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Milkybar_Kid

Is it really that rare to pass level 6 of the HSK exam?

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Milkybar_Kid

Hello,

 

I was talking to some of the teachers on iTalki about my plans to sit the HSK this summer and some of them mentioned that it is very rare for foreign students to take the level 6 exam. Is this really the case?

 

Although I am not ready to sit the level 6 exam yet, I will still be doing the level 5 this summer. Most of the teachers told me that once you have passed the level 5 exam you are able to study for a degree using Chinese at a university in China. I guess this means that many people don't see the point of sitting the level 6 exam.

 

Are there any published figures available to check the authenticity of these claims?

 

Thanks

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Frederik451

I think it depends a lot where you look. Many people who study Chinese only do it for a year or less. I for example went to Beijing to study Chinese for 1 year as a gap year after high school. When i was there i never met anyone who had taken more than HSK 5. All the fellow students there were pretty much on HSK 4 and down. And most other waiguo people i met when i went out in the weekends and stuff were pretty much the same. HSK 4 or less. But in this forum, many people have taken HSK 6!

 

So i remember thinking that HSK 4 was the coolest thing ever, and that i would be fluent by then. Then after reaching HSK 4 level in that year, i realized it wasn't really anything. I would still turn on the television thinking that they were speaking Japanese.

 

Back in Denmark i then spent one more year on reaching HSK 5 and after that i still thought it was very far from being good enough. In that year i also found this forum and realized that HSK6 wasn't that special after all. (I hear the old HSK was much harder)

Then i spent this year reaching HSK 6 level which is pretty much where i am now. And to be honest i still feel like my Chinese is not good enough. 

 

So i never really believed that HSK 5 was enough to do a degree taught in Chinese. I have heard from a Chinese friend that many of the foreigners studying at her university are struggling to keep up, and many of them entered with HSK 5... The new words are simply too many

 

However i have never done it myself so i wouldn't know for sure. I'm sure there are people who can pick it up quick enough to get through it. :)  

 

I am very interested in hearing from some of those who are currently doing or have done a degree taught in Chinese :)

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xuefang
Then i spent this year reaching HSK 6 level which is pretty much where i am now. And to be honest i still feel like my Chinese is not good enough. 

 

@Frederik451 said it very well. When you get HSK4 it feels like HSK6 is something special, but when you actually pass HSK6 it isn't that special anymore. I passed HSK6 in 2013, then again this year, and still feel like my Chinese isn't good enough. I wonder if I ever feel my Chinese is good enough and I'm a Chinese teacher!

 

I think it's not rare to pass HSK6, but then again I'm studying a masters in teaching Chinese and my foreign classmates all have to take HSK6. Even after passing HSK6 studying a degree with Chinese students needs hard work. You especially need to read and write a lot.

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traunk

I agree that the test is hard but, I think the author( of the link I have at the bottom) makes it out to be harder than it is. I looked at the first question and guessed it correctly. I didn't need to know classical Chinese to figure it out, context was enough. Of course knowing the reference, would have changed the question from guessable to easy.  :)

 

I guess what is interesting to me is that it seems like each level is roughly twice as hard as the last. You gotta know twice as many words, read somewhat faster, write faster, comprehend what you hear quicker, know more words unofficial, etc. So if takes someone roughly 1 year to go from nothing to HSK 4, it should take that same person 2 years total for 5, and 4 for 6. At least in theory.

 

I have only taken HSK 3, and 4, but that has matched my experience. I had taken 2 semesters at university, and was in the middle of my third, when I took the HSK 3, and I got 292/300. I figured I picked too low, and I was at the HSK 4 level. I attempted the HSK 4 three months later in the middle of my fourth semester of Chinese and failed with 143/300. After college I kept studying on my own and six months later I reattempted the HSK 4, and passed with 201/300.

 

I did some web research like you, and didn't come up with much. I did find this link:

 

http://www.echinacities.com/china-media/Is-the-HSK-Level-6-Test-Too-Difficult-Foreign-Test-Takers-Seem-to-Think-So 

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Frederik451

 

 

So if takes someone roughly 1 year to go from nothing to HSK 4, it should take that same person 2 years total for 5, and 4 for 6. At least in theory.

 

In theory yes, but my experience is different. It becomes increasingly easy to learn characters in the upper levels of HSK because many of the new words are just different combinations of characters that you have seen in other words before. So fx the 0-1000 words you learn will take much longer time to memorise than from 1000-2000. 

 

Furthermore i believe that all the most important grammar and sentence structures in Chinese is within HSK 1-4. Which means that when you have learned that, it is much easier to study for level 5 and 6 because most of the time can just be spent on memorizing the vocabulary. 

 

I think you can easily go from HSK 4 to 5 in half a year. :)

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imron

HSK6 not so rare - the older HSK 11 on the other hand *was* pretty rare.

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Demonic_Duck
I did some web research like you, and didn't come up with much. I did find this link:

 

http://www.echinacit...em-to-Think-So

 

"'I already use Chinese professionally, and I still found this exam to be way too difficult!' said Li Ming (Chinese name) ... He has been studying for three years in China ... 'Even when you say the same thing with different tones, it means something different!' he exclaimed."

 

He uses Chinese professionally, has been studying for three years and only just figured out that saying things in different tones can change the meaning? Either that or he just never managed to get over it...

 

Also, neither of the example questions they give is particularly hard. “说曹操曹操就到” might not be the most commonly used idiom, but it often seems to be one of the first idioms taught to elementary or lower intermediate students. I certainly remember being taught it ages ago, long before I'd started learning any proper chengyu in earnest. As for the second question... really? Students will spend ages trying to figure out “生物学家” and “经济学家” so they'll miss out on “树林” or “黑熊”? None of these words is all that high-level... and anyway, when it comes down to it, the main word they need to be able to figure out is “跑”, which I assume is an HSK1 or 2 word.

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Simon_CH

A good friend of mine managed HSK 6 after roughly 2 years of more or less full-time study. She may have had some prior experience with learning Chinese but not that extensively. 

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Johnny20270
A good friend of mine managed HSK 6 after roughly 2 years of more or less full-time study. She may have had some prior experience with learning Chinese but not that extensively. 

 

 

Impressive! i can't even make HSK4 after one year :roll:

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Frederik451

where i was studying from 2012-2013 (beijing international chinese college) the common thing was to do HSK4 in one year and those who studiet very hard for it, could pass HSK 5 after that one year. We did however only have 2-5 students in each class

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Johnny20270
where i was studying from 2012-2013 (beijing international chinese college) the common thing was to do HSK4 in one year and those who studiet very hard for it, could pass HSK 5 after that one year. We did however only have 2-5 students in each class

 

 

I am in BICC at the moment, I see many take HSK4 before the year was out. Seems to be achievable, but personally I would like a high mark if I was to take the HSK test and not just >180. Did someone take HSK5 in one year? I heard of one girl who was particularly good at language but no-one else.

 

Mind you I don't rate BICC as a good school at all and find it very difficult to make progress there but they are keen to stress that other students are happy so readers of this forum should take that into account and not just my view. Doesn't suit my learning style to be honest

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Frederik451

Well in my class we were only 3 students for one whole year which means that we were on the same level all the way through. No interruptions. We all knew which words we had learned and the teachers knew. We all passed HSK4 with around +90% correct in the end. Those three who took HSK5 (three americans) got around 230 i think, so its not like they barely made it through. 

 

For me, the difference between BICC and universities like BLCU is that it's very small classes there. At least it was when i was there. I don't really mind the CV of the teachers or the name of the university. 3 students, 1 teacher 09:15-15:30 every day, that's how we did it in one year :) (And our oral Chinese actually got even better than our reading because we had so much focus on speaking)

 

It's quite expensive though, in my opinion

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Johnny20270

thats very good, Frederick

 

seem like you have a good run there. I and others are having a whole lot of problems which no-one is willing to solve unfortunately.

 

Anyway, apologies for the slight topic derailment. So looks like HSK5 is quick possible in one year under the right circumstances.  

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xiaokaka

I know of a Korean guy who passed HSK6 after only 7 months! (I'm not sure about his knowledge prior to that, but he said he only knew how to say 你好 and stuff like that, but that might not be entirely true.) He was studying the language program at Jiaotong University and also took HSK courses at a Korean school at the same time, were they prepared only for passing the HSK and as homework every day he had to learn 50 new words. I think he passed HSK4 after only two months or so and then HSK5 not much later. When he took HSK6 after only 7 months he didn't expect to pass it, but did so barely.

That just shows that it is possible to game the HSK if you want to, but I don't see why you would want to, except if you need if for admission to a school etc., but even then I don't think your level would be good enough to follow the lectures anyway.

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XiaoXi

I think it depends a lot where you look. Many people who study Chinese only do it for a year or less. I for example went to Beijing to study Chinese for 1 year as a gap year after high school. When i was there i never met anyone who had taken more than HSK 5. All the fellow students there were pretty much on HSK 4 and down. And most other waiguo people i met when i went out in the weekends and stuff were pretty much the same. HSK 4 or less. But in this forum, many people have taken HSK 6!

 

So i remember thinking that HSK 4 was the coolest thing ever, and that i would be fluent by then. Then after reaching HSK 4 level in that year, i realized it wasn't really anything. I would still turn on the television thinking that they were speaking Japanese.

 

 

You'll probably find that just like the Chinese taking all their English exams, getting really high grades but they can't actually use English at all in the real world - they're just good at passing exams. If you want to be good at Chinese in a real sense then listen and read a lot in the target language. If you want to pass exams then study specifically for that goal.

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jiasen

The HSK is tailored to the classroom style of teaching which is so common for Chinese. For the listening section, the presenters speak slowly with perfectly standard Mandarin. There is a large focus on formal written Chinese (书面语). The comprehension passages are similar to those you commonly encounter in textbooks. Although the grammar section is an anomaly, especially since I've rarely met a native Chinese peaker who scores more than 7-8/10 in the HSK6 version.

 

In other words if you are a good student and spend long enough in school, you should do well in the HSK tests.

 

Developing functional Mandarin, however, is another level of hard work and skills. Like learning to cope with regional accent variations, slang and various styles and pace of speaking. Or learning to cope with different genres and styles of Chinese - comedies, newspaper articles, wuxia, journal articles etc. For all this, classroom skills only serve as a framework to get you in the game.

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masirui

As quite a few people have mentioned, HSK 6 is not really a difficult exam. The listening section is painfully slow and clear compared to the way that anyone you ever meet will speak to you. The reading comprehension section is the one that tends to pose a challenge for a lot of people, simply because of the amount of reading that needs to be done and how quickly you need to process all the information, but it's still quite manageable if you do the questions in a more logical order (they put the really challenging grammar questions up front). The writing section is not all that hard at all because you're simply summarising a text that was already given to you. Just choose a few key words to repeat in your summary and you'll probably be fine.

 

For reference: I've been in China for a bit over 3.5 years. I studied for just over a year at a private language school in Beijing, with the first 8 months being small group classes, and the remaining time as 1-on-1 because I hated the structure (or lack thereof) of the small group classes. After 7 months of really half-assed studying, I got a 275/300 on the HSK 4, and after 12 months of study I got a 248/300 on the HSK 5. I say half-assed studying because I initially had no real intention of studying Chinese and went out to bars/clubs half the time and never did homework. I was also pretty surprised with how low the standards are for HSK. When I took the HSK 5, I felt like my Chinese was nothing too special, but I found that many of the people taking the test with me really had difficulty speaking and a minimal grasp of the tones (it was probably about half Korean/Japanese and half Western). 

 

After passing the HSK 5, I just started working for a while, and never really gave the HSK another thought. I didn't use Chinese for work purposes, but I had a large group of Chinese friends, probably more than I had expat friends. In 2014, I did one semester of intensive classes at Tsinghua's IUP Program, which had a huge impact on my Chinese level, though I wouldn't really say it preps you in any way for the HSK. Now (July 2015), I'm planning on taking the HSK 6 in 2 weeks, and I've been answering between 85 and 95 of the 100 questions right (Listening and Reading Comprehension) on the practice tests. I'm also fairly confident I could've passed the exam a year and a half ago after 2 years of study, though my score wouldn't have been very good.

 

Unless you really need the HSK because you want to study in China or it's required for whatever reason, I would recommend giving it a pass. I've met people that crushed HSK 6 and could barely communicate, and I've met people that did poorly on HSK 5 and had quite impressive Chinese. You're much better off just reading a lot, making Chinese friends, and spending your time actually using the language. This is how you develop actually useful language skills that will benefit you in your day to day life. If you do this and decide you want to take the HSK 6 later for whatever reason, you may be pleasantly surprised. 

 

P.S. Don't put too much faith in the big language programs in China unless you get good reviews from really people, not just the testimonials on their websites. From what I've seen, the vast majority spew it people who can ready OK but can barely speak, just like the Chinese education system does with learning English.

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somethingfunny

I thought I needed HSK 6 for the degree programme I wanted to study in China so studied towards it for a few months in my weekly Chinese class.  After a while I found out that the HSK 5 I already had would be sufficient and as soon as I told my Chinese teacher this they strongly recommended studying something different if I no longer planned to actually take the HSK 6 exam.  In my teachers words, studying for HSK 6 will make you good at taking the HSK 6 exam, but if you want to improve your overall Chinese then there are much better ways of doing that.

 

My teacher would also marvel at the ability of Korean students to learn Chinese but it often came with a grain of salt, being that they wouldn't all necessarily be that good at communicating in Chinese, but if they needed to memorise 50 (50!) characters a day, they could do it no problem.

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XiaoXi
My teacher would also marvel at the ability of Korean students to learn Chinese but it often came with a grain of salt, being that they wouldn't all necessarily be that good at communicating in Chinese, but if they needed to memorise 50 (50!) characters a day, they could do it no problem.

 

They have no problem 'cos they've already learnt them at school along with their own language. Not to mention that languages of neighbouring countries are always gonna be more familiar than languages of countries far away. This is why if you ask a Korean about a famous Chinese singer or actor they say they don't know, but if you write their name down in with Chinese characters they know it straight away. Even Koreans in the beginner classes could recognise characters in names which as we know as foreigners studying Chinese, the characters used in names are some of the hardest to get a grip on.

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anonymoose

I got a highly-scored HSK 8 before starting a degree in Chinese. I found that my Chinese level was nowhere near high enough to really keep up initially. I mean, it was enough to communicate, but not to follow an academic lecture.

 

I'm not sure how good one's Chinese has to be to pass the new HSK 6 (I think I did 5 before, but that was so long ago, I don't even remember), but I suspect that one's Chinese would still be very basic in the real world.

 

Interestingly, Chinese students face the same problem when they come to the west to study. To get into a UK university, they have to get an IELTS score. Most univerisities require a 6 or 6.5, and some of the top universities require a 7. Oxford and Cambridge require a 7.5 in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking sections. Very few students manage to reach a 7.5 (probably less than 1 in 50 in an English-medium school), and this is seen as only achievable by those students with amazing English (xue ba). But in reality, even 7.5 is a low level when one has to actually use English in real life situations and studying. Amongst feedback from students who have come to the UK to study, the one recurring theme is how unprepared they were for handling real life English, even if they thought they had good English with a high IELTS score.

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