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mungouk

Tactics for HSK 4 reading section

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mungouk

I'm preparing for the HSK 4 in about 10 days and currently I'm really falling down on the reading section... in particular the speed you need to go in order to answer everything: it's 40 questions in 40 minutes.

 

A simple breakdown of the 5 question types, with timing assuming that they are all worth equal marks, looks like this:

 

312304634_Screenshot2020-06-17at22_10_54.thumb.png.6b63aa8f6aeb7dab59b88e6a23247803.png

 

Currently on mock tests I'm getting to around Q74, 75 and panicking that I don't have much time left, especially since Q80-85 have 3-4 line texts with 2 questions each.  So I end up rushing it and guessing some answers.

 

I'm fairly confident on the first 3 question types, but for Q66 onwards I'm just much too slow at the moment.

 

@∞保罗∞ or anyone else who's passed HSK 4 and can remember their tactics... do you have any tips for the reading section?

 

My current thinking is to sit down with some mock papers and a stop-watch and work on my timing for these specific sections, Q66-85.

 

Ideally I should be able to scan longer texts when appropriate, but they rarely seem to use the same words in the question as in the main text, so you're scanning for synonyms in hanzi...  Skimming is maybe a bit easier, but they rarely seem to ask "what is this passage about?" in the HSK 4 mocks I've seen so far.

 

 

 

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mackie1402

Questions 46-50

- Get your vocabulary down. If you don't know every word, it's a nightmare. Start to learn which parts of speech they are, too. That eliminates quite a lot of possible answers. 

 

Questions 51-55

- I never read everything. I just read the sentence with the missing gap. A lot of the time you can use the grammar to find out the word. For example, in one of the mock tests online it says:

她 (     )在干什么呢?

There's only 1 real possible answer which would fit in that structure in the answers given. 

 

Same with:

。。。(     )了,谢谢你!

It's going to be a verb before 了

 

Finally:

您没(     )到通知吗?

Straight away the word '收到' jumps out at me and when you look at the possible answers, you'll find '收‘ sitting there.

 

Questions 56-65

Get familiar with grammar structures used at this level. A lot of the sentences have words such as:

可是,但是,所以,比,还,这样,而且,其他,其中,然而

 

You know that these words wouldn't be at the start of the first sentence. They'll link sentences together, so straight away you have narrowed down the first sentence to two possible sentences. 

 

Questions 66-85

I always read the answers first. Read the answers, then you'll know what you are looking for. And most of the time, as soon as you've found the answer, you can skip the rest of the question and move on. If you have time at the end you can come back and check your answers. 

 

Most of all:

Read as much as you can at home. Read plenty of mock tests online. Read the listening audio scripts, too, as they will contain the same grammar and vocabulary for this level. If you get tired, read some HSK 3 mock tests. You don't have to answers the questions, just practice reading. The faster you can read, the more time you'll have to think.

 

On a side note, my favourite little trick when I prepared for the HSK4 was for listening. I put all of my mock listening audio files into Audacity and sped them up to 1.20-1.25x speed. It became so normal for me, that when it came to the real test, it felt incredibly slow! 


Good luck!

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mungouk

Thanks a lot @mackie1402, those are really useful tips!

 

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roddy

Would it make sense to do the last bits first, giving them the appropriate amount of time, then just get on with the rest of the test without those hanging over you?

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mungouk

Maybe... I'll try it next time.

 

I think mainly it's just getting the timing right, and understanding the "shape" of this section.  I did a 阅读 section on its own yesterday, against the clock, and increased my score to 70%, so I'm hopeful that with more practice I can get that higher.

 

Update: Just tried the Roddy Method™ and got 88%, including Q80-85 all correct. Timing is still very tight, but I can already feel it getting a bit less frantic. 

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7800

I only try to take the HSK once I really know all of the words I'm supposed to know, that means being able to recognize any characters as soon as I spot them. Are there any characters that you still find a little bit difficult to remember, or that make you stop and think for one or two seconds?

If you're really used to the HSK, you know when the examples are going to show up during the listening part. I use those short amounts of time to fill the answer sheet; that way I can save up to 5 minutes to spend on the reading part, but I believe that only works for the paper-based test. Other than that, I don't have any  technique for the reading part, I just read everything and answer the questions in the order they show up; I think time wouldn't be a problem to me even if I were to follow the 40 minute limit. In my opinion, just make sure to finish the first 2 parts really fast, you definitely can do both of them in 5 minutes or less.

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mungouk
15 minutes ago, 7800 said:

If you're really used to the HSK, you know when the examples are going to show up during the listening part. I use those short amounts of time to fill the answer sheet;

 

Right, that's the listening part at the beginning.

 

Yes, similarly if you're doing the computer-based test there are about 2 minutes at the very beginning when they're playing the examples, and I use that time to read ahead and look at the Part 1 questions as much as I can — the computer version doesn't let you see the 阅读 and 写作 sections until the previous sections are completed. 

There's also one (maybe two?) other points in the listening section when they're reading out examples that you can also use for this, although I find I have to turn the volume down on the headphones so that I can read without being distracted.

 

There are 5 minutes allocated to filling in the paper answer sheet at the end of the 听力 part, and maybe you can use those to read ahead when doing the paper test, but when you're doing the computer-based test you have to sit there and wait!  (You can't read the next section until the 5 minutes are up.) 

The best way of using this time that I can think of is to go back and check that I didn't forget to answer any questions.  That, and relax a bit and get focused for the next part.

 

15 minutes ago, 7800 said:

just make sure to finish the first 2 parts really fast

 

Yes, I agree. The first 10 gap-fill questions in the 阅读 part can be done really quickly. 

 

In fact, since speed is so important, what I'm finding with the multiple-choice questions (66-85) is that I really have to decide very quickly what I think the answer is (A/B/C/D), put it down, and move on. There really is no time to double-check that the alternative answers are incorrect. 

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道艺黄帝

I forget the exact URL, but just jump on that mnks website and run through all eight or so 考试卷. Bang one out a night and mark any unknown words. you can jot down question numbers and review the answer key afterwards for specific questions you struggled with

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杰.克

I sat HSK 4 many years ago - but main tip i can remember, and important for any HSK reading section - SKIM READ

 

This may cause some tension in you morally, it did me. I wanted to think that, heck, I'd studied hard, i should do the exam justice, and read the sections to full understanding, if not, was it some cheap scam method just to skim and get general themes?

 

Nope, its designed like this. The time is limited. SKIM read. Don't feel guilty. Just SKIM, and dive back in briefly, if theres a particular detail your asked about.

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道艺黄帝

boost your reading speed wpm and there's no need to skim

as a previous poster said, there are materials out there that can guarantee you are familiar with at least 80-90% of the 内容

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mungouk

Thanks @7800... I have plenty of mock papers downloaded, plus there are all the options we looked at over in that other thread about online mock tests. 

 

I'm finding it most useful right now to just do parts of the test... I'm not worried about the writing part, but I'm finding it useful to do just the listening or reading part.  Plus, the whole test is 1¾ hours which is a bit long for practice purposes. 

 

 

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杰.克
On 6/20/2020 at 8:48 AM, 道艺黄帝 said:

boost your reading speed wpm and there's no need to skim

as a previous poster said, there are materials out there that can guarantee you are familiar with at least 80-90% of the 内容

 

HSK is designed to be skim read. It's not designed to be read in depth as far as I'm aware. Sure I've heard this multiple times.

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mungouk

Well, Scanning and Skimming are both important — and different — techniques required for answering these questions quickly.

 

And yes, "boost your reading speed" is a noble, longer-term aim but it's not really a tactic or a short-term objective for test preparation. I will aim to work on this when the exam is out of the way.

 

I just came across this playlist from Hanbridge Mandarin that has some detailed discussion of approaches for each type of question. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcO52HaRWCD4nOxXgpnc1fIe7rZl3kPtx  (starting from Video 2)

 

It's 99.9% in 中文 but I'm finding the videos are a useful overview, and although I've heard most of it before there are one or two extra tips that are new to me.

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∞保罗∞

Mungouk It’s ironic you tagged me in this - My tactic for the hsk5 exam is Try and get 100 in the audio and writing. 
 

reading is with the gods - or pick A for everything And possibly get 25 marks :)

 

good luck tomorrow all will be well !

 

remember: Attack the exam paper !

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mungouk

OK, just to report on my last 3 weeks of progress...

 

For practice I've done 5 complete mock tests, plus 5 reading sections only and 3 listening sections only. A mixture of different online versions and paper version.

 

On 6/27/2020 at 10:19 PM, ∞保罗∞ said:

reading is with the gods [...] 
remember: Attack the exam paper !

 

Haha, well actually when you posted that I was just about to write: for the reading part my approach has been to fly at it as fast as I can! 😀

 

For HSK 4, Questions 46-50 and 51-44 are all gap-fills given a choice of 5 each time, and these aren't difficult.  Like @mackie1402 said above, if you pay attention to whether the gap needs a verb, adjective or whatever then usually it's straightforward — notwithstanding the tendency of Chinese words to be fairly fluid in what their actual function might be in a given context...

 

For Q56-65, putting the fragments A-B-C in order, you need a solid understanding of grammar points for sure.  There are some good videos on youtube that go through some tactics for these (looking for pronouns, specific grammatical structures, time sequences etc)... I found it's usually pretty straightforward to work out which is first, but often tricky to get parts 2 and 3 in the right order. 

 

For Q66-79 I found the main challenge is time... there are 14 questions here in total. At least you only have 4 answers to choose from. My teacher advised me to find the answer, choose it and move quickly to the next question — without checking that the other answers are wrong. This has helped me to speed up a lot, because I'm naturally quite cautious and like to double-check things, but there simply isn't time here, at least for someone of my level.

 

There are also different techniques you can use depending on what you're being asked... some of them ask for a detail, so you need to scan to find it.  Others ask for gist and so you can skim for that (ideally).  Some ask what the most important point is or similar, and so you really need to read the whole thing as fast as possible to answer that.

Finally there are the dreaded Q80-85: three longer texts (OK, only 3-4 lines) with 2 questions about each one. I found the main thing here is to make sure I have enough time left to answer them, or else I fly into a panic. I've tried doing them first, or doing the gap-fills first and then these, and both of those reduced the pressure a bit... although it's tempting to spend too much time on these final six. 

I just did another writing section this evening and answered all the questions in sequence, but I really went as fast as I could and ended up with 3 mins left, so I went back to Q80-81 which I'd kind of guessed, and corrected my answers. Turns out I got them both right, and I also got my best score for the reading section so far (85%) so I have certainly improved. 

 

Also I've definitely found that by practicing these 阅读 sections my reading speed has improved, even in 3 weeks. This has meant learning to not pause when I hit a character I don't know, and keep going as fast as I can, but I feel like I'm getting somewhere.

 

I really would have liked to have had more time to prepare for this one... It's only 3 weeks since I signed up and that's much shorter than the usual timing for the HSK. It has felt like a standing start, at a time when I had a load of stuff to do at work. But since the opportunity to do the "at home" test was suddenly available, it seemed really convenient.

 

Anyway, enough of the brain-dumps... good luck for tomorrow everyone!  

 

 

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杰.克
8 hours ago, mungouk said:

for the reading part my approach has been to fly at it as fast as I can! 😀

 

Do it! And feel no shame in it! You are there tomorrow to pass the test. Like i said people will try to moralise it, oh you should deeply read and understand every word. But this test is not about that. SKIM SKIM SKIM 

 

As Gandalf said, fly you fools....

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道艺黄帝
On 6/26/2020 at 7:33 PM, 杰.克 said:

HSK is designed to be skim read. It's not designed to be read in depth as far as I'm aware. Sure I've heard this multiple times.

Sorry but that just sounds like something laowai tell themselves to feel better lol. I can't imagine a world where the Confuscious Institute is sitting at their board meeting thinking, "How can we get these laowai to read as little of what we prepared as possible?

 

I think what happens is they have a pool of words that they expect this level speakers to be comfortable using as well as a sprinkle of unfamiliar (but within reach) things as well as set a time limit for what should be appropriate reading speed. People who want to maximize test gains will do things like practice skim readings as a result of the test paramaters set.

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杰.克
1 hour ago, 道艺黄帝 said:

Sorry but that just sounds like something laowai tell themselves to feel better lol. I can't imagine a world where the Confuscious Institute is sitting at their board meeting thinking, "How can we get these laowai to read as little of what we prepared as possible?

 

I think what happens is they have a pool of words that they expect this level speakers to be comfortable using as well as a sprinkle of unfamiliar (but within reach) things as well as set a time limit for what should be appropriate reading speed. People who want to maximize test gains will do things like practice skim readings as a result of the test paramaters set.

 

For the record, I'm a laowai  someone who works in the Chinese Language department of a University, and is one laowai person in a team of 9. The 8 other being Hanban Chinese teachers. (Just to give you more background on the likelihood of whether I have heard it, or am just telling myself it to feel better, despite passing HSK 4 many many years ago.)

 

Skim reading does not mean read as little as possible. Quite the contrary, it means read as much as possible in the allocated time!

 

P.S Sorry but... it is spelt Confucius , rather than Confuscious

 

 

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Singe

How did it go @mungouk et al? You've put in so much effort - very inspiring.

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