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HSK 5 - Tips for Study?


Hijinks
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Hi all! First off, how is everyone today?

 

I first attempted the HSK 5 in 2018, and scored 160 (听力: 55, 阅读: 54, 写作: 51). I tried again in 2020 after maintaining (with some cramming at the end), and managed a score of 159 (听力: 60, 阅读: 47, 写作: 52). In short, my Chinese has maintained, but not improved despite attempts.

 

I genuinely thought I'd passed the HSK 5 well the last time I tried, but apparently not. I've rebooked the exam for December this year, and I'm determined to pass and finally get this road block out of the way.

 

For practice, I've typically gone through every lesson and grammar point of HSK5标准课程 and listened to a mixture of texts, some ChinesePod and gone through some sample HSK 5 mock papers, followed by an ungodly amount of SRS for vocabulary. Beyond that though, not much with that much structure.

 

I'm currently analysing my weakest links with the aim to build on all of them, but I don't want to leave this time up to chance. For those who've taken and passed the HSK 5, may I ask for your advice? What tips do you have for finding, improving and focusing on weaknesses? In particular, do you have any advice for the writing section?

 

Thank you all so much for your help!

 

 

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Hi,
I haven't taken the formal HSK5 test but I regularly take practice tests to gauge my progress. I'm currently scoring about 62% correct on the whole test (I guess that should translate to a score of around 186 in the real test). (听力: 34/45, 阅读:25/45, 书写:3/10). 写作 is hard for me to score so I can only check the questions where you have to put the words in the correct order.

The ways I have attempted to improve my score is firstly to always use a timer to alert me when the time is up. This has made me realize that the biggest problem I have is my reading speed. I just can't finish reading everything in the 阅读 section and I always leave a lot of questions unanswered as a result. A second problem is in recognizing vocabulary. There is a lot of vocab in the texts that I simply don't know and this slows me down and also can trick me into giving wrong answers. The same problem also affects the results in 听力. Even though I can understand pretty much everything said, I get busy trying to read the options in the multiple choice questions while listening to what is being said (and preferably between the questions but currently usually that's not enough time for me).

So to improve this, I'm mainly concentrating on character recognition and reading speed through extensive reading and most recently by writing as much by hand as possible. I have an Anki deck with sentences and audio for them, I listen to the audio and write down what I hear before checking if I got it right. I have also done drills taking a text and timing my reading it over and over again trying to each time improve my time. But I believe in the end it boils down to word recognition and mostly in a sentence so I believe reading a lot and writing by hand the way I described are most likely ways to deepen the mental images I have of those words and also to get used to different ways they appear in different contexts, presumably leading to quicker reading speed. Extensive reading and my handwriting practice deck also take care of picking up new vocabulary and characters.

I find SRS'ing vocabulary out of context unhelpful. I need them to be in sentences and I have good enough grasp of the characters that I know that listening to the sentences and writing them out is a natural step up from just reading the sentence and scoring the cards on whether or not I got the pinyin pronunciation right. I also don't really drill the sentences. I just write them once, leave the ones that have some difficult or interesting character or word in them in Anki for the time being, and then just delete the rest. The Mandarin Blueprint words in context decks are perfect for this since the sentences add new characters and words little by little and they have native recordings of the sentences. There is also a lot of repetition built into the sentences even without "Anki cramming".

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Well, I've not passed Level 5 myself yet, but I'm aiming for early 2022...

 

What made the difference for me with Level 4 was practicing the exam format... Looking back I did 13 practice exams with proper timing in the 3 weeks leading up to the exam. (I probably would've done more but only decided to go for the exam at the last minute, when they announced the online "at home" format.)

 

After identifying the listening and reading sections as my weak points I only did those parts of some practice exams to save time.  I kept a spreadsheet of which tests I'd done and what scores I'd got, so I could track my progress, which helps with motivation — assuming that you're improving!

 

Exam technique is important, especially in the reading section since you have to be very very quick. Like @alantin says your reading speed makes a big difference. I think HSK 5 reading is similar to HSK 4 in that you need to decide the best technique for each question type, for example read the answers first and then scan the text to work out the answer, or alternatively skim the text first and then decide the answer. 

 

Recently I've been working on listening comprehension using content from The Chairman's Bao https://www.thechairmansbao.com/ as well. They have lots of HSK-graded content which is new and topical, and they include transcripts so the materials can be used in multiple ways as practice content.

 

But yeah, the amount of vocabulary feels so huge!  Good luck.

 

 

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On 9/21/2021 at 9:22 PM, RedInkstone said:

A lot of texts are stories that are teaching morals, be it ancient stories or modern ones

 

This is a good point. You have to expect a lot of proper nouns, along with Chengyu. At times they expect that you have some understanding of Chinese culture and history.

 

Sometimes the texts are about the meaning of a Chengyu, so you don't necessarily have to know it, but recognising that something actually is a Chengyu will help. 

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Hi, @Hijinks!  With the caveat that I don't really know how the writing section is scored, here are my two tips (your mileage may vary):

  • My sense is that practicing that section where you rearrange the sentences is probably the one place where you'll get the most improvement in your overall score per hour of practice.  Mostly because I was surprisingly terrible at this when I first attempted them and found myself making a lot of similar errors.  Some practice helped me at least not make those same ones again and again.  I kept a list of ones I had missed and reviewed them periodically to make sure I could get them right and that I was internalizing the right grammar patterns.  I also had to get a native speaker to help explain a number of them.
  • For the free response section, I memorized a few phrases that I thought were especially useful.  I don't remember them now, but probably expressions like "In the background of this picture...", "Because this is a black-and-white picture, I can't clearly see...", etc.  Since you only get ~80 characters for each free response, I figured at least I shouldn't mess up on whatever I'd say that wasn't really unique to that picture.  So if I stuck in one or two of those pre-identified phrases, I'd already have 10+ characters of correct grammar and usage.  

Good luck!

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Hi there, I passed HSK 5 last May with a score of 232. Here are a few of my thoughts, which I hope will be of help to you:

 

  • Focus on your strength(s) and hone in on it/them. My strengths were listening and sentence arranging. Instead of just taking those strengths for granted, I practiced them more to get a higher score in those sections. (I got a 93% on listening; I think the only ones I missed were when I spaced out due to crushing test anxiety, which I admit I struggle with.) I also reflected on what led me to feel confident in those areas; that way, I could devise a strategy to deal with weaker areas.
  • Read widely, beyond the scope of HSK 5 books. Truthfully, I only studied half of the first of HSK 5 标准课程 before taking the test; most of my vocabulary comes from tackling texts meant for native speakers. Even if it seems too hard, I suggest finding content that interests you and just diving in, with the aid of Pleco’s document reader. I like to read magazines like 意林 and 青年文摘, as well as children’s books. 
  • Brush up on your Chinese history and chengyu. Like RedInkstone pointed out, there will definitely be texts on historical figures/kingdoms, literary icons, or some other cultural cornerstone. In hindsight, not knowing enough cost me points on the Reading section. Meanwhile, chengyu and non-chengyu expressions are sprinkled liberally, so try to learn some. You could buy a children’s book that teaches chengyu.

 

I didn’t practice anything for the writing section at all; consequently, I scored at a staggering HSK 3-level on that section. I immediately sought to rectify that by working with teachers on iTalki. I’ve been writing an essay a week, and it’s really helped. If writing is a challenge, you could try to develop a writing habit and have a teacher correct your work. I also think markpete’s strategy of memorizing standard phrases is useful; when I attempt HSK 6, I’ll be sure to do that.

 

Hope that this helps you. Good luck!

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Thanks for all of your help - I really appreciate the tips!

 

In particular, I'll be the first to admit that my background knowledge of Chinese history is woefully inadequate. Save for pieces that have been mentioned throughout various textbooks, my knowledge of China pre-20th century is borderline embarrassing. I'll be sure to grab a book from my local bookstore to get some good background knowledge, and then add a few key names to the Anki deck.

 

I really appreciate the tips for the reading section - silly as it sounds, I'd never thought to drill pre-prepared sentences for the free writing section. I definitely respect that there's a lot to gain from drilling sentence arrangement also.

 

I may well ask for more specific tips here (I regret nothing!), but for now, we'll see how we go...

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