000|
The scoring system & passing mark
All three sections, i.e., writing, reading, and listening, have a maximum mark of 100.
They provide all characters and Pinyin for the first two levels. Oppositely, they don’t offer Pinyin for the remaining ones, and everything is in Chinese characters.
Since there is no listening section in HSK 1 and 2, this total score is 200. To pass, you need a minimum of 120 points out of 200.
In comparison, HSK 4, 5, and 6 have a maximum of 300. And you require a minimum of 180 out of 300 to pass.
How long are scores valid?
The HSL certificate never expires, i.e., valid for a lifetime.
However, if your aim is for college and university admission in mainland China, your scores are valid for two years only from the date you take the test.
HSK testing centers
Chinese Testing International (CTI), a government establishment, manages the Chinese test, either on its own or through various collaborations with educational centers worldwide.
As of March 2021, CTI maintains 1,208 HSK test centers in 155 countries. They support over 30 million global Chinese learners.
They don’t administer the test in Taiwan (The Republic of China). Taiwan has its separate Chinese exam, i.e., TOCFL, and it doesn’t conduct it in China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
2021 HSK test dates
They publish the exam dates once a year, and typically, they conduct 14 times a year across the world.
Usually, registration closes four weeks before the scheduled test. However, the internet-based exams’ deadline is ten days before their respective test dates.
|Test Dates||Written Exam Registration Last Date||Online Exam Registration Last Date||Paper Results Date||Online Results Date|
|Jan 9 (Sat)||Dec 13, 2020||Dec 30, 2020||Feb 9||Jan 25|
|Feb 6 (Sat)||Jan 10||Jan 27||Mar 13||Mar 1|
|Mar 7 (Sun)||–||Feb 25||–||Mar 22|
|Mar 20 (Sat)||Feb 21||Mar 10||Apr 20||Apr 5|
|Apr 10 (Sat)||Mar 14||Mar 31||May 17||Apr 26|
|May 15 (Sat)||Apr 18||May 5||June 15||May 31|
|June 19 (Sun)||May 23||June 9||July 19||July 5|
|July 18 (Sun)||June 21||July 8||Aug 18||Aug 2|
|Aug 22 (Sun)||July 26||Aug 12||Sept 22||Sept 6|
|Sept 11 (Sat)||Aug 15||Sept 1||Oct 18||Sept 27|
|Oct 17 (Sun)||Sept 20||Oct 7||Nov 17||Nov 1|
|Nov 6 (Sat)||–||Oct 27||–||Nov 22|
|Nov 20 (Sat)||Oct 24||Nov 10||Dec 20||Dec 6|
|Dec 5 (Sun)||Nov 8||Nov 25||Jan 5, 2022||Dec 20|
2021 HSK Speaking Test Dates
|Test Dates||Paper and Pencil Exam||Internet-based Exam||Date of Results|
|Jan 9 (Sat)||Dec 13, 2020||Dec 30, 2020||Feb 9|
|Mar 20 (Sat)||Feb 21||Mar 10||Apr 20|
|Apr 10 (Sat)||Mar 14||Mar 31||May 17|
|May 15 (Sat)||Apr 18||May 5||June 15|
|July 18 (Sun)||June 21||July 8||Aug 18|
|Oct 17 (Sun)||Sept 20||Oct 7||Nov 17|
|Dec 5 (Sun)||Nov 8||Nov 25||Jan 5, 2022|
They declare the results in 4 to 6 weeks after the test. Since the dates vary, so check with the nearest test centers.
What is the examination fee for 2021?
The test fee for each corresponding level differs, depending on where you take the test.
For example, the price is between $30 to $80 in the USA, whereas, in India, it ranges from ₹ 1500 to 6500.
In mainland China, the cost for HSK level 1 is 150RMB. It increases by 100RMB after every grade and goes to a maximum of 650 RMB for the highest one, i.e., level 6.
How do I register for the HSK test?
The last date for each exam will differ. Thus, you need to check the deadline and submit your applications before that.
You can register directly on the official website. If you don’t have the account, you can register as a new user.
Once done, you can pick the level, dates, test center, and choose the format between paper-based and internet-based.
Next, upload your photo, fill in the identity number like a passport, driving license, etc., and complete the application form.
Finally, make the payment and submit your complete application form.
Alternatively, you can contact your nearest HSK test centers, and they will help you complete the registration.
How to prepare for HSK?
The Chinese language is one of the most difficult languages, but there are ways to make it simpler.
Passion, perseverance, preparation, and practice can pave the path to success in HSK.
In the age of the easily accessible internet, you can find plenty of online resources like books, apps, audio and video lessons, and LMS programs.
All these can be the start, but not the end. Most of these online study materials are for beginner levels and not for higher levels like 3 to 6.
It would be beneficial to find an experienced teacher or enroll at some Chinese learning center near you. The good thing is, you can find an abundance of institutes in every major city.
Plus, as language and culture are interconnected, you can also focus on China’s cultural aspect and history to enhance your learning experience.
You can also check the websites to get many sample papers and previous year’s questions to help you prepare better and ensure you ace the exam!.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Should you take the Chinese HSK exam?
You may want to know your exact level and check yourself how much you studied.
Reasonably, you require a minimum score for a visa application in China for study or work.
You probably desire to improve at using Mandarin for your career advancement to show potential interviewers how good you’re in the language.
Whatever might be your motivation, the HSK test can be an excellent value add to your C.V to edge out your competitors.
This is a worthwhile effort to encourage you to accomplish more in your personal, academic, and professional life.
Do you have questions for me? You can share your thoughts in the comment section below!