What happens if I fail the HSK?
May 11, 2012
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May 11, 2012

How do I study for the HSK?

How to Study for the HSK


The standard practice in studying for the HSK is memorize all the vocabulary that is listed to be on the HSK. And then, take practice tests.


I’m not here to tell you that this is a poor way to study for the HSK, just that it is not optimal.


I do agree, however, that vocabulary is the most important part. Nevertheless, the “HSK vocabulary list” does not always include all the vocabulary you are going to be tested on. Many students make the mistake of memorizing the HSK vocab exclusively and then seeing unknown words on the actual test. My advice is to study vocab with an 80/20 rule:

  • 80% HSK vocabulary
  • 20% extra-HSK vocabulary

Extra-HSK vocabulary can be anything from words you read in novels to new words you pick up from your conversations. Write them down in a vocab notebook, flashcard, or anki, whichever you use.


As for the overall study plan, it varies depending on the level of test you wish to take. In general, you should follow the plan I outlined here.

That is, prepare according to this order:

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

And here how it should be by the month or two before you take the test:

  1. Practice tests
  2. Writing
  3. Speaking
  4. Study guide
  5. Vocabulary


As you get closer to the exam, your emphasis should really be on practice tests. Take and retake them.


And one more thing: Study for the HSK test — Don’t just study Chinese

Passing the HSK is really a mix between Chinese skills, overall test taking skills, and knowing the HSK. If your true goal is to do well on this exam, you need to study for the HSK, not just “study Chinese.”

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Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash is a contributor to HSK Tests Online and a Chinese/English translator.

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