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HSK - Reliable Information and Advice


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As always with Chinese websites information is fairly lacking so I hope you guys can shed some light :D

As far as I can tell there are 3 main exams:

HSK Basic

Grade C (Level 1)

Grade B (Level 2)

Grade A (Level 3)

Test is: Listening, Grammer, Reading


HSK Elementary / Intimidate


Grade C (Level 3)

Grade B (Level 4)

Grade A (Level 5)


Grade C (Level 6)

Grade B (Level 7)

Grade A (Level 8)

Test is: Listening, Grammer, Reading, Cloze Test

HSK Advanced

Grade C (Level 9)

Grade B (Level 10)

Grade A (Level 11)

Written Test (120m): Listening, Reading, Cloze

Writing Test (30m)

Oral Test (20m)





Question 1: There are no oral tests for Levels 1 - 8?

Question 2: All over the internet you see vocabulary levels for 1 - 6, is this still applicable or are these old exams?

Question 3: Where can i get an upto-date list of vocab?

e.g. is this up-to date http://www.hskhsk.com/word-lists.html

Question 4: Are there writing tests for the first HSK? how neat does your writing have to be? (note: i almost never write, always use a computer or phone to type chinese)

Question 5: can anyone recommend any good resources for studying for HSK Basic (Level 3).

Question 6:

So basically we're just doing it for fun and not for career reasons or anything.. would a good approach be to just aim to do 1 exam every couple of years HSK Basic (Level 3), HSK Intermediate (Level 8), HSK Advanced (Level 9).

At the moment we have a working vocabulary of about 900 or so words.. so not a huge amount but i'd like some structured study to improve this.

Thankyou for any advice!

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Actually what you found is the old structure, these days there are 6 written tests; HSK1 until HSK6 as well as 3 oral tests.

Q1: There are 3 oral tests, from what I understand the first one roughly corresponds to the level of (HSK1+2), the second to HSK3+4 and so on.

Q2: Yes this is for the new tests, all other lists for basic/elementary/advanced are outdated.

Q3: That list is up to date, you can also go to http://www.chinesetest.cn/index.do (can be set to english), go to download and download the test exams. There is a word list at the end of the exam. Those exams are pretty much the same as far as difficulty goes compared to the real exams.

Q4: HSK1+2 are both in pinyin and characters and don't require any writing. From HSK3 on there is a writing part. For the HSK3 it requires getting a bunch of characters and putting them in the right sentence order as well as writing one missing character in a sentence(you get the pinyin). I don't think they are that strict when it comes to neatness but it obviously should not look like a different character because you made strokes too long/short or differently.

Q5: I just went through standard textbooks such as New practical chinese reader and added missing vocabulary to ANKI. For exam practice, those 5 exams on chinesetest.cn are best. I've also used a test book from BCLU which has another 10 tests with the exact same structure as the real tests, however they use a fair amount of words that are not on the vocabulary lists, so they are harder than the actual test.

Q6: Depends on how much and fast you study but the amount of words on the vocabulary list goes from 150 for HSK1 to 300 for HSK2, 600 for HSK3 and so on, so it's going to take longer and longer. In my country there were only 2 times per year you could take the exams up until recently, so you'd better check in to that as well.

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I find the service from chinesetest - eshton's link ^ - absolutely reliable.

I registered over them, showed up at the test where I live (half across the globe), and everything went smoothly and professional. Now just waiting for the results to come in.

For training, they have plenty free downloads of tests of the prior years, and the accompanying audio files. I found everything very structured and user-friendly.

It's the best resource in my eyes.

I also study Chinese just out of personal interest, and did the New HSK 2 to have some "proof" of where I stand, and will attend 3 in December. So naturally, I think your idea is very good :wink:

So good luck Rudemonkey!

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  • 5 months later...

I disagree with alanmd about the reliability and professionality of Confucius institutes and Hanban.


In The Netherlands there are 2 Conficius institutes. The one in Groningen (where I live, luckily) is very professional, the one in Leiden is very amateuristic (you also see the difference when you have a look at their websites: http://confuciusinstituut.nl/en/ = Leiden, http://www.confuciusgroningen.nl/en/p/ = Groningen).


During the last computer exam I took in Leiden (october 2013) everything went OK, but in the years before I have encountered numerous problems. See my stories at this page: http://home.hccnet.nl/h.dalmolen/En/China/HSK.htm,

and especially in this section: http://home.hccnet.nl/h.dalmolen/En/China/HSK.htm#procs


Now I know somebody who has had problems registering for about 4 consecutive times (trying all kinds of computers, operating systems and browsers). They aren't able to solve it at the Conf.inst. in Leiden (so they have to register her manually), and after Hanban got involved they made a mess of it too. Now even the fotograph has disappeared from the site, etc., etc. You could write a book about it.


So I suppose alanmd is just lucky.



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No problem- sorry, I took your meaning literally! Yes I am sure the Confucius Institutes vary in quality, as they are run pretty independently. I have heard rumours about the teaching quality being poor in some of them, but the two classes I took had fantastic teachers, and the other teachers who I met were very enthusiastic and well qualified. 

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While I have heard both very good and very bad stories about Confucius institutes around the world from our students, I can personally testify to Hanban (in my experience) being a lot of things, but reliable and professional are not among them. Not very helpful for the poster I realize and I am happy someone has had a good experience with Hanban, however in each and every instance I dealt with them was very frustrating.

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I have another bad experience, this time with the 1 institute (of 2 in the Netherlands) I thought was well organized.


I took the level 5 exam on december 1. Just like in may 2013 the instructions were in Chinese, while in the invitation for the exam they say the instructions will be in English. This is not such a big problem for me anymore, because this was the 5th time I tried level 5, so by now I know the drill. As far as I'm concerned, they can give the instructions in Swahili :-).


Much worse was what happened after the listening part. We got the usual 5 minutes to copy the answers to the answer sheet, and then I waited for the signal to start with the reading part. According to the procedures you should get such a signal, and you also should get a signal 5 minutes before the reading part is finished. So I waited and waited and waited, and there were just 2 persons who took the exam. The examinator (a newbie, I later found out) was busy doing her own things, and I couldn't see the other candidate.


So after 5 to 10 minutes I asked the examinator if I already could start. She said she had said so, but then she at least didn't pay attention to feedback, because I hadn't noticed the signal. She gave me extra time, to make up for the late start, but I get very stressed by such an event, so I think my score on the reading part will be the lowest ever.

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