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Challenge 3: Challenge 1: HSK 4 in a month - IN PROGRESS

  • try and sneak in HSK 4, I'm not sure I will actually write the exam but I need to get 80% on at least 3 mocks then move on to HSK 5. I'll write HSK 6 I think
  • I will try and get my reading speed up to 60 char a minute

Challenge 2: Reading and writing level up! - IN PROGRESS FAILED

  • handwriting and typing all HSK3 600 characters in 1 month :) -> target speed of 40 characters per minute
  • and reading well, to read an HSK 3 book by month end -> target speed of 40 characters per minute

Challenge 1: HSK 0 to 3 exam in 1 month - COMPLETE

  • Starting from scratch Getting to HSK 3 in the fastest time possible with a job and life :)

Entries in this blog


HSK4 log and progress at 5 hours (200 cumulative hours)


So I did not manage to study as much as I wanted. Only one thing stuck, working on anki decks
Total study time for the month was less than 10 hours :( 


In between work trips, illnesses, and stresses, Chinese learning just paled and was on the backburner. But I still want to continue. So instead of trying to force learning into time slots and life situations when it is impossible I'm switching to counting how many hours I'm putting in instead, whenever it happens, and record my progress after every 20 hours or so of study. I am also shifting to more reading based learning this month using Lute. I have time off work coming up next week and I'll use that to kick start the learning. I want to get to 300 hours of learning and see how much of HSK 4 I'm ready for by then. Most places say 800 hours is needed to get to HSK 4 ... maybe I'll need all that but I don't know, I'll focus on the first 300 and reassess after that. 
So far I feel the time put in in April and May, about 30 hours, has been revision and that has caught me up to where I was before, and actual HSK 4 work is yet to begin.. I haven't had the energy or time to begin learning anything new other than vocab.




Because I love data I always record my time spent learning, it may be off by a few minutes here and there but I use the same tools to help me track and record in case I forget so I'm more than 98% accurate. I use apps in my learning so it easy to record my time spent either by viewing the app stats or checking time spent per app per day. And when the app doesn't allow for that I use a timer to start and stop a cumulative timer for the other activities such as browser or book reading. For HSK 1 and 2 I focused on learning as much as possible in 40 hours as that was the recommended time, ended up using 96 hours cram time in total with HSK 3. Over the past 3 years I have spent another random unstructured 70 hours or so revising vocab. So I'm around 200 hours of study, about half of that focused. That's two thirds to 300, lets see what changes that 100 hours brings.


So now I will note the running total and note progress that way. 

Tools to track time - web time tracker extension, swipetimes and simple time tracker plus app usage stats on ipad and phone

What I am not recording well is my drama and donghua watching time. Why? For one, I use English subtitles, and two I tend to to watch at 2x speed. I know it's still beneficial to my learning and listening just not sure how much. I will try approximate tracking of the dramas I do watch for estimated hours spent in passive listening, as a separate metric.





May, June 2021 stats and progress - 96 hours
Did HSK1, HSK2 and HSK 3 test, but properly an HSK 2 student


July 2021 stats and progress - 5.5 hours

Tried a reading and writing challenge and failed, spent about 3 hours 50 min reading and 1 hour 40 minutes writing


2022 and 2023 62.86 hours
I did not do any organized learning really other than vocab learning on anki, very sporadically. I got a refold Mandarin deck and began work n learning words in context. I did work on Korean a bit. My anki time spent was 62.86 hours, most of that in early 2022 and mid year 2023


November 2023 - 3 hours with a tutor
I joined a Chinese orchestra and thought I would try a tutor... nah definitely not my style of learning, just was not a good match

April 2024 stats and progress - 21.15 hours

Back to somewhat serious learning. Was hoping to get in 40+ hours of learning, but realising that is not realistic. Relearning a lot of the vocab and tones are quite bad
Anki - 12.2 hours
Lute - 1 hours
Tuttle - 6.7 hours
Du - 1 hour

Falou - 10 min

Beelingua - 5 min


May 2024 stats and progress - 9.4 hours
This month has been brutal emotionally and full of stress.
More revision finally feel like I am getting on with HSK 3 vocab and sentences now. I've been trying to focus on tones, Finally began HSK4 hanzi and vocab, only about 50 done, but do I seem to hear and recognise more words when watching drama. Got bored of Tuttle, it became too much effort so dropped for now. J

Anki - 5.8 hours

Tuttle - 2.3 hours
Lute - 30 minutes
Du - 15 minutes

Sticky study - 28 min
Beelingua - 5 min

June 2024 plans, stats and progress - 2 hours 16 min
I've spent about 5 hours now on HSK$ vocab, only  13 mature words and 24 or so young.

Continue with anki, I want to explore adding movies2 anki and ankimorph to begin to use the dramas and donghua i watch as material
Just started up Lute again and enjoying entering the stories and seeing real progress in words I know per story. I have added about 36 short stories, OST lyrics and episode sort to try it out.
Plan on using falou to help with speaking


Anki - 46 min
Lute - 1 hour 30 minutes




HSK4 in 60d -> Day 31 and 32


So first 30 days only had about 20 days of study done

2nd 30 days
It's now May and I'm back home so beginning a new challenge. Have ramped up my vocab learning time to about 1 hour a day.
I've also created a deck in Pleco for the Tuttle characters I'm not yet getting.
So far the rest seems to have helped some characters stick better, others have disappeared.

Aluta continua


HSK4 in 30d -> Day 21 to 30


Not much happened I travelled and had to help my friend in her wedding so I had fun instead :D 

I did use my flight and transit times to cram vocab and characters so in total about 18 hours of study. I got to chapter in Tuttle but not very far in my anki deck, (only increased known vocab by about 20) I keep forgetting the characters, or I know them but tone/ meaning is wrong :(

So next 30 days starts again.


HSK4 in 30d - Day 16 to 20


It’s been hectic with travelling so anti and my tuttle book have been my friends. I am now on chapter 12 in Tuttle. Revision of HSK 1 is complete, HSK 2 and 3 still in progress HSK vocab only at about 50 words in….

I'm attending and helping in a wedding this week, so it will likely be more of the same.


HSK4 in 30d -> Day 10 to 15


No I haven't fallen off the bandwagon... yet lol
day 10 I revised coursera HSK 1 - not sure why i did it was too easy, but I'll believe it was reinforcement, continued with vocab learning


day 11 to 15, vocab on anki, it has been slow going because I'm travelling soon and work is busy. So I plan to sue my transit and waiting for flights time to do the rest of the coursera and start on edex courses so for now just anki, only about 50 words learnt for HSK4 and still have HSK 3 leeches grrr I had hoped to have all my vocab by the 20th... not sure I'll make it so I hope I cover grammar by then and then just keep working on the vocab till month end


HSK4 in 30d -> Day 7, 8 and 9


Still working on the words, taking longer than anticipated, mainly because 3 took longer to review and I'm only spending about 40 minutes a day on vocab. Currently only have time for anki and not much else so have begun to also shadow the speaking phrases and not just focus on characters and vocab.



HSK4 in 30d -> Day 5, gathering momentum


April 5

Another good anki day over 500 reviews, have caught up on HSK 1 and 2 hanzi, still getting a few tones wrong but that's ok, have started on 3 now, about 1 hour

Tuttle book up to chapter 8, about 1 hour 30 min. Def helping with stabilizing my hanzi building blocks


HSK4 in 30d -> Day 4


Decided all my walking time is now learning time
Did about 200 anki reviews, being more strict with tones this time round that last time so even though I know the words and characters I'm failing them if I get the tone wrong, so slower going

Again only Anki today.


HSK4 in 30d -> Day 2 :mock tests bench mark


yep some definite decay.

HSK 1 got 100%
HSK 2got 75 %

HSK3 got 65% on listening and 35 on reading and writing .... my reading is toooooo slow, it's dismal.


Todays work

mock tests: 2 hours

Vocab: 1 hour

  • Decided to just continue with my anki deck, have done 303 reviews...
  • also did not reset my sticky study but took pictures of last years stats - redid hsk 1 vocab
  • tuttle book till chapter 1

Life happened and mandarin was a casualty. So challenge 2 was a failure.

But I was reminded that I did want to learn this language properly lol I also recently joined a Chinese orchestra and feel lost lol, so learning is paramount

My personality is that I am competitive and like setting challenges for myself; so this April I'm starting a new challenge -> Get to an HSK 4 level in a month. Why a month? coz I say so...


Day 1 figuring out my materials and resources

  • I have installed lute for my reading and uploaded a ton of books
  • I plan to read at least 15 minutes a day
  • I have loaded my anki decks and will begin with revising HSK 1 and 2 over the next few days
  • I have gotten my text book and character books ready


My main resources

  1. Tuttle Chinese Characters
  2. Lute and Du Chinese for reading
  3. Sticky Study and Anki - refold deck for hanzi and vocab SRS
  4. Grammar book - New Practical Chinese Reader plus Chinese Gramma wiki
  5. Coursera courses on YouTube, EdX Beginner ad Intermediate Chinese
  6. YouTube and Instagram channels that I come across when doom scrolling
  7. anything else that takes my fancy... 30 days is along time lol



Some things to note for this challenge

  • I plan to take a mock test before starting to see what I would score, as a bench mark and to see what I still remember. I don't think it will be that bad because I still watch a ton of Chinese drama so even with subtilties I think some decay has happened but not an astronomical amount. The past year I have done very little study, anki says less than 1 hour same a using mylingua only a handful of times for around 5 minutes
  • figure out how to measure the time used, so trying to create a tracker of sorts on notion or with python just so I see what I really spend time on
  • I will not actively practice writing unless I totally bored and have time to mess around. 
  • I will start practicing to type on PC and not just on my phone

Day 20: some recovery

Reading and Writing

2hr 20 reading on du chinese, it gets easier as I go :)

Love my hsk 1 writing book, it stats with easier characters so been smooth sailing so far now at char 58 :)



Day 5 to 19: Houston we have a problem...

Reading and Writing

First it was camp, I did spend 30 minutes reading out there in the bundu on the du app... that's something

Then I cam back and I just could not figure out where to begin

Then a week passed...

Then I printed the first 200 characters from a frequency list -> so many new words spent some time on the first 30 or so

Then I read from Du a bit

Then I thought maybe a need a copy book, so went on Amazon and ordered a few... they arrived yesterday, So spent time on 1 characters...


To say I am behind is an understatement. Basically wasted half a month. Lets see what I can salvage in the last few days


Total Time spent

Reading: 1 hour 30 min

Writing: 1 hour 25min


Characters I can write approx 30


Day 3 and 4: Weekend of nothing

Reading and Writing

Well not quite nothing, I practiced one character that counts right? We are off camping tomorrow so I will take my study material with me... just not sure how much will get done over the next three days with minions in tow. Maybe I should find the characters for marshmallows and smores and write those ?


Day 2: Reading what..?

Reading and Writing

Not a bad day overall spent two hours copying script on my tablet... and then tried form memory... much harder then but we shall persevere!


Challenge 2: Reading and writing level up! Day 1

Reading and Writing

So to get going again I am starting a new challenge. I've had a 3 week break so it's time to consolidate and build up areas that I did not focus on before. I will also be beginning Korean this month but real slow. I know my target speeds are ambitious... but that's what makes it a challenge :)

Challenge 2: Reading and writing level up!

  • handwriting and typing all HSK3 600 characters in 1 month :) -> target speed of 40 characters per minute
  • and reading well, to read an HSK 3 book by month end -> target speed of 40 characters per minute


Today I was gathering materials and making a game plan.

  • Found tons of writing practice PDF's
  • work on minimum 20 characters a day, writing, typing
  • I will finish the HSK 3 course on coursera.
  • I will work on Hello Chinese again, use sticky study ever so often to keep my vocab.
  • My English typing is slow so I'll be training to touch type as well, else I'll never get to typing 40 chars a minute
  • I'm going through character book reviews to see if I'll like to use any of them
  • I will use learning with texts - I'll use a lot of songs I've come to love and poetry and idioms, yes this will be extra vocab that I don't know but I enjoy the material more so...
  • I will use new reading sites e.g. little fox, chairmans bao, duchinese, dong chinese
  • join the tadoku reading challenge
  • also add anki sentences into the mix


Worked on the first 20 characters.


Day 37: Test day HSK2 and HSK3 !!!


Today 3 hours.

Total time put into prep = 96 hours over 32 days (had 5 lazy days)


So I put it an hour of vocab and another 2 hours of Revision videos, but was totally finished.

HSK 2 went well but was slow for some reason in the reading section so I missed three questions :(

HSK 3 ... well let's just say I was examined... and found wanting.


Results are out in 10 days time.. as for today, sleep!


I can safely as the first challenge HSK 1 in 40 hours was met and is easy and doable

The upgraded challenge of HSK2 in 80 hours (cumulative) I'm sure was met,.. I'll know in 10 days.

 I had hoped to have more than 120 hours towards HSK 3 but we'll see what 96 hours brings. 


Todays hours -> 8 a record right there!

The day of reckoning is here. A few more hours revision, sleep, last minute cramming and the exam will be written.


  1. Vocab 3 hours 10!!! Yes I got 100% on sticky study in HSK 3!!! speed is not up to par but it gives me a better chance for the reading and writing sections :) I even begun some anki sentences, better late than never LOL. And managed to keep the others green with 96% and 90% accuracy, even 86% for three!!!
  2. YouTube (courses and videos and coursera vids, exam mocks, revision) -> 5 hours... yep a ton and still a few to go. I'll get halfway through the HSK 3 course I hope before the exam.


I will tally up my hours and experiences after the exam...  or Sunday LOL we'll see :)

File 2021-06-05, 12 07 14 AM.png

File 2021-06-05, 12 08 05 AM.png


Day 35: Yerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! Test=t-1 days


Today 7 hours....

I can literally feel my brain cells popping and growing new neurons and in the process becoming entangled...


  • Coursera and YouTube lessons -> 2 hours 50, wish I'd found some of these earlier... 
  • Vocabulary : 4 hours 10 min -> fattening the calf at the dip


Only worked when I had meetings or calls lol, about 4 hours, the rest of the time was Chinese.. Took two HSK 2 tests today did very well in one 91/100 and 92/100 later I got 82/100 and 64/100, a lot was just silly mistakes.. tired brain? sigh...

Finally got some progress in HSK 3 words, at 82% but I don't trust my memory too much, grammar points probably only have 2 lol.

I'll try take an HSK 3 mock now before bed.. see if I can get even 30%


Couple hours later... Done with test:-> listening not bad 75/100 , reading without pinyin dismal -> 33/100


Day 34: Progress... Test=t-2 days


Today: 6 hours 15min


I had to take a step back and reassess, the HSK 3 vocab is just not getting in... the same words I just cant remember, so I took an HSK 2 mock test passed but not aced, so focused on HSK 2 today. Completed the Coursera course for HSK 2 and I feel more confident. Will go back to HSK 3 tomorrow, after a couple more HSK 2 mocks. HSK three is gonna just be for fun LOL aiming for 40% right now!!!

Lol work and sleep has taken a back seat. It's OK I'll sleep on Sunday.


  1. Vocab 3 hours, revision of 1 and 2 and a few more words in 3
  2. Coursera course 2 hours
  3. Mock tests 1 hour 15 Aced HSK1; HSK 2 got 86/100 and 64/100

Day 33: Stagnated... Test=t-3 days


Today: 5 hours 20

My progress is so slow, I can remember vocab from HSK1 and HSK2 pretty well, about 95 off the bat, but 3 is still at 50%. sigh

Practiced using the app today with and HSK1 test got 100%.If only that was three, LOL

Everything feels so scattered, and the forgetting curve is making itself known...

  1. 1 hour - YouTube 
  2. 50 min Hello chinese
  3. 3hr 30 vocab

Day 32. -Recovery



  1. YT course 1 hours 20min
  2. Vocab drilling 3 hours 10 minutes

Life was till busy but managed to make strides! Got my vocab up to 50% of HSK 3 lets hope the trend continues, may yet pass 3 if only barely. Need to do HSK 2 mocks tomorrow though, and practice using the test app.


Day 31: No Mocks :(


30 min Today :(


I don't know how but I lost tons to time to day, PC setup and life... only spent about 30minutes on YouTube Listening... nowhere near what I should and did not even manage to do a single mock yet I had hoped to do 4 today :(

  1. 30 min YouTube HSK 3 course
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