The HSK® (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi or Chinese Proficiency Test) is a professional Chinese language exam. It precisely measures the examinee’s language level who's first language is not Chinese.
Even if English is the primary language for international trade, Mandarin comes in right behind and sometimes takes the lead in trading between Asian countries.
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7 key information to remember
The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi or Chinese Proficiency Test) is a linguistic examination of Mandarin Chinese, recognized and administered by the International Bureau of Chinese Language (Hanban). This test directly depends on the Ministry of Education for the People's Republic of China. It is aimed at all individuals whose mother tongue is not Chinese and who wish to progress in a professional or academic environment in China.
HSK has suddenly gained popularity around the globe since one has realized the advantage of mastering a language like Chinese in the professional world. As a proof, we have seen an explosion in the number of candidates since 2013. Registrations for HSK are doubled every quarter. HSK certification has a validity period of 2 years
The HSK consists of two or three distinct parts, depending on the chosen level : oral comprehension and written comprehension for HSK 1 and 2, to which is added a written expression test for HSK 3 to 6.
The HSK is divided by language levels, each of these sections’ difficulty increases depending on the level which is chosen. The number of exercises, the duration of the evaluation as well as the difficulty of the exercises, intensifies from HSK 1 to HSK 6.
Although it was possible to take this exam on a computer for a short time, the most common form of HSK is paper. To do so, a booklet with a text and image support is distributed to each candidate and the audio recordings are distributed by an administrator. The responses must then be entered on a response sheet, provided for this purpose.
HSK exists in 6 versions, each one is dedicated to a specific level of skills.
HSK 1 for beginners (corresponds to level A1 to CECRL)
HSK 1 is dedicated to beginners in Mandarin Chinese, who have studied the language 2h to 3h per week for a semester. It requires a mastery of at least 150 characters and the ability to communicate in an elementary manner, using very simple words and sentences.
HSK 1 is scored on 200 points. This test lasts 35 minutes and is divided into two parts: oral comprehension and written comprehension.
HSK 2 corresponds to level A2 of CECRL
HSK 2 certifies a good command over basic Chinese and is also scored out of 200. It lasts 55 minutes and is made up of an oral comprehension section and another one which is the written comprehension section. Candidates who pass this test are able to conduct a simple conversation and obtain information in daily life.
This level requires mastery of approximately 300 words and simple grammar rules, the candidate must be able to communicate and understand everyday subjects.
HSK 3 corresponds to the B1 level of CECRL
Through this level, HSK assesses the candidate's ability to write Chinese characters in addition to knowing how to read them. This test lasts 90 minutes and is scored on 300 points. HSK 3 is made up of 3 sections, each one is marked on 100 points: Reading (written comprehension), Listening (oral comprehension) and Writing (written expression). HSK 3 is aimed at students in Mandarin Chinese who have studied the language for 3 semesters, for 2 to 3 hours per week. To certify to this level, one must have mastered 600 vocabulary words and grammar rules and be able to express oneself in writing and orally in everyday Chinese. Fluency in Chinese in a basic academic and professional context is also required for HSK 3.
HSK 4 corresponds to the B2 level of CECRL
Level 4 of HSK also includes 3 parts, which include written comprehension, oral comprehension and written expression. It lasts a total of 105 minutes and is scored out of 300. HSK 4 assesses the ability of candidates to discuss various topics with people whose mother tongue is Chinese. This test is for those people who have studied Mandarin Chinese for at least 4 semesters (with lessons 2h to 4h per week). It is important to obtain level 4 in HSK, to master 1200 vocabulary words.
HSK 5 corresponds to the level C1 of CECRL
This level certifies an excellent command over Mandarin Chinese. HSK 5 test lasts for a total of 125 minutes, with the same 3 sections like for previous versions. It is also scored on 300 points. HSK 5 targets students who have benefited from more than 2 years of studying Chinese and have mastered more than 2,500 vocabulary words. This level certifies the candidates' ability to read books and newspapers and watch movies in Chinese. To pass this test, it is necessary to speak Chinese fluently, in the context of everyday life but also professional life.
HSK 6 corresponds to the C2 level of CECRL
HSK 6 is made for those people who master very advanced Mandarin Chinese. Applicants who pass HSK 6 are considered to be bilingual. The exam lasts 125 minutes and is divided into 3 sections: written, oral comprehension and written expression. Succeeding at the HSK 6 requires proficiency, which means more than 5,000 characters in Chinese. An HSK 6 level candidate should be able to understand Chinese perfectly, speak about various topics in this language, and work daily using Mandarin Chinese. The HSK 6 is also scored on 300 points, each part being scored on 100.
The 6 versions of the HSK are substantive from one another and must be passed separately. Therefore, when you choose a certain level to validate (at the time of registration), you cannot validate either the one above or the one below. Each level should be perceived as a step which requires linguistic skills and a specific number of characters, which should be known.
Therefore, it is key to choose the level that one is going to pass and know how to self-assess. If you hesitate, the trick is to choose the lower level, to be on the safe side. However, don't worry. Keep in mind that you can pass the next level later on and that this first step will allow you to get a good score on the HSK. It must be said that overestimating one’s skills can unfortunately lead to failing the test and therefore a waste of time and money.
How is the score for HSK calculated?
Unlike tests like the TOEIC and the TOEFL, which allows you to obtain a reliable and precise positioning of your language level, HSK is used to certify a specific level, defined by the test itself. It is up to you to know your linguistic level in Chinese in advance, in order to be able to officially validate it by passing the HSK 1 (easiest level), the HSK 2, the HSK 3, the HSK 4, the HSK 5, or the HSK 6 (most difficult level). To validate an HSK level, you must succeed in having at least 60% correct answers on all of the questions, within the three sections of the test (these three sections represent the same coefficient). To pass HSK 1 and HSK 2, you must obtain at least 120 points out of 200. For HSK 3, 4, 5 and 6, the minimum score which needs to be obtained for your certification is 180.
How to get a good score on HSK ?
One of the keys to getting a good HSK score is to wisely choose the level you want to validate. It is very important not to overestimate yourself and choose the HSK level which corresponds to your own abilities. To help you know your level of Mandarin Chinese, GlobalExam also offers a free HSK mock exam and its corrections. This mock exam will allow you to assess your level and know exactly where you stand on the CEFR scale.
The second key aspect to come out with flying colors on the HSK is of course training. Revising your vocabulary, grammar and training while using different media will allow you to be ready on the D-Day.
How to register for HSK ?
For HSK, registration takes place online only through the Chinese website Chinesetest.cn. It is an organization which aims to centralize applications for Mandarin tests. Unlike other language exams, registering for the HSK cannot be done at examination centers. Once registered, you will have to print your invitation to the HSK from the website. When you register, you will have to choose a date and a place where you shall take the test. So make sure you are 100% ready when you register. Please note: it is necessary to register only four weeks before the exam date. Beyond this deadline, registrations are closed.
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How much does HSK cost?
In France, HSK registration fees are affordable. It costs between 15 and 50 euros to register for a session, this rate can vary depending on the levels and examination centers. To pay your registration fees, you must go through one of the Confucius Institute centers which can be found in several major cities.
Like many language tests (TOEIC, BRIGHT, DELE, DELF, etc.), HSK is a standardized exam which is made up of easily identifiable patterns. It is in fact governed by a specific structure and instructions, which are specific to the latter. This is why the best way to boost your HSK score is to plan an important preparation phase before passing the exam. Intensive preparation will allow you to get used to the structure of the test and its typical exercises. To get familiarized with this test and acquire the mechanisms that will save you time on D-Day, this preparation must include timed mock exams. Training for HSK in real exam conditions will help you be efficient and confident on the day of the test, not to mention anticipate certain questions, avoid traps and therefore validate your level, with flying colors.
Through our GlobalExam e-learning platform, we offer HSK preparation programs, depending on the level of difficulty. Our online training platform includes many exercises and mock topics, for HSK levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. For each level, the preparation program includes :
All of the educational content on our platform is produced by qualified and competent teachers. They have created the exercises but also several revision sheets in keeping with the HSK test, making it possible to maximize the skills which are required, to pass this exam.
On GlobalExam, not only can you train for the HSK, but you also have access to track your scores and progress. Your answers and progress statistics are made available to you in the “Answers and Statistics” section of our site. Through this tool, you can be in touch with your progress while identifying the possible points on which you need to work on more, so that you can obtain the level you want.
In addition to the exercises and practice sessions at HSK, GlobalExam provides students with vocabulary and grammar sheets. The latter is sorted by level and contains the key concepts one must know, in order to obtain the HSK certificate. These valuable tools will also help you better understand the logic of this Chinese language exam, so you know what to expect on the D-Day.