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Definition of HSK Levels


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I think it seems appropriate for these Chinese tests to be a little easier than their CEFR counterparts. Somebody like Julian Gaudfroy would be at C2 level, and I haven't met too many people with his level of proficiency. I mean the guy is obviously very talented with languages and yet he spent 5 years doing nothing else but studying Chinese to achieve that.

Personally I don't see why Chinese tests should be easier. Apart from the fact that the tests are different and as such not comparable, CEFR is (in theory) based on practical skills. The levels mean that you can do certain things in the target language. How long it takes to get there is irrelevant you can do these things or can't. An employer doesn't care what it took to get there, he wants to know whether you're able to do what needs to be done. If you learn a language that's culturally farther away from what you know it will take more time, be harder as you not only need to learn the language itself, but also the cultural meaning. Telling about your great achievements will be received differently in China, Europe and America.

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I mostly agree with that article, except I think that HSK 6 is a fair bit harder than HSK 5. You need a larger vocabulary than they claim to pass the test, and you need to know those 5000 specified words very well.


I agree. Levels 4 and 5 carry a load of very commonly used words, but level 6 contains a lot of outliers. Last year I mapped all the words I'd come across (from formal lessons as well as incidental vocabulary that I'd collected) against all the HSK levels, and the difference between levels 5 and 6 was remarkable.


I've also noticed the relative stress levels of friends who've sat HSK 5 v HSK 6. Nearly all the HSK 6 candidates I've known disappear for months and go a bit bonkers.

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But you'll notice that for the most part, the only clear difference between HSK 5 and 6 is the vocabulary.


The tested grammar is nearly identical.

The types of questions are nearly identical.

The lengths are nearly identical.


I've always posited (but never had a student actually test) that you could go from HSK 4 directly to HSK 6 in practically the same time it would take you to go to 5 from 4 if you're adding 10-20 vocab per day via Anki.

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The main difference, I found, was the required speed. While I can finish an HSK5 mockup comfortably with time to spare, I have to race against the clock with HSK6, and never manage to finish it. I didn't have much problem with vocabulary, but the speed killed me.

So your reading speed needs to improve considerably, and understanding of grammar has to be thoroughly internalised, or you won't finish in time.

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renzhe: That's the thing, isn't it? Proficiency tests are designed to measure your ability, which only comes from prolonged effort and experience. Cramming for them is not really how they work.


The HSK 4 test that I failed miserably the other day looked pretty good and consistent with what I was expecting. If it were purely a knowledge-based test I'd have been all over it.


mokushiroku: I think renzhe's point is that you can only speed-read Chinese if you've sufficiently internalised the language.

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Probably off topic but I've been thinking about that a lot recently. When you speed read English text by reducing the number of saccadic movements your eyes perform, you can glance at each line of text two or three times, and you can comfortably see everything peripherally. Given that Chinese words are so much smaller, and consequently there are more words per line, would you need to increase eye movements to five or six per page, or would your peripheral vision do the same job it does in English?


If this makes no sense it's because I've been bloody unwell this week.

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It makes perfect sense. 


As there are so many more Chinese characters on any given line compared to a typical English line, I at least find it very difficult to read in what I understand to be 'speed-reading' in Chinese.


Again, it might just be that my Chinese level is just not up to it and that it's perfectly possible to read a normal sized page with comparatively few eye movements.

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As a Chinese translator who gets paid per character translated, I have to speed read if I want a self-given raise.


Generally, I look at the first word (if a verb) and last word. If the first word is a subject, I continue reading until I get to the verb.


Once I've got the subject, verb, and object, I begin writing the translation while reading the other details in that line (defined as the words before the comma).


I guess it's not so easy to explain this through text. Perhaps in the future I'll create a speedreading course for Chinese learners.

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