Welcome to HSK Tests Online
March 30, 2012
A Step-By-Step Guide for HSK Test Takers
May 1, 2012

A Comprehensive HSK Guide for Newbies

If you are new to the HSK, you’ve come to the right place. If you are are already familar with the HSK, please click here.

About the HSK, the first thing you should know is for Chinese language learners, taking the HSK is the final challenge. The HSK is becoming the TOEFL of the East. Not only are Chinese learners everywhere trying to solidify their skill and prove it in the form of an HSK certificate, but companies in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and even in the West are beginning to recognize the importance of the HSK test. With the number of Chinese language learners growing every day, the best way to prove your Chinese language skill is to pass the HSK test. The HSK certificate is not only proof for yourself, but also proof for companies and universities.

You may be wondering who the author of this site is. My name is Quinn Cash. I took the HSK back when it was the “old” HSK (the old HSK was much harder than the HSK today). At that time, I had four years of Chinese language learning under my belt. Although my classmates in China had studied longer than I in preparation for the intermediate HSK, I managed to get an 8, a score higher than all my classmates. This inspired me to move on the the advanced HSK, on which I received a 10. Many asked me how I managed to get such a high score in so little time. This website is the answer to that question.

The science of Chinese language learning is still in its infancy, but there are some of us out there who know the secrets to learning it effectively.

Gaining An HSK Certificate

The HSK test consists of six levels, which are then “grouped” according to tier:

  • Elementary (level 1 & 2)
  • Intermediate (level 3 & 4)
  • Advanced (level 5 & 6)

When you register for the test, you must choose which level you want to take (e.g., level 2).

How to choose? Our resources will help you with that.

But as a simplified answer: You need to know yourself. Many students make the mistake of thinking the differences are simply due to vocabulary amounts. For example, level 1 tests you on 150 words, whereas level 2 tests you on 300 words. However, the differences between the test levels are not just in vocabulary. There are more important things you must take into consideration, including reading speed, listening skill, pronunciation, and grammar.

You will get a better idea of where you lie in this spectrum as you become more familiar with the HSK.

HSK Elementary

This levels 1 and 2 of the HSK are the most popular tests. They demonstrate you have a basic level of Chinese. Many people give up on the HSK after the elementary tier because “learning Chinese is too hard.” This will not be you, because you have us.

First of all, before you even consider taking the level 1 HSK elementary test, you need to know at least 150 Chinese words. To do well on the test, we recommend you have a vocabulary of at least 300 Chinese words. Likewise, you will need to know at least 300 words for the level 2 test, but again, we recommend you know considerably more than that.

There is a specific set of vocabulary that will be used over and over on the HSK elementary tests. See our study resources for this list.

The HSK elementary test, like all other levels of the HSK test, has three parts:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Writing

There is no speaking section on the exam, which is simply because the speaking exam is a separate exam.

HSK Intermediate and Advanced

As the levels on the HSK get higher, you will find that the test takers become fewer. While not as hard as in the past, the intermediate and advanced HSK tests require you have a pretty firm grasp of the Chinese language in all areas (except speaking, which is a different exam).

Before considering taking an intermediate level test, you should at least have a vocabulary approaching 1,000 words. And for the advanced exam, you should have a vocabulary exceeding 2,000 words. In fact, you should know around 2,000 characters and at least double that many words.

Again, there is a specific set of vocabulary that will be used over and over on these tests. See our study resources for this list.

Again, the HSK intermediate and advanced tests have three parts:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Writing

The speaking test is again separate.

HSK Speaking

There are three HSK speaking tests:

  • Elementary
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

This portion of the HSK does not separate tests by level. So, if you are taking level 1 or level 2, you will take the elementary speaking test. Both level 3 and level 4 test-takers are administered the same speaking test. The same goes for the advanced test.

Many students find the speaking test to be the hardest of the HSK exams.
How to Study for the HSK Exam

One of the hardest parts of studying for the HSK exam is finding the important information about the exam. Another is finding a good study resources.

First of all, the most important thing is to know the vocab. The vocabulary will help you on ALL parts of the HSK, including the speaking exams. If you do not know most of the vocab for your specific test level, it’s basically game over. Thus, we recommend you set vocabulary as your priority.

Second, while the total HSK exam has four parts (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), there are two parts that are more “efficient” to study. Here’s the logic:

  • If you can speak, you can listen
  • If you can write, you can read

Hence, focusing a bit more on the speaking and writing parts of the test can help you overall.

As we stated before, there is a lot of studying involved if you want to conquer this test. We recommend you use one of our study guides. You can check out the study guides at the top of this website or by clicking here.

After you have the basics down and know pretty much all you need to know for the exam, it’s time to focus on practice exams. You can find our high-quality practice exams at the top of the website or by clicking here.

In short, here is what your study priority should look like at the beginning of your preparations:

  1. Vocabulary
  2. Study guides
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking
  5. Practice Tests

And here is what it should look like by the month or two before you take the test:

  1. Practice tests (test samples available through the HSK Study Guide section)
  2. Writing
  3. Speaking
  4. Study guide
  5. Vocabulary

 

Last Note from Quinn and Hen

We plan to make this article the go-to article for Chinese learners new to the HSK. We’ve written here what we believe is the most important and fundamental info for new test takers.

However, we may have failed to answer some of your basic questions. If so, leave a comment below and we will be sure to add its answer to this article. Your comments not only help us improve this site, but can bring up the questions of other HSK test-takers as well.

We wish you the best in your studies. And remember to grab some HSK test samples!
-Quinn and Hen
Click for the best Study Guides & Practice Exams
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Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash is a contributor to HSK Tests Online and a Chinese/English translator.

1 Comment

  1. Russel says:

    Your post, HSK Guide for Newbies | HSK Tests Online, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Russel!

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