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Anyone Taken the HSK Advanced


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I would love to get a breakdown of the numbers getting levels 9, 10 and 11 by nationality. it would be fascinating!

I would too. I think about 3,500 people took this last one. Just an estimate, there may have been less than 100 European/American students.

In the last two or three years, I’ve become somewhat fanatical about vocabulary acquisition, and I’ve often wondered about its relation to the HSK. Of course the HSK advanced requires several productive skills, and you have no hope of passing if you can’t write or speak, which might be a death blow to some students (I had previously semi-stereotyped Koreans as being relatively weak in speaking, but I’ve met a few at Fudan recently that are incredibly impressive). Anyway, I’ve kind of wondered what the relationship is between the size of one’s vocabulary and the score on the test. Assuming an individual doesn’t have any major deficiencies (such as not being able to write by hand), I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the band scores (11,10,9, Fail) significantly corresponded to vocabulary size. In other words, a person who was able to achieve a 10 would have a larger vocabulary than a person with a 9….etc. Why?

I think there are a few reasons:

1) I have read research once that a student must know 90-95% of the vocabulary in a particular passage in order to really be able to guess the meaning of unknown words (this percentage is much higher than many EFL/CFL teachers might assume, by the way). If you understand even less, say, 60-80%, it is much harder to employ “meta-reading strategies” to help you. Of course, the HSK reading requires amazing speed and accuracy (as opposed to just getting the main gist of a passage). So, the clever bastards who make the test, in my opinion, purposely make the readings complex in terms of vocabulary and tone so as to screw over and weed out as many people as possible so that they can have a nice curve distribution. That’s just my theory (and I have no evidence to back it up of course, because the test is 保密的).

2) The same 90% rule holds for listening, in my opinion. In my experience, regardless of the language involved, if I can understand somewhere around 90% of a speaker’s words, then I can almost always accurately know what they are talking about. If I understand less than 90% in a conversation, I would ask questions to the speaker to ask for clarification or re-wording. This is, again, one of the difficulties in the listening because the listening are very long and you obviously can’t ask for clarification. I think it is easy to get “lost” in the listenings if you hit a patch in which you don’t understand much of what they are saying. As heifeng indicated, I think some of the information needed for the answers comes in the form of an idiom or colloquialism (a rare word, in other words) in the middle of long listening. This would also reinforce the idea the vocabulary, and especially rare words, are essential to doing well on the test. You might have a listening about kites, dates (the food), economic reform…etc. You can and should have as many test taking strategies available, but that is a piss poor second choice to actually knowing the words and material in the first place.

3) You can only get the gap fill on the 综合 part filled in correctly if you know the word.

4) The speaking section on the in the first section in which you read the set passage could become a disaster if you don’t have a larger vocab.

So, my advice, to djwebb or venture160, if you are thinking about taking the test sometime down the road, become tenaciously hardcore about vocabulary acquisition, in addition to other areas of Chinese.

Here’s a post I wrote (in the midst of being insanely frustrated with the university I was working at while teaching so-called“academic English”) about vocabulary. I think it has a bit of relevance to the skills needed for the HSK.


Also, here’s some hilarious advice from Arnold Schwazenegger: “That’s the ultimate power- your vocabulary. How you communicate. The more words you have, the better you can communicate, and the quicker you can put someone away.”


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“That’s the ultimate power- your vocabulary. How you communicate. The more words you have, the better you can communicate, and the quicker you can put someone away.”

Ahh-nold! haha, fun stuf...

Topic related to the exam: Did you get your certficate yet? Did you notice how there isn't an embossed stamp on your picture like there is on the chuzhong exam? What gives (I called the office, as I am so fond of doing anyway and they said they never had that stamp on the advance certificate)? And to go through all that effort! I'm going to start making counterfeit certificates now since they are so easy to make without the embossed stamp. Look for my add on a sticker on the ground near you....

The other point of my reply here is that I discovered Beijing 90.50 and now my morning isn't complete without it. Good for listening practice. (Better than watching TV b/c you don't have all the visual clues)

Vocab seems like very sound advice!! (One of my instructors had very similar advice and also emphasized improving vocab in the area of adjectives, chengyu, verbs, esp. for speaking and writing. I realize now even at an "advanced" level my adjective vocabulary is not so great...)

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I did some past papers recently, and on the zonghe section i got to X位开会 , and I couldn't think of a character to replace X. Of course it was: 单位开会, which I do understand, but I could not for the life of me think of a character that would make sense in the context.

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By the way, my Chinese friend went through a zonghe section of a past paper withme and explained things. There is a section where you need to put sentences or parts of sentences in order to form a little paragraph: you need to choose BACD or CABD or whatever. But he confirmed that there were at least 2 questions in the section where more than one order would make sense, and so even a Chinese person might get the question "wrong". AAAAARGH! I have done 2 zonghe sections in past papers and got 25 out of 40 in one and 23 out of 40 in the other: that is enough for a Level 9 on that section, isn't it?

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what do native Chinese people themselves think of the HSK Advanced? do they think it's hard? it's been proven that being a native speaker doesn't mean you have a perfect, or even good grasp, on the grammar or vocabulary of the language.

as I have experienced, some native English speakers just fail on the English part of the SATs.

not to brag, but I was surprised when I did better than many native English speakers back way back when I first took the SAT in high school (I'm not a native English speaker, I moved to America only when I was 14), and I didn't even do that well. it's just surprising how many native English speakers don't understand the English grammar, or simply spell correctly! although when I think about it today, non-native speakers probably study that certain language much much harder than the native speakers do. so looking at it from this point, it shouldn't be so surprising that non-native could do better than native speakers.

so, back to my original question, what do native Chinese speakers think of the HSK, on the Advanced level in particular.


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that is enough for a Level 9 on that section, isn't it?

It PROBABLY is, but most people (as in Korean, and here in China, get really high scores in this section, i.e. 90+ so there is some sort of curve, I believe) Also this section is the most negligable b/c you can get this section plus one other section lower than the actual final score that you are assigned, granted you have the total points for that higher level. Evil sections which are harder than you think included reading (speed speed scan scan) and listening (which seems like it is always harder on the actual exam than any practice exams I have taken due to the background noise and accents). Of course, maybe these won't pose a problem for you, but you can refer to our previous rants from before to get an idea of what we think about all of these sections....have fun=D

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  • 1 month later...

Since this is in the new links to love list, is there anyone preparing for the April exam, and if so, would they like to share any strategies, words of encouragement, updates, etc?

I'm slowly getting around to test-taking mode. Mostly I am working on improving speaking (b/c of my previous bad tones and langdu issues) and writing. Also, I think working on these areas will also help me in non-testing situations too.

To ensure progress, I'm taking a buxiban writing class and reading 1/2 hour aloud each day (*ugh* painful to do but my teacher ordered it) and working on my tones by utilizing my on the bus time to memorize tones... Closer to the exam I think I'll do some timed 'speed' reading practice and such. I think if I actually get a 10 I'll cut myself some slack and maybe go on a Chinese break for a few months...Wushijiao's learning a 2nd foreign language thread has me thinking more about learning another language before my mind slows down or gets too bogged down with chengyu hehe...we shall see :mrgreen:

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Yeah, I plan on taking it in April. My goal is to get a 10 in one of the two 2007 tests.

Right now I am working on reading and listening. For the reading, like I said, I think the test consists of two main difficulties: raw speed and crazy difficulty. So, I’m trying to put myself and a regimen of speed reading combined with challenging readings.

So, I’m loosely working at getting better at both of those things. Currently reading 近代中国国际契机:朝贡贸易体系与近代亚洲经济圈 by 滨下武志(Takeshi Hamashita)。 That book is very interesting, but horribly and wonderfully academic, and it has extremely long and complicated grammatical structures and vocabulary. So, I’m going through that fairly slowly. But it matches up well with the other book I found about formal/academic Chinese. I’m also reading 中国(六4)真相 (下), which is a book that is the Chinese version of the T i a n m e n P a p e r s (don’t want to trigger the censors). Just finished 上 a while ago. Anyway, because I’ve already read that in English, I’ve been able to speed read that, which hopefully will pay off. I’m also reading random newspapers and a lot of 南方周末 and 凤凰周刊.

As far as listening, I’m trying to watch the news every night, usually on 东方卫士。I also started listening to anti-wave. And I listen to tapes all the time when I’m walking anywhere. I’m also trying to watch more TV, but I haven’t really been doing that.

As far as speaking, writing, and grammar, I haven’t been doing anything special, and I’ve been extremely lazy about practicing writing by hand.

So, my goal is to use every once of energy possible to build a better foundation until about a month before the test. I have a ton of books on the shelf to read (some given to me by Gato :D ), and I’m going to try to knock down 4-5 by the end of March. Then, this time, I’m planning on doing tons of practice tests, and maybe even joining a class.

Anyway, I still feel that, for me, listening and reading are the two hardest parts. So, that’s what I’m many concentrating on.

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I noticed that the HSK website doesn't seem to have the 2007 schedule up yet. Has anyone seen it?

Good luck to everyone on their test prep! I haven't taken the advanced yet, plan to take it for the first time in April. Reading this thread is extremely useful and motivating.

I'm also a fan of listening to the radio. There's something about having no visual cues that makes you focus in on the words. Check out 中国广播网. Tons of programs with live and on-demand streaming. http://media.cnr.cn/index.jsp

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wushijiao - what tapes do you listen to? I finally got some new headphones for my 1st Gen ipod, I have put my textbook dialogues on there and some antiwave mp3's, but I am looking for some more content to listen to...

thanks in advance

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Well, the tapes that I have are mainly made by myself, with the help of my wife who speaks perfect Putonghua. Basically, I take all the random things that I have studied and put it onto the tapes. For example, I finished reading a book about Tibet last month. I had put all of the new vocab from the book onto a list on Pleco. Then going through the list, my wife would say the word onto the tape, I would say the English, and then any example sentences (which in my opinion, are crucial from remembering stuff). Sometimes if there aren’t example sentences, I will look in another dictionary for them.

Then, when I was reading that book, I would sometimes find parts of the text that were perhaps particularly useful language-wise (a lot of new vocab or grammar structures) or were particularly interesting meaning-wise (for example, one about how many Tibetan Communist cadres hung portraits of Mao and Zhou on there walls, but behind the portraits were other portraits of the DL and PL. They would change the portrait based on who came to their house as a guest. These people were termed 两面派). So we would record those sections onto the tapes as well. Anyway, the goal is to be able to instantly be able to recognize all the new vocab aurally. I think maybe other people might agree, you can often read new words and figure them out based on guessing their character components, but you wouldn't necessarily be able to recognize it if it were spoken full speed in conversation. (That is one disadvantage non-native speakers of a language have: most of new vocabulary is first learned on paper, but for native speakers, most vocabulary is first leaned in talking and listening to people.)

About two years ago I bought the BLCU books 新闻听力教程 (上下). I wouldn’t really recommend those books because the tapes were horrible and all the units were boring propaganda. But one useful thing about those books was that they had a list of the 20-25 new vocabulary words with their corresponding English meaning, the new names of people, companies, political organizations, places…etc. They also include some of the common collocations, like for 达成 达成协议,达成共识,达成和解,能够达成,基本达成。Anyway, Chinese has millions of the four character phrases that are almost always used together, and yet foreigners often memorize the vocab in isolation (ie. not memorizing the four character combinations.)

So, we would put all of the new vocab onto tapes along with those word combinations, then my wife would slightly slowly read those particular transcripts. Since I usually listen to one particular tape everyday, everywhere I go for about a month, I could usually memorize close to all of those listening.

In a nutshell, these are the things that I’ve been doing to get good at listening, and for the most part, the results have been pretty good. I think my listening comprehension has improved dramatically over the past few years.

People often say that if you want to get good at listening to the news in a foreign language, then “you need to listen to the news everyday”. Of course, that’s common sense. However, I think that listening to news (or other listenings) should be viewed more in the same light that extensive speed reading is connected to reading. I think going over a text and trying to analyze all the sentence structures, picking apart the vocabulary and word combinations, and then trying to memorize it, is probably a better overall “bread and butter” way of getting good at listening to the news, although it should be used in addition to extensively news listening.

Going back to the topic of the HSK Advanced, I think that the type of listenings I had prepared for didn’t prepare me very well for the test. The main reason is that the test’s listening speed is just so damn crazy fast. Probably to better prepare for the HSK Advanced listenings, one should: 1) watch a lot of TV talk shows (of which questions 25-40 are usually taken from directly) 2) watch a lot of TV soap operas and movies 3) listen to the news, especially quickly-spoken news 4) talk to a wide variety of Chinese people about a wide variety of topics 5) improve one’s vocabulary

So, I’ve been trying to do things on a daily basis that will prepare me for those requirements. I’ve also now tried to make the recordings on my tapes as fast as possible. Going to school now in Chinese (as opposed to me working in an “English only” work environment) has made a huge improvement, obviously.

Anyway, if anyone else has any suggestions or techniques for getting good at listening, especially for the HSK Advanced, I’d love to read it.

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WuShiJiao, thank you for your awesome response to my question! I have been listening to the BBC Chinese everday now for about 30 minutes, and then watching soap operas for about 30 minutes, and trying to squeze in TV if I can. the problem is I still have 6 other classes to worry about (I am still an undergrad in the states) so its hindering my ability to go full speed.

thanks again for your reply!

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djwebb, do not worry! I have not read a book in chinese EVER. i have tried, but it's just too... difficult. but i did pass HSK (got a decent 9). so do not panic.

I agree with lau. Eveybody has different interests and personal passions (maybe like watching movies/talking with people). I think doing a ton of practice tests would perhaps be more useful than reading a lot of random things. This time I'm going to start to focus more on getting down the types of questions they ask, and other such things.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I saw on the HSK site the next round of exams is April 21st - the Queen's birthday in fact, but I don't think it was chosen for that reason :) And registration is April 2nd-6th, but apparently you can register on line from March 5th to 25th for 31 locations (see http://www.hsk.org.cn/news/%E5%85%B3%E4%BA%8E2007%E5%B9%B44%E6%9C%88%E4%BB%BDHSK%E8%80%83%E8%AF%95%E7%BD%91%E4%B8%8A%E6%8A%A5%E5%90%8D%E7%9A%84%E9%80%9A%E7%9F%A5.htm but I am wondering: are these the only locations where the HSK is held or are they just the only ones you can register online for? Kunming is not listed. I would have the choice of going north to Chengdu or Chongqing, or more exotically, going south to Mengzi to take the test with the shaoshu minzu!!

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Countdown: 2 months to hsk....

So, in an seemingly never ending attempt to improve my writing, I checked out writing & test prep books for chuzhong students. What I discovered is the following:

-Yes, it really must suck to be a jr high & high school student in China b/c those reference books are massive, but there is definitely a better selection of those (including timed writing, reference books, sample essay books) than there are for the advanced HSK writing section. ( I know I have never found a writing book that I really liked that was specifically designed for foreign students)

-I think that these books give a much better reference for the use of chengyu than books for foreign students & are slightly cheaper. Maybe they don't necessarily contain all the pinyin, but you can look up facial discriptions, body type, plants, animals, movements, emotions...etc in the table of contents, and the books will give you approprate chengyu and good sample sentences.

-You can get your hands on many sample essays that students wrote, which helps with your own writing. There are endless essays on those generic essay topics, both shuoming wen, yilun wen...etc etc.

Although I am sure many of us taking the advanced HSK can read much more complicated stuff, writing is a different beast, and some of these jr high/hs student essays are not bad. Simple enough to use as a reference to build up your own writing if necessary.

Lastly, after reading some of these essays, I am really curious to know what the advance HSK scores would be equivalent to in terms of Chinese students school grade level....

ok, good luck with everyone's studying!

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I hope to be taking the HSK in April. I have never taken HSK before, and neither have I really had any formal chinese learning before. My main reason for taking the HSK is to guage my level of Chinese. The problem is, I don't really know which level of HSK I should be taking. I have looked at a few intermediate HSK text-books and I reckon I can get at least 80% of the questions right. What kind of grade would I get in the HSK with this performance? Or should I be thinking about taking the advanced HSK?

Is it easier to score a grade 9 on advanced HSK, or a grade 8 on intermediate HSK? I ask this because I assume a lower percentage of questions have to be answered correctly to get a 9 on advanced than 8 on intermediate.

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I have looked at a few intermediate HSK text-books and I reckon I can get at least 80% of the questions right. What kind of grade would I get in the HSK with this performance?

I think the best answer we can give you is: there is no way to know for sure. I could be wrong though. See:


If you are wondering which test to take, I suppose that my experience might be of use. In April of '06 I took the Gao and Chuzhong, one on a Sunday, one on a Saturday. I got a 7 on the Chuzhong and I failed the Gao, although I came a bit close to passing.

This year it seems that you can also take both. But if you want to focus on just one, I think you will have to look at what skills you are good at, and weak at, and then see how those skills match up to each particular test.

You might also want to look at this tread, especially heifeng's comments on the 8 vs. 9 debate.


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