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Test of Proficiency (TOP), Taiwan's HSK

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gato
For those interested, they have a conversion chart here, though interestingly they don't compare it to the HSK like they used to for the old test.

Haha. The New HSK gets no respect.

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OneEye

If Taiwan can get their act together with the TOP/TOCFL/whatever they'll end up calling it next year, then maybe they could finally 如願以償 and be taken seriously somewhere other than Taiwan. The competition isn't looking so good these days, after all. :lol:

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panpan86
Unfortunately I'm not in TW..

If you are looking for Taiwanese books, you can always order them online. http://www.eslite.com/newbook_list.aspx?cate=156⊂=221&list=225 This is Taiwan's most famous book store and they deliver worldwide. Unfortunately I have never ordered anything from them online so I can't really vouch for their service :)

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Unfadeable

Props on passing the (practice) 高階, Oneeye--for which the passing mark is 64, by the way. Wrote the pilot today, quite disappointed with my score of 59 (25 listening, 34 reading). Reading part was generally pretty good and I think I can do even better next time by managing my time better, since I ran out of time and had to guess around 10 questions. I'm going to try leaving the "real world" stuff until the end since I find I spend way too much time on them looking for the relevant information. However I'm at a loss with the listening, it's just too many new words and too fast. I'm surprised I even got 25 since I rarely understood anything beyond the basic gist. Really going to drill listening for the next month and a half until the real thing in May, hopefully I'll be able to squeak by and pass.

Has anyone successfully raised their TOCFL (or HSK) scores in a short period of time? Got any advice on how I might do so?

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OneEye

I think intensive work with the audio from the Mini Radio Plays book (if I remember correctly you said you're taking that class this term, right?) will help a lot. Use Audacity to speed it up a little, even. Download some podcasts (Princess Remy is Taiwanese and just basically talks about a bunch of different topics). There's a good article here about working with audio. I've been doing similar stuff lately and it really helps, not only with listening, but with speaking fluency, accent, etc.

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Unfadeable

Yeah I saw that link on your twitter, sounds like an amazing method, albeit one I'm not too looking forward to due it seeming pretty boring. But I think that's what I need to do at this point. And his thoughts very much echo the listening/speaking strategies Imron and other have enumerated on this board. So I'm definitely going to start taking that approach to Mini Radio Plays and other audio I can find which has a transcript (native podcasts are good and all but I found there's too much I don't understand, so it's of limited utility. I'll try Princess Remy though). I'm determined to pass this test next time around.

If you're able to pass 流利 by the end of summer, I'll be very impressed =)

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OneEye

Yeah, drilling like that is not much fun. I did that sort of thing a little bit when I first started studying Chinese, and it helped my pronunciation, but I haven't touched it since then until recently. So far so good, but I haven't gotten really dilligent about it yet. I've gathered some stuff that I want to work with and I'm going to really start with it this week.

I've been talking to some people recently who have really incredible Chinese, and asking how they do it. There's one guy, a white guy from the US, who sounds like a Taiwanese guy to the point that one of his English students was convinced he was an ABC or at least part Chinese/Taiwanese. Another who speaks several languages with a near-native accent, though his Mandarin isn't quite there yet. Then I've been watching Mike Campbell/Glossika on YouTube. His accent is unbelievable. These guys all talk about intensive work with audio, even memorization, to the point of ignoring reading and writing for a while. Unfortunately that's not an option right now since I'm in school, but I can still put a lot of emphasis on speech and listening over the next several months.

If you're able to pass 流利 by the end of summer, I'll be very impressed =)

Trust me, so will I! I don't know if I actually have to pass it. They just use it as the final for the "intensive course" at MTC. They set a certain score that counts as "passing" depending on which course you're in, but it isn't always a passing score on the real test. But I do need to pass 流利 (with a 77 no less) by November 3rd if I want to be admitted to the MA program I want to study at 台大. Needless to say, it's going to be a lot of studying and drilling and using, and not much else, until then.

If you can, take a practice test within a week before the test in May. I did a paper two years ago on standardized testing, and in my research I found a few studies that demonstrated that taking a practice test soon before the real test will actually boost your score significantly (something like 15-20%, I can't remember exactly).

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Unfadeable

Wow, that's really interesting re: ignoring reading/writing for a while. I think I might have to do something like that; I hardly devote any time to listening/speaking skills, so it's no wonder I'm so weak there. I'm going to try putting all this advice into practice and we'll see if I improve during the next round. Thanks for the advice about when to write the practice test, that's really good to know.

You've already made tremendous strides this year, so I'm sure you can pass 流利 by November. Looking forward to future blog posts on the subject =)

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Unfadeable

So I wrote the real TOCFL 4 today and passed. Somehow I was able to substantially raise my score, especially my listening: I got 46/50 on listening and 37/50 on reading, so 83/100. The weird thing was I only sort of understood most of the audio, but I was usually able to eliminate incorrect answers and guess the right one based on the gist of the passage. I spent about 50 hours on listening work over the last month, so that must have helped, plus I did two practice tests the week before the real thing. I still wasn't fast enough on the reading part, had to guess all the answers for the final essay and two of the real world examples, so 8+ questions were random guesses. I think my strategy of leaving the real world examples till the end was helpful, although some were quicker to do than I thought. Anyway, all of which is to say these tests aren't really as hard as one might think at first, and that they can be approached strategically. I have a few classmates who I would say have better Chinese than I, but I did much better than them on the test (two failed), and there's even a girl several levels above me who got 15 points less than me. The corollary to this is that the test really isn't an accurate measure of one's ability. Maybe I'll try and pass level 5/流利 in the fall if it's offered overseas...

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OneEye

I took the 流利級 test yesterday (MTC version, not the official one) and got a 62, which is as low as you can get and still pass. My listening score was significantly lower than my reading, partly because I've been focused on reading for so long (I have an MA to get ready for!), and partly just because of the unnaturalness of the speech. I have no problems in everyday life, and I can usually follow the news on TV fairly well, but the way they talk on the test is not very reflective of real life. Rather, it seems to be "let's see how much 書面語 and 成語 we can throw into an everyday conversation, so we can see if the students are 'advanced' or not". Very odd. I guess that's language education though. The reading portion was a bit more true to life.

Anyway, if I can get the same score or higher on the real test this Saturday, I'll be happy. Turns out I don't need a 77 like I originally thought, I just need to pass.

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DenLee

Hi, guys!

I need a quick suggestion.

I have to take the TOCFL (now) in order to apply for the Taiwan Scholarship.

I passed (new) HSK 5 last summer with score of about 240/300. I only want to know for which TOCFL should I apply to 100% be able to pass the TOCFL. (They require the minimum of level 3). I don't need the test "for myself", but only to get the scholarship, so I must pass it. I could just apply for level 3, but if you think there's no problem passing a higher level for me, could you recommend which one? (It never hurts to have better credentials than the competition).

Thanks a lot!

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OneEye

Assuming you're in Taiwan, the next TOCFL isn't until May, so if you need it before the Taiwan Scholarship deadline of March 31 I don't think that's possible. Unless you've found another way to take it before then, in which case I'd be really interested in finding out how, because I was 1 point from passing in November and I'd love to take it again in time to send the certificate in with my application materials.

Unfortunately I can't help as far as which level to take because I have no experience with the HSK.

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DenLee

No, I'm in the Czech Republic, the nearest place to me is Berlin, Germany, and (if I decipher German correctly) it should be held on April 20. And, for example, it's in March in Moscow.

At least, how difficult do you think the TOCFL level 3 and 4 is? I more or less manage to read "usual" information or articles on the internet, reviews of goods on Taobao or trips on DaoDao, somehow understand movies (with simpler plots) in Chinese with Chinese subtitles or mass-public TV shows (I don't know, like The Voice of China). Just to have an idea. But I HAVE TO pass the test I choose. :)

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Mike Hainzinger

Are the respective tests available overseas?

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OneEye

So I took it again yesterday. They've changed it once again. Now the sections are separate, so you can pass one and fail the other, and the scoring is done differently (I'm not sure exactly how). For 流利級, which is currently the highest level but they'll be adding another this year or next year, the passing score is 50 for listening and 52 for reading. I got a 55 and a 50, so I passed the listening and barely failed the reading. Again.

I know my Chinese has improved a lot since I failed by 1 point in November, so I'm not too worried about it. It's fairly common knowledge around here that the test isn't so much about your Chinese level as it is about how much vocabulary (and, especially at the higher levels, 成語) from the MTC's textbooks you've memorized. It's also very much about reading speed. I understood nearly everything I read, I just didn't have time to read everything I needed to.

A friend of mine said there was a news piece a few years ago about how bad the test was. I think it has improved a little since then, but it's still pretty bad, IMO. Some of Daan's criticisms in the OP still haven't been fixed. For instance, the "listening comprehension" questions could essentially all be reduced to "what does the 成語 in the last sentence of that dialogue mean?" You listen to a 1-2 minute-long dialogue that's all perfectly understandable 口語, then at the end 王小姐 says "I think it's really 某某成語." The question is inevitably, "What did 王小姐 mean in the last sentence?"

Anyway, I may take the reading portion again the next time it's offered, or I may not. At this point I don't really care if I have the piece of paper, I just want to improve my Chinese. You know, real Chinese, not MTC Chinese. Or as one of my former MTC teachers called it, 蔣氏王朝的中文.

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Koxinga

I think I'm at roughly TOCFL level 3, so I want to take a reading + listening test in April (overseas).

I just tried the level 3 reading + listening practice test, and got 80/100 answers correct (35/50 listening, and 45/50 reading) without studying specifically for the exam and without doing any grammar work for the longest time. The score I got was more based on guessing rather than actually being sure about the answer. My weakest point is vocabulary, but in the practice test it wasn't as important as the context.

So if I want to pass level 3, I have to take the Band B test, which also includes level 4. The official website says that the total number of points is 80, of which 46 gets you level 3, and 61 gets you level 4.

Does that mean I should study both for levels 3 and 4, and hope I get level 3? Or would it be better to just focus on Level 3 and ace that part?

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Koxinga

I just want to warn everyone who's looking for practice materials for the test. Do NOT buy the mock tests for TOCFL that are advertised on SC-TOP's website.

I bought the Band B book thinking that I would get a few additional tests different from the one available on the website. Turns out I got the same sample test that's freely available for download on their website. Nothing else. A waste of money for the book and international shipping fees.

I'll just use the HSK 5 materials that I got earlier and see how it goes.

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Koxinga

Due to other stuff that kept me busy, I ended up not working too hard on preparing for the exam. I did do some work on my listening skills in general, partly because my mock test listening result was much worse than my reading result, and partly because I felt like listening was the worst of all my Chinese skills.

 

I expected to have more problems with the listening part, but I did manage to score enough points for level 3. On the other hand, I failed the reading part by 5 points. I completely forgot that we only had an hour. I got to question 35 when the time ran out, so I had to choose random answers for the rest.

 

Time to work on reading.

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Geiko

Is anybody else planning to take the TOCFL this year? I've just registered for band B, let's see how it goes! Afaik, it can't be taken in my country, so I'll go to Paris and spend the weekend over there.

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lechuan

I plan to take Level 3 or 4 in November. Currently beefing up on Vocabulary and reading more often, but need to start working on listening comprehension activites. This will be my first attempt at a Chinese language test.

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