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Why did you (or plan to) take the HSK exam?

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Hey fellow Chinese learners, I am quite curious to hear everyone's perspective on this topic.


Why did you take the HSK exam, or why do you want to?  What level have you taken or plan to take?


Has it directly impacted your life, e.g. allowed you to get a job interview? Or has it primarily served as a guide for your Chinese studying and/or a method to verify your progress?


Is passing the next HSK level your primary guide when it comes to deciding what and how to study, or do you primarily follow other materials and just take the HSK when you feel your skill and vocabulary has advanced enough to easily pass the next level?


Have you taken any other Chinese language proficiency assessment?  What did you think of it?

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Hi @Apollys — why do you ask?

In my case, I like having short-term goals to aim for.  I find it helps with motivation and focus, and helps me to get some perspective on my progress.  Likewise having a structured curriculum to focus on is helpful, at lower to intermediate levels at least.


Ultimately I hope that getting to level 4 or 5 (a recognised certification) might help a little bit when applying for my next job, wherever that may be.  Although I do realise that the focused/limited vocabulary and teaching/learning to the test are a limitation, there don't seem to be any other accepted objective measures out there. (Apart from TOCFL in Taiwan.)


Plus, not really answering your question, but... I love learning languages. To me they are intrinsically fascinating. There is evidence that language learning contributes to improved neuro-plasticity into old age, and therefore lower possibility of dementia. 


Of all the languages I've studied, Mandarin is by far the most complicated and interesting. 






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I use the HSK as a guide in order to have something to study that is somewhat standard for many people studying Chinese even if I do believe that HSK material alone isn't enough. I also like it as a way of testing my progress. I don't plan on studying at a Chinese university because I live in another country and I can't stay in China for such a long time because of work. If I settled in China, I also could consider studying at university there, but for now I can't. I study by myself so I don't follow a specific book or program..I like reading books, watching movies, reading articles..when I want to prepare for HSK I learn HSK wordlists, grammar and then try mock tests. If I feel ready I take the exam..I'm not in a hurry to take the exam within a certain time. I also don't always follow the natural order: HSK1,2,3,4,5,6..sometimes I don't study for a period..then I study again..then I may make a leap, skip a level and try the next one if I feel prepared. I just need to make sure I have time enough and I feel confident after trying a few mock tests. I took HSK 2 a few years ago skipping level 1 and just studying by myself..then I didn't take other HSK tests for quite a long period and I think I'm at an intermediate level..I'm currently studying for HSK 3 using the BLCU books and I will decide whether taking HSK 3 or aim to HSK 4 directly (obviously studying more and taking all the time I need). The next test date at the nearest testing center is in March, so I have about 4-5 months to prepare. I would like to pass HSK 6 at the end. If I don't give up, I think I will sooner or later..the thing that I struggle more with is writing..I need to practice this, because it becomes increasingly important with HSK 3,4,5 and 6. I study Chinese because I like Chinese language and culture and because my gf is Chinese (maybe that is the main motivation). I didn't try to use my HSK for finding a job. I didn't take other Chinese tests apart from HSK. I also would be interested in learning the wordlists of the old HSK as there are a lot more words, anyway I have many things to learn and maybe I could spend my time in a better way. I think it is always better to learn new words in context. I would like to watch movies with soft subtitles that I can study or be good enough to read books. Once I can read books well, I think that would be a great achievement. Also reading is what made me improve so much at English. English isn't my native language. For now I should try with extensive reading by using books from Mandarin Companion and the like..other books, even children books contain too many words I don't know, or chengyu or things related to history or cultural aspects that need to be learnt before.

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For years I never considered a HSK exam, however recently I decided to take HSK 5, mainly for two reasons

1) It helps with my work visa (extra points)

2) A rough guide as to where I am with my learning ( see  * below for my definition)


I have gone through both of the official Hanban HSK books 《Standard Course HSK 5 上 and 下》 twice. I have every word in myflash decks. Interestly there are a LOT more extra words appearing in the book that don't appear in the HSK exam. I am somewhat fastidious in my Chinese approach so record ever single word in ANKI  that I come across in the text books and word books. In the text books there are about an extra 900 - 1000 words that are outside the HSK 5 list. The workbooks are very surprising.  The first 11 chapters have, on average 50-60 words per chapter that don't appear in this 3500 vocabulary (2500 hsk 5 + EXTRA 1000) in the work book. Hence at this rate there would be approx a further 2000 words appearing in the workbook. 


I haven't see the actual mock exam yet but I am somewhat pessimistic about the HSK prep material. I can't really say i am learning anything much apart from blagging it and improving exam technique. All the workbook chapter sections I can generally pass but truthfully I barely got the gist of the passages .


For example I just read a story about some old timer who makes something, retires, wants to take something home with him as a memento but his boss says no. I got all 4 questions right. Yet I have no idea why the boss said no, what he wants to take home nor what he actually does as a career. Turns it he is a Jade sculpture, make dragons, boats etc and what's a big old lump of jade and the boss has a surprise for him in a lovely old wooden box. So you as a listener would you be happy with me retelling that story half assed? If this was the case with the exam I wouldn't hold much faith in a stated ability of a HSK 5 level. Maybe the exam passages are easier. 


I learn chinese to be able to understand the language and be confident that I know the passage. I want to understand what i am hearing not just blag my way through it or give a pretence of knowing Chinese at a stated HSK 5 ability


My views may change when I practice the mock exams or take the real exam. 


As regards the actual exam I will take it when I feel like I can genuinely understand more than 85% of the mock exam texts
(see above). Whatever mark I obtain from that, so be it. It's not  useful for my career, nor living in China for that matter. This approach is not optimal for someone whose aim is primarily to obtain "HSK Level X"


As regards HSK v real life here in China, I think up to HSK 4 is fairly well correlated but after that the distinction starts to present itself. My ANKi decks contain 8000+ words , of which I know about 5 - 6k. However around 1500 of these words have just come from everyday stuff like shopping, hanging out with friends, wechat posts, tv etc  Some of the words on this list I use far more frequently that that on HSK list. 




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I took HSK 4 back in 2015 as a requirement for entry to my masters course. I'd been studying hard for about a year and a half at that point and with my preparation for the exam I found it to be quite easy. I may go ahead and take level 6 next, which I've heard is significantly harder, but that would just be for personal benchmarking. As far as I can tell HSK isn't widely used as a marker of language proficiency in the business world, and I have some doubts that most people would even know what it is outside of those who study/teach Chinese, that or they would have a poor understanding of how the levels correspond to real-life language ability. That's just my impression though.


I've heard the Taiwanese TOCFL test is more demanding at the higher levels so I'm looking into that to see if it would be worth taking.

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