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Strategies for taking and preparing for the New HSK 6

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I'm doing the New HSK 6 next month, and I think I've read most of the information on this forum concerning the test by now. For those of you who have taken the test, what parts did you find the most difficult and how would you have prepared if you were to do the test again? Personally, after having looked at practice tests, I find the 语病 section to be very difficult and will probably opt to do it last in the reading section as I'm not likely to score high there anyway.

As for the writing part, do you have any pointers on what to focus on? Should I use my most advanced vocabulary and risk getting the nuances wrong or should I try to keep it simple and ensure that it's mostly correct?

Any advice is welcome!

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Don't even try the 语病 section. It's essentially impossible and a very laughable piece of test design. I've shown practice tests to 4-5 native speakers and none of them could get the 语病 questions correct. I thought maybe I was just asking the wrong people and they were all dumb or something. Then I met a grad student at 北大 and asked her to try. She couldn't get them either.

It's a classic example of poor Chinese test design: They make the test absurdly difficult to no purpose whatsoever and in a way that correlates poorly with real-world skills. This sort of nonsense is why such a huge proportion of Chinese students are 红包ing their way through CET, TEM, graduate entrance examinations, and undoubtedly other exams I don't know about.

You only need 60% to pass. That section is 20% of the total reading section, and you'll probably get 1-3 right by just guessing. So you just need like 70-75% on the rest of the reading section. I find the section right after the 语病 section, the part with 4 blanks, a bit difficult but doable. Everything after that I don't have any problems with.

I haven't taken the actual test, but some guy on here who passed HSK 6 studied with a test prep company beforehand. They had the same advice I posted above: Don't waste one second on the 语病 section. Just bubble in the letters randomly and hope for the best. You can make up for it on the more reasonable parts of the exam.

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From our Level 6 Guide:


General Tips       Listening Tips

                At this level, it is imperative that you get in the habit of listening to natural spoken Chinese. The level 6 tests throws long, natural sentences at you, and if you are not yet accustomed to the tones or sounds of Chinese, you will definitely have some problems. The listening section here emphasizes long sentences and conversations, which means you need to be able to quickly decode the somewhat hand-wavy grammar and context of Chinese. The only reliable way of doing so is becoming accustomed to listening to Chinese being spoken and hearing it for what it is (as opposed to decoding each sentence word-by-word).


        Listen to Chinese whenever possible. Listen when you eat. Listen on the bus. Eavesdrop on Chinese speakers if you can.


        Many resources will help you in this regard. Download Chinese lessons from iTunes or listen for free on Youtube. Chinese is not a secret language, and as long as you have the internet you can listen to Chinese at any time. So do so!


        The following are some extra tips to help you improve your listening for the HSK Level 6 test:


  • Memorize all 5,000 vocabulary words that are likely to be on the test. This means you will need to upgrade your vocab by 2,500 words if your last test was level 5.
  • For spoken sentences, try to anticipate what will be said next.
  • Pay special attention to what is being said rather the voice or accent of the speaker. China is a big place with many accents, and your experience with Chinese may have unintentionally prepared you to trip up when you hear different accents. The most important thing is to focus on the words, not the person speaking.
  • Take care to notice the tone being spoken. A difference in tone can change the entire meaning of a word. Practice your tones if you still have problems with this aspect.


Reading Tips


        At this level, you are going to need to have a vocabulary of at least 5,000 words. 5,000 words is a MINIMUM for this test.


        Here’s what average students do: Buy flashcards and study them once a day. Maybe download Anki and use online flashcards for the HSK that they download from the internet. Average students do not easily pass the HSK.


        Here’s what you are going to do: Buy a Chinese book your level. Let it be a novel, a comic, a magazine… whatever. Alternatively, find some Chinese resources (written by native speakers) online. READ THEM. Find more resources and KEEP READING. At this level, you are past the point of fumbling around with flashcards. Let’s get a serious grip on real Chinese, shall we?


        For this level of the HSK, knowing Pinyin becomes unnecessary. This differs from level 3, in which Pinyin was needed to answer some questions. At this stage of your Chinese learning you should be remove any reliance on Pinyin.


        General reading tips follow.


  • Again, memorize all 5,000 vocabulary words. This is even more important in the reading section.
  • Practice reading words in sentences quickly so you do not spend too much time on a certain problem.
  • The easiest way of analyzing a given sentence is to find the subject and the verb. Once you’ve done that, everything else comes together.
  • For longer sentences, to increase your speed, you might consider finding the subject and object first. This way you can get an idea of the relationship going on before looking for the verb. This is how I personally speed read Chinese when performing translation tasks.
  • If you do not know a word in a sentence, at least identify its form (e.g., noun, verb, adjective). Because Chinese sentences are roughly in the same form as English sentences, this is usually not difficult, especially for basic sentences.



Writing Tips


        The writing section assumes two things of the test taker:


  1. You know how to write the characters for the 5,000 included vocab.
  2. You know Chinese grammar to the extent where you can consistently form grammatically correct sentences with a given word.


        It’s not an easy task to memorize 5,000 vocab. It’s an even harder task to know how to make grammatically correct sentences with all these characters.


A few things to realize:

  • Every word is at least one part of speech (e.g., noun, adjective, conjunction…) and some words are many. Generally, if you know how to use an adjective and know the meaning of a given adjective, you will be able to make a decent sentence with that adjective.
  • Memorizing new vocabulary along with some easy sentences they fit in will benefit you in the long-term. For example, memorizing 似乎 in the sentence 传真机似乎坏了 will help you memorize how to use the word in addition to the word’s meaning. And in the case of the writing test that asks you to make sentences, you can simply pull sentences from your memory. Granted, it is harder to memorize a sentence than it is to memorize a word, but this will benefit you in the end.


        Generally, the writing section for this level is not a large problem for most students. Some find that the pressure of the test causes them to forget how to write a given character. Honestly, pressure is more of an excuse than anything. If you are frequently practicing your characters, you cannot forget how to write a character. After all, if you took a spelling test, you would not forget how to spell a word just because of pressure. If you know how to write it, you can write it on the test.


Read more in our HSK Level 6 Guide.


Good luck!

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