Can you speak Chinese? Prove it! If you want to get certified for your Mandarin language skills, check out this article about the Chinese proficiency test, also known as the HSK Test.
1. What is the HSK Test?
HSK stands for:
The HSK test was launched by Hanban, otherwise knows as the Confucius Institute Headquarters which is an institution that is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. The purpose of the test is to measure a person’s proficiency in Mandarin, through a series of sections that focus on listening comprehension, speaking, and writing.
2. Why do I need to take the HSK?
When studying Chinese, sometimes it’s difficult to see improvements. You may feel like you are treading water or even sometimes sliding backward. Having a goal, such as taking the HSK, helps to give your Chinese studies a purpose. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment when you earn your certificate as well as proof that indeed you are making progress.
In addition to giving you attainable study goals, having an HSK certificate also serve several added purposes:
- Save yourself time and credits! Your university or college might allow you to skip through certain language requirements if you attain an HSK.
- Stand out from the crowd! As it’s a very global world out there, employers and educational institutions now pay more attention to your language skills when recruiting.
- Accurately know your level! If you begin taking Chinese classes at a new institution, it will be easier to select a proper level based off of your HSK achievements. This will ensure that you don’t waste time in your studies and will help you find other learners who are at the same level.
3. How do I know what level of HSK I should be studying for?
You don’t need to take the HSK tests in order. If you have already been studying Chinese for a while, you could jump directly into HSK Level 3. If you have a Chinese teacher, he or she can help you determine your HSK level. If you are self-taught, we have provided a resource to evaluate your level below.
The HSK is divided into 2 sections: The HSK Written Exam and the HSKK Oral Exam. (the second “K” in the HSKK stands for 口语 (kou3yu3) which means “spoken language”).
The HSK Written Exam has 6 levels while the HSKK Oral Exam has 3 levels. The oral tests are taken separately from the written exams, and these 2 tests do not need to be taken at the same time. You will receive a separate certificate for completing the oral than for completing the written. You only need to take one oral exam, per every 2 written exams.
For example, if you want to take the HSK level 2 test, you could take the HSKK Beginner oral exam. You could also take the HSKK Beginner test when you take the HSK level 1 test. You can see how the HSK and HSKK correspond in the chart below:
In the links provided, you can find the test content introduction and download mock tests.
To get PDF vocabulary lists you can go to the HSK Test Vocabulary Lists page and download them.
|HSK Written Test||Details||HSKK Oral Test||Details|
|HSK Level 1||Link||HSKK Beginner||Link|
|HSK Level 2||Link|
|HSK Level 3||Link||HSKK Intermediate||Link|
|HSK Level 4||Link|
|HSK Level 5||Link||HSKK Advanced||Link|
|HSK Level 6||Link|
Evaluating Your Chinese Level without a Chinese Teacher
If you’d like to find out which level you fit into, here is a self-assessment tool that you can use without a teacher. The tool included abbreviated mock exam for all 6 levels of the HSK written exam as well as for all 3 levels of the HSKK oral exam. You can use these test results to get your approximate exam level.
Check out the HSK evaluation test here: Hanban HSK Self-Assessment.
Remember that if you have never taken the HSK before, you can still jump directly into the appropriate level. There is no need to take the levels in order. Your employer or school will only pay attention to the highest level that you have attained.
4. How can I take the HSK?
There are two ways that the HSK Written Tests are administered – in person or online in a testing center. Both methods have their pros and cons. For example, taking the test online lets you be laxer with your writing skills, as you will be able to use the Pinyin input method. Whereas taking the paper test is more convenient for the timing in the listening section of the exam because you must answer the questions one by one as they are given to you. So if you answer question #16 very quickly, you still must wait until the system gives you question #17. Also, you can’t copy and paste in the online test, so if you’re not clear of the Pinyin, there’s no way to copy the character from the question. In the end, it’s a matter of preference.
There will be no difference in your HSK certificate if you have taken the paper test or the online test. In fact in the future, Hanban plans to remove all of the paper exams because the online tests are much more convenient for the testing centers and for evaluation.
Whether you take the paper test or the online test, you can use the HSK official online registration to register for the tests – it’s really convenient and won’t take you long.
Get HSK test dates here and don’t miss the deadline for registration. Online payment is possible with Union Pay if you’re applying inside of China. Once you have selected your exam date you can select the Online Payment option on the Test Options page. If you are outside of China payments online may not be available but you can pay in cash at your chosen test center.
5. When and where can I find out my HSK Test results?
After 1 month you can log in to your account at www.chinesetest.cn and enter your registration code to access your results.
The test results are also available within 2 months of taking the exam at the test center in which you took your exam. To get your results you will need your test admission slip. You can also use the following chart to determine when you will be able to get your exam results here.
The test results dates are on HSK official website.
6. How can I get my HSK Test certificate?
The test center where you have taken the test will provide you with all the information you need to know about obtaining your certificate. Often they will be mailed to you or you can pick them up once the results are published. As each testing center may have a different policy, it’s best to find out directly from them about what you need to do to get your certificate. In general, it should be a relatively painless process and shouldn’t cost much other than the shipping, if necessary.
7. For how long is my HSK certificate valid?
Good news! The HSK certificate is valid indefinitely for use when applying for jobs. For academic purposes, however, such as for receiving credits for Chinese courses, it is typically valid for only two years from the date that the exam was taken. This is also relevant if you’re applying to a Chinese university. If that’s the case, make sure you have taken the HSK within the past 2 years prior to applying.
Tip: When applying for international positions, many employers may not be familiar with the HSK system. It would be to your advantage when listing your HSK achievement on your resume to add that it is an Official Chinese Proficiency test, that ranges from levels 1-6. They will then have a better understanding of how awesome your Chinese is!
8. What is the “new” HSK test?
The story of the “new” HSK test is quite an interesting one. As the HSK has been the only recognized standard of Mandarin proficiency, it’s a good money-maker from textbooks, to testing centers, to course materials. Having control of the HSK market can bring in some serious dough, so in 2005 this test became a hot topic between Hanban and the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). Eventually, this resulted in a division of who would test the HSK. Hanban would be the presence abroad, where BLCU would do the testing within China.
Hanban worked hard to improve the test, combining some of the good characteristics of the original HSK and updating by conducting surveys and listening to the results.
In 2010, it was decided that Hanban had better testing methods and their presence came back to China. The test that is administered in China today is from Hanban and because it differs from how the test was administered during the BLCU reign, it is sometimes called the “new” HSK exam.
In a nutshell, the “new” HSK is usually said to be easier than the old HSK, as it uses more colloquial words and expressions, and is overall more practical. You get a break as well on vocabulary when taking the “new” HSK as the old one makes you learn nearly double the vocabulary for every level.
9. Top Recommended HSK Resources
|Chinese Flash Cards Kit Volume 1: HSK Levels 1 & 2 Elementary Level: Characters 1-349 (Audio Disc Included)|
Chinese Flash Cards Kit Volume 2: HSK Levels 3 & 4 Intermediate Level: Characters 350-622 (Audio CD Included)
Chinese Flash Cards Kit Volume 3: HSK Upper Intermediate Level (Audio CD Included)
|HSK Mock Tests and Practice|
|Click here for previous tests, outline and vocabulary|
Practice Tests and vocabulary
Questions samples and Testing Locations
Study Guides and Sample Tests
HSK Practice Tests and MP3 downloads
|Additional HSK Resources|
|ChinesePod Library of Online Chinese Audio Lessons, test.|
iKnow Language Learning.
If you have any questions or queries about taking an HSK exam or about learning Chinese you can comment below or email us at [email protected]
Before you take an HSK exam, test yourself with these simulated papers.
Prepare yourself for the HSK Level 1 test with these simulated tests!
Test your readiness before taking the HSK level 4 exam. Also prepares you for the different exam areas and tips on how to complete them.