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Scott Maximus

HSK 5 Readig Part 2

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Scott Maximus

Hello everyone! This is my first post ever on this forum.

I was hoping someone with experience passing the HSK 5 exam could help me.

In preparation for a HSK 5 exam I have in a few weeks I have completed many mock exams and have found that the only section which I do horribly in is Part 2 of the reading section. In Parts 1 & 3 of the reading section I'm doing reasonably well and am showing progress, however, for the life of me I cannot seem to answer a single question right in Part 2 when under the stress of time (if I'm lucky I'll get 1-2 right).

I have tried two strategies. The first one is read one of the possible answers and check if it is true or false, then the next, and so on. However, if the correct answer refers to the overall meaning or context of the passage this method doesn't seem to work because I'm only focusing on specific sections of the passage. The second strategy is to quickly skim the passage then decide which answer is true, but I cannot remember enough about what the passage said to answer correctly.

I'd greatly appreciate someone's assistance!

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I used the mixture of your methods during the exam:


- First I read the question and the answers

- Then I read up to the second or third row of the text, to become familiar with what the text is about

- After that I skimmed through the text, identifying the verbs and the conjunctions (in 2013/2014, HSK4 and HSK5 were both about 连词, without a good understanding of those you faced a lot of trouble during the exams)

- And finally made my choice


HSK5 is the first HSK level that requires efficient time management and a good strategy of tackling the questions, but it's not rocket science at all. I hated it as well when I was preparing for it, and I felt that it was not fair just after finishing the exam. I still passed it with a good score, and later it turned out that there are some professional exams much harder to handle in terms of time pressure, and experience in effective allocation of time for scoring marks turned out to be really valuable.

Potential problems can arise if you're not used to reading in various Chinese sources before the exam - I say, a good one month dedicated reading is very useful before the exam, simply because it helps your brain to be wired for quick character recognition. You have to be disciplined and try not to translate the text in your mind while reading it, as you lose more time and focus in this way, and you will cling to characters that you're not familiar with.


Good luck for the exam, I hope you can pass it!

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Scott Maximus

Excellent advice! Thank you!

However, I was referring to Part 2 of the reading section where for each question they give you a small paragraph and for each paragraph you must choose a correct statement about the paragraph of four possible options. The advice you gave me doesn't seem to apply to this kind of question.

Could you please tell me how you approached this kind of question?

Free digital beverage of your choice, on me, if your method works.

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Well, I suppose the ideal situation would be if you could read each passage, understand every word, then make sense of the choices available to you - and do all of that in a speedy fashion so as not to lose too much time.


However, the reality of the higher level HSK exams is that the reading section will almost certainly be crammed with words, places, names and chengyus - all too often as the passage subject matter - that (IMHO) the woefully inadequate 2,500 vocab list will not have prepared you for.  Add in a less than generous time limit, and you do feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants, not really feeling confident that you're truly grasping any of the material you are presented with, that it's more educated guesswork based on recognition of a few keywords and what seems sensible, rather than a 100% confident answer.


But, short of taking time out to learn a few more thousand words that would actually prepare you for the test, there are a couple of things you can do to make life a bit easier.


I'm not a teacher, so I don't claim to be an authority here, but here are a few tricks I picked up.


Firstly, the passages tend to fall into the following categories: life tips, human society, jokes, stories (usually with a moral) and more 'documentary' pieces that talk about a plant, animal, place, historical event or type of food.


For the life tips / human society pieces, I'd say as soon as you grasp the main point or you feel like some sort of over-riding statement has been made (which could be as early as the first sentence), discontinue reading and check the 4 answers - there's a very good chance that you'll find a matching response.  For example, if your passage starts with 'Research has shown that decorating the workplace can improve worker efficiency', I'd stop there and go check your options.  A lot of the time, an option like 'Pretty workplaces improve worker efficiency' will be there, so you'll score a quick hit for very little time expended, which you can subsequently allot to the more difficult questions.


For the stories and jokes, as soon as you get the moral message or punchline, jump out and check the answers.


The 'documentary' pieces tend to be the trickier ones, not only as they tend to take an unknown word as the subject matter (e.g. a plant or animal you've not encountered before), but also because they tend to list assorted facts about the subject for the remainder of the passage, and *any one of these facts* could be what the question is looking for.  For these, I tend to read answers A and B first, and then start moving through the passage text in the hope that I can confirm one of those two sooner rather than later.  If not, I reach the end of the passage and have to check C & D.  That's worse case scenario as it means I may have spent over a minute, maybe one and a half minutes, on one question.  Ideally, you want to spend no more than one minute on each.  But, if you were lucky on quick-win answers elsewhere, the time could balance out.


Some other general tips are to go with your gut if you're uncertain and also not to get too hung-up if you encounter clusters of words you can't make sense of - often, if you keep reading, there may be a subsequent explanation that makes sense of it all with more familiar vocab.  I know that's easier said than done as a large number of unknown words can quickly make you lose track of the sentence's overall structure.  For that reason, spending time before the exam studying grammatical constructs, conjunctions and other prepositions so that you can quickly pick a sentence back up if a few unknown characters or vocab throw you off.


Also, using your finger to scan across the page keeps your mind focused and keeps your reading at pace.


Hope that helps and good luck!

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I'd read all the four options first and then start reading the paragraph, as soon as I find the right answer, I'll go to next question no matter if I have finished reading the first paragraph.

You could first start taking it slow. Do a mock test without time limit first, take your time and find the right answers. Can you get everything correct now? Then slowly increase the speed.

Also do a lot of suitable level reading on a daily basis. Grab a graded reader and read a passage every night.

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