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HSK 3 "internet-based test" — report


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Hi all,


I did the “Internet-based test” for HSK 3 today at the Mandarin House office near People’s Square in Shanghai (where I’m on holiday).


I'll report on it below since there seems to be some variation in what people are experiencing with this. Also they don't give any proper instructions in advance if you're doing the computer-based test — although my admission ticket said "Internet-based test" on it, it still had all the usual stuff in Chinese only about bringing 2B pencils and an eraser.


The format of the test on-screen was very similar to the online mock test described in another thread, but not exactly identical.  I’m not sure if these computer-based tests are exactly the same in every test centre, or if they’re administered the same… from what I’ve read online it seems probably not.


Today there were about 10 of us in a small 16-seater computer lab, each sat at a small office cubicle with a Windows PC and headphones. We were told to arrive 30 mins before the test start time. The admin guy told us to choose any seat, then we logged in with our candidate number and a 4-digit password he gave to each of us individually.  There was an initial screen playing some music giving you a chance to adjust the volume level. Then we sat there for about 20 mins waiting for the test to start, with an on-screen clock counting down. There were a couple of pages of instructions ("Notice" button) to read telling you what to expect, and an "Examinee" button to check your personal details are correct.




Instructions (click images to enlarge):





There is time to read questions before they come up — in fact when the countdown gets to 1 minute the system takes you into the test and there is then 1 minute before the test actually starts when you can have a look at the listening section. After answering each question you can skip to the next one (or further forward) to have more time to read the potential answers, but only within the section. This ended up being pretty crucial, given the relative difficulty of reading small, pixelated hanzi.  Someone mentioned in another thread that they found the Hanzi hard to read in low resolution and a poor quality font.  This is probably worth practicing (somehow).


Another disadvantage relative to the paper-based test is that the questions/pictures and potential answers didn’t all fit on the screen at the same time, so I had to keep scrolling up and down when matching questions with answers.  (Maybe some centres with bigger/hi-res screens don’t have this problem?)


Again as mentioned elsewhere, you can navigate back and forth within each of the 3 sections, but you can’t move onto the next section until the time is up for the previous one. Also once a section is completed it is locked and you can't go back to review or change anything.


(Edit: Discussion after this post now suggests that different software runs in different centres, and some of them don't allow you to read ahead.)


When the listening section is finished there’s an enforced break of 6 minutes before section 2 can start, which would be when people doing the paper test are copying their answers to the computer-marked sheet.  The only useful thing I could think to do at this point was go back and check that I’d answered all of the questions. As someone mentioned in another thread I think (or maybe it was this blog), a pen icon appears next to each question in the table of contents on the left of the screen, to show it’s been answered. 


For the first 5 questions of the “writing” section you have to drag-and-drop tiles with hanzi on them in order to make a grammatically correct sentence. I didn’t think it was obvious that you have to drag them onto the line below to specify the order, rather than just re-arranging them. When you do this, another copy of the sentence appears below just in the Hanzi with no tiles showing. I think this is the same as the mock online test. Not a great design IMHO — it may be that some people don't realise and effectively don't answer the question, and these are worth 10 marks each.


The input method in my test centre was sogou as mentioned in another thread, although you only need to use it for the last 5 questions. This makes them super-easy, since you only have to enter the missing character that’s shown in pinyin, and you type in pinyin anyway. Especially in the case of one question, which began “(  )务员, …?” — I couldn’t remember what the 服 character looks like, but since 服务员 is a word I just typed the pinyin and Sogou completed it for me, so I could check it was right. :)   For the last section I did these last 5 questions first, which meant I had plenty of time to answer the first 5, rearranging the tiles. I found that 15 minutes to do these final 10 questions is more than required, and in fact most people started leaving with about 3-5 minutes still to go. 


As per the instructions, there's a "submit" button at the top of the screen which you press when you're finished. Once you've done this there's a warning that you can't go back and change anything, which you need to accept.


Preparation — reflections


I did HSK 2 six months ago and I think I probably prepared more for that, at least in terms of doing mock tests. This time around I only did 3 mock tests in the past week (plus the online one 2-3 months back, which I failed), as I’d been spending most of the last couple of weeks with my teacher preparing for HSKK, since it would be my first HSKK test and I was less sure of what to expect.  When I did HSK 2, I did 5 mock tests in the weeks leading up to the test.  Then again, HSK 2 takes much less time to complete, so they’re easier to fit into a busy schedule.  


I did drill vocabulary a lot more this time though, given that you need twice as much when you move up a level.


I felt that the actual test today was more difficult than the mock tests I’d done.


On reflection I think my preparation should have focused more on the reading section, using more mock tests to practice answering all 30 questions in 30 minutes — time is very tight, and it would seem useful to develop some tactics for dealing with these questions.  


For example, in some of the longer questions where they’re asking you things like “what, in general, is this passage about?”, these can be answered by scanning/skimming the text rather than reading the whole thing, which there really isn’t time to do unless you’re a very fast reader.  In the later mock tests, for the longer texts, I adopted the tactic of first reading the question after the text, then the 3 potential answers, and then deciding how to answer it based on the type of text. 


If anyone has any tips or tactics for this or other sections please share!


Hope this is useful. Now to get on with my holiday — off to Suzhou tomorrow. :)





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Just to provide further information on the e-test, I sat the HSK 4 today in London. As mungok has said, the e-test setup seems to be different for each test centre:


Listening section


You could not see the sentences for the true/false questions or the potential multiple choice answers until the audio begins for that question. You have a second before the actual audio then starts to have a very quick scan. This puts you at a disadvantage if other test centres allow you to see ahead.


I thought the monitors/displays were good quality and I could read the hanzi easily (at least where I recognised them!)




As above, no issue in terms of being able to read on the screen.




I found the writing section to be very unclear. On the screen you could select which input method to use but this didn't seem to make any difference so not sure if it was working. It also said you could use your computer input but I asked the exam staff and that didn't work. I don't understand why it doesn't allow you to get used to the input method in advance before the writing section begins but I had enough time in the end so no biggie but just seemed pretty poor. In the end it resulted in having to type word by word and then some of the characters had to be selected from a very long list. I don't know how it was for the HSK 5 and 6 guys but I would have thought it would make it very slow to type. I'm probably missing something but the fact that it isn't explained or discussed in advance can mean that the input system isn't as you are expected.


Exam results


The test results are due to come out in two weeks so the short time is another positive with the e-test. I wish it was automatic though! It terms of how I think I did, I think the reading and writing went reasonably well. The listening section was harder than I was expecting but partly because I was hoping to see the possible answers in advance.


In terms of in comparison to the mocks, it probably was about the same... maybe slightly harder.

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1 hour ago, Paradox said:

You could not see the sentences for the true/false questions or the potential multiple choice answers until the audio begins for that question.


Maybe this is a difference between HSK 3 and 4?  Given that for HSK 3 you still get to hear the audio twice.


I agree that it's pretty poor that online test users don't get proper instructions in advance about what to expect. Hence the write-up!


I spotted that results day for online tests is advertised on chinesetest.cn as being in 2 weeks' time... bit of a bonus.  Good luck!


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Where in London did you sit an online test, please?  I have looked on the cntest website, but the only e-test option seemed to be in the Euston Road and the email I sent there bounced back, so interested to find out what other options there are.  Thanks! :)

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