Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

kdavid

09/11/29 初中 HSK

Recommended Posts

kdavid

I just completed my first sitting of the HSK. Overall, I'm exceptionally discouraged with my performance. I had thought of my general level to be quite good. After completing dozens of mock exams, I thought I'd be a shoe-in for a 6 at the lowest. My impressions below:

Vocabulary/Reading:

I prepared using HSK Exam prep books. I also learned all of the vocabulary flagged as 甲 through 丙 in the HSK dictionary/HSK lists available online. I know that these types of tests purposely throw in obscure vocabulary that is not necessary to understand in order to complete the tasks, but my overall comprehension was way below where it should have been.

There was one reading passage on the convenience of some type of snow sled (I think) that completely went over my head. Another on the usefulness of snow leopards coats (again, I think) wasn't easy either. In the interest of time, I cut my losses on passages I knew I would struggle with and spent my time on the easier passages.

In general, I feel that all of the time I spent learning vocabulary was wasted. It didn't seem that any of the words I'd learned were used at all. Perhaps I used an outdated list?

Grammar:

I also bought the HSK 语法指要与训练 to review the crucial grammar points. I didn't seem to struggle so much with this section that I could tell from, though it's possible that being unfamiliar with some structures not presented in this book (I thought it would be comprehensive) could have contributed to me struggling with other sections.

Listening:

I knew before taking the test that I would struggle with colloquial language, and I don't mean the long 俗语 phrases, but the short 2 - 4 character phrases that are non-成语 related. The HSK vocab lists didn't provide any help with this, nor did the HSK Exam prep or Grammar book.

I also struggled with the long passages. I had read before how others were discouraged that other test takers took notes during these passages even though their not supposed to. I wish I had done this as it seemed that all of the other test-takers at the center I went to (42 of 44 all Korean/Japanese) were doing just that. The proctors didn't pay any attention to it whatsoever (note for future sittings).

When doing mock tests, I took notes to see if the results would be dramatically different. Obviously, I did much better when I took notes not because I could then reflect on the notes when answering the questions, but because I seemed to pay closer attention to what was being said than simply trying to remember it all, and tended to not zone out. As a result I my overall comprehension was better.

I also found that a lot of the vocabulary used in the longer passages was also vocabulary I had not come across before.

Summary and the Future:

In conclusion, I've realized that I've still got a long, hairy road ahead of me. I had hoped that I'd be able to get into an MA program here next Fall, and though I could probably pull of a 6 in the April sitting if I really busted my butt, I still don't think my level is good enough to keep up with native speakers studying Chinese history.

For the entire afternoon I've been thinking of a way to ask everyone for help. The best analogy I could come up with was this:

When I was young and played a lot of video games, I was a power gamer. For example, when I played Final Fantasy, I'd always spend a ton of extra time getting my characters to a super high level before taking on the bosses. I did this to ensure that I wouldn't just win, but that I'd demolish them. Power gaming in Final Fantasy was easy--I knew exactly how to prepare in order to win.

After months of sifting through all of these books and vocab lists, I feel that I am more lost and ignorant of how to prepare for this exam.

Is there anyway that I can "power game" the HSK? That is, is there any definitive source, or guide, that says, "study all of this and you'll demolish the test"? If so, what is it? I'm not in for a quick fix, and I know that really learning a language is a life-time process. What I do need though is guidance and it seems that at this stage after today's performance, I'm suffering from paralysis by over-analysis.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

anonymoose

Firstly, wait for the result. It may not be as bad as you think.

Anyway, my personal advice would be, don't worry too much about preparing for the HSK specifically. Now you've had this experience, you'll already be much more prepared for it the next time. Try to concentrate on improving your overall Chinese competence in daily life. Learn as much vocabulary as you can (regardless of whether it appears in vocab lists or not), try to practice reading more (anything will do, magazines, books, blogs, etc. - it doesn't have to be HSK prep material), try talking about a broader range of topics with Chinese people, and if there are words or phrases you don't understand, note them down (it's useful to always carry a small notebook with you when you are out and about), listen to more padcasts or even authentic radio and television if you can handle it. Improving one's Chinese is an arduous task, but if you can combine it with daily life, rather than just sitting at a desk with a pile of HSK prep books, I think you'll make better progress in the longrun. Anyway, everybody is different, but this is more or less how I approach learning Chinese.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

You may well have seen these already, and it's been so long since I looked at HSK Elem/Int prep stuff that there could be better options, but . . .

听力关键词 and 听力惯用语. These are fantastic for the kind of stuff the HSK loves to test you on, and happily enough it's also the kind of stuff you often actually hear. Win win.

These aren't HSK specific, but they are very well designed textbooks. Similarly the reading book I recommend here - it's not HSK specific, but it is very good. Both books have a 'read / listen then answer' format.*

The HSK vocab lists are a good framework to build vocab work around, but they haven't been updated for years (would have been 2003 I think when I put chinese-forums.com/vocabulary up based on them). They're not the be all and end all of HSK vocab, and certainly not of Chinese vocab. More crucially though you need to be able to handle situations where you just don't know all the words. It'd be easy to start a passage, realize you're not following very well, and give up - when in fact all the questions are relatively simple stuff you can scan the passage for.

It sounds to me like you've maybe spent too much time on mock exams (and where from, by the way? There are lots of HSK mock exam books from random publishing houses, and I wouldn't guarantee they actually represent the difficulty of the test). I'd usually say do one when you start preparing to get an idea of what's needed, and where you need to concentrate, one halfway to the test to check on progress, and one a week or two before to remind yourself of what the exam is like and identify areas for last-minute panic cramming. The rest of the time you're better off actually learning Chinese.

Beyond the stuff I recommend above, if you want a set of books where you can hopefully say 'this, and only this', I'd get BLCU Press's 8级精解 set (here's the listening one). Perhaps something else on vocab also, but if you work through those books capturing any new words you should be fine.

And I wouldn't be surprised if you get a pleasant surprise when the results come out.

*I'm basically just repeating that last post I link to here. Like I say, I haven't done much in this direction in the last five years, but nor has the exam changed any.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
In conclusion, I've realized that I've still got a long, hairy road ahead of me. I had hoped that I'd be able to get into an MA program here next Fall, and though I could probably pull of a 6 in the April sitting if I really busted my butt, I still don't think my level is good enough to keep up with native speakers studying Chinese history.

Why don't you start reading history books in Chinese instead of studying from vocab lists? That's what Wushijiao. He just powered through it with lots of reading, to use kind of an exercise analogy.

See here:

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/510-phoenix-tv7&highlight=study+method

My recent studying methods

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/2-favourite-chinese-musician9810&highlight=studying+methods

My recent studying methods, Part II

I also use Wushijiao's method for reading, though I'm not a typical learner as I am a native speaker and went to elementary school in China.

If you want some recommendations for history books in Chinese, we can have create another thread for it. I have bought lots of history books lately, far outpacing the speed of my reading, unfortunately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kdavid

I can certainly see studying Chinese becoming more chore-like and less enjoyable if all I'm doing is cramming for the HSK. I'll take your advice and just study like I've normally been studying, with exam prep on the side.

If you want some recommendations for history books in Chinese, we can have create another thread for it. I have bought lots of history books lately, far outpacing the speed of my reading, unfortunately.

I'd love to get into some history books, granted they're history books and not political theory. The only issue I'd have would be spending all my time reading the dictionary and not enough time reading the book.

I saw some of Wushijiao's recommendations, but I'd love to hear what others are reading and how approachable they've found different books to be.

try to practice reading more (anything will do, magazines, books, blogs, etc. - it doesn't have to be HSK prep material),

Any popular Blog recommendations?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
I'd love to get into some history books, granted they're history books and not political theory. The only issue I'd have would be spending all my time reading the dictionary and not enough time reading the book.

If you need more than 15-20 lookups per page, then the reading material is probably too advanced for you. When I first started serious magazine reading four years ago, I would just underline the words I didn't know and look them up after I am done with an article. After that, I'd write the new vocabs in a notebook for future review. After I got Pleco, I'd, of course, enter them into Pleco flashcards.

Looking up after you've finished reading doesn't hinder comprehension that much if the number of new words isn't too great. You can usually guess at the meaning by the context or if you already know some of the characters in a multi-character word.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anonymoose
Any popular Blog recommendations?

I don't read any specific blogs, but if I come across an interesting word or phrase, I often put it into Google and see what comes up. A lot of the time, more oral words and phrases will lead to blogs, which are often a good source of informal Chinese, as opposed to what you get in regular books and magazines. Just as one example off the top of my head, suppose you didn't know what 额头高到天花板 meant, or you weren't sure how to use it, you could just do a Google search, and the first result happens to be someone's blog.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

I sat for the 初中 HSK three weeks ago. I didn't prepare at all, just to test the waters. I wrote about it here. I certainly could use some more focused preparation for the listening section, but as far as the rest goes, reading more will be the best way of approaching this, I think (and perhaps the synonym textbook I mention in the other thread).

I have a similar problem, I can't seem to find newspapers in East Asia with interesting articles that engage the reader and are not overly parochial, such as the New York Times for English, Süddeutsche Zeitung for German, or Le Monde for French. So I'm reading a cheesy fantasy novel now, and some book on politics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wushijiao
I saw some of Wushijiao's recommendations, but I'd love to hear what others are reading and how approachable they've found different books to be.

Not that you necessarily want to hear from me, :oops: but one good thing (as far as getting comfortable and fast in reading- something the HSK obviously values) is to "re-read" a book you've already read in English, but in the Chinese translation. That may not be as interesting as reading something new or culturally valuable, but it can help in comprehension (since you already know the plot and characters...etc).

I have a similar problem, I can't seem to find newspapers in East Asia with interesting articles that engage the reader and are not overly parochial, such as the New York Times for English, Süddeutsche Zeitung for German, or Le Monde for French.

Hong Kong's Ming Pao (明報) is a fairly credible and objective paper, in my opinion. Their website is a bit confusing, and they use 繁體字 (of course), but that might be the type of paper that you're looking for. :D

http://www.mingpaonews.com/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
I had read before how others were discouraged that other test takers took notes during these passages even though their not supposed to.
Are you really not supposed to? I thought you were encouraged to take notes during the listening sections, and I'm sure I've seen such statements in various HSK prep-materials.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kdavid
Are you really not supposed to? I thought you were encouraged to take notes during the listening sections, and I'm sure I've seen such statements in various HSK prep-materials.

Rookie mistake, I suppose. It seems that this is tolerated.

听力关键词 and 听力惯用语. These are fantastic for the kind of stuff the HSK loves to test you on, and happily enough it's also the kind of stuff you often actually hear. Win win.

I've purchased 听力惯用语 as well as another book titled "Colloquial Chinese" that a friend recommended. I've also bought the HSK8级 recommended above. However, I can't seem to find anyone who has 听力关键词 in stock. Neither wl.cn nor amazon.cn have it. Is this book out of print, or has it been revised under a new name?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

Listed on StudyChineseCulture.com - drop Elina a line, if it is out of stock she'll no doubt encourage the publishers to raise their game . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kdavid

I just checked my results online:

听力 67

语法 70

阅读 76

综合 51

总分 266

证书 初

级别 A

Not nearly as disastrous as I had imagined. I'm quite surprised I got over a 50 on the 综合 section as I didn't complete any of the written component.

Originally I had only planned on taking the exam at this time to gauge where I was so that I could prepare for the first one in 2010. According to the guide I have, I scored a 6 in 听力 and 语法 sections, a 7 in 阅读 and a 4 in 综合, which I guess is to be expected seeing how I can't write.

I've beefed up my studying since taking the exam last month, and will continue to put several hours into studying each day. I'll also (finally) start learning how to write for real. I'm aiming for an 8 in April!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

Excellent stuff, glad the results were better than expected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kdavid

As a follow up to my original post, I just completed the HSK 初中 for the second time.

I felt a big improvement in the 综合 and 语法 section. I felt the 听力 a bit more difficult than the practice materials I had been studying from. I also felt that all of the 阅读 课文's were much longer and more complicated than the practice tests'. I've excelled in the mock 阅读's, but struggled a bit on the actual test.

I took notes during the 听力 section which I thought helped a lot--I didn't do this last year as I thought it wasn't allowed.

Not a big deal, but the tape (yes, they were still using a cassette!) skipped during part of the 听力 section and I (we?) all missed half of one of the dialogues.

Now I'll wait for 3 - 4 weeks for the results. Hopefully I'll have scored a six so I can close the HSK books for good and focus on learning practical stuff which I'm interested in

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Meng Lelan

Cassette tapes? The rectangles with the magnetic ribbon inside that would always come out and get tangled?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
anonymoose

Well at least they aren't using vinyls and a gramophone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Meng Lelan

The HSK just gets more and more retro.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kdavid

Just checked my 2010 results online. Here's how I compared to last year:

2009

听力 67

语法 70

阅读 76

综合 51

总分 266

证书 初

级别 A

2010

听力 76

语法 92

阅读 85

综合 76

总分 325

证书 中

级别 B

I had been really nervous about this one as I felt I didn't do well on the listening and reading. Turns out I improved across the board, and can now apply for the MA program here!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...