If you’re thinking about taking the HSK exam or you’ve already signed up then these are some of the most common questions about the HSK that you might want to read to help you prepare.
Use our handy contents table to skip down to any specific questions that you might already have.
What is the HSK?
The HSK is the official Mandarin language exam that is recognised in Chinese speaking countries.
What does the HSK test?
The HSK tests your Mandarin reading, writing and listening abilities. To test your speaking skills you need to take the HSK-K.
What does HSK stand for?
Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi
How many levels are there to the HSK test?
There are six levels to the HSK all with increasing levels of difficulty:
How long is the HSK test valid for?
Unfortunately the HSK is only valid for two years unlike the European language tests. On the one hand this can be frustrating for learners who will have to retake the test if they want their certificate to be valid.
However Chinese Mandarin is a difficult language. If you don’t speak it in two years it is likely that your Chinese speaking skills will drop. Therefore if you’re using it to enter university, get a job or to apply for residency in China it isn’t much use to China if it’s not a fair representation of your speaking skills.
Why take the HSK test?
There are many good reasons you should consider taking the HSK test:
To enter into a Chinese university on a Chinese speaking course. To attend Chinese university and to study in Chinese you need to have taken the HSK exam to prove your fluency level.
To get a job in a Chinese speaking company. Just like the point above, to get a job in a Chinese speaking country you need to be able to prove your fluency. It’s no good if you say you can speak Chinese well, many companies need some form of proof.
To get a visa to live or work in China. More and more China are looking for high skilled workers who want to contribute to the economy and culture. If you have a HSK qualification it shows a willingness to learn the Chinese language to integrate into the society, which can help you greatly in applying for a visa.
To give yourself a goal to aim for. Unless we have something specific that we are working towards. It’s very easy to stay at the same level. If you sign up for the HSK exam you know that there are certain words, grammar structures and skills that you need to develop. Since you’ve paid and you have an exam looming, you’re more likely to sit down and study these things.
Where can I sign up for the HSK test?
There are Confucius centres in the most major cities around the world where you can take the HSK test from. So don’t worry, you don’t have to go all the way to China to do it.
How can I prepare for the HSK test?
There are many things that you can do to prepare for the HSK exam just like any other exam but here are some things that we would recommend:
- Depending on which exam you’re taking learn all the characters for that exam. There are flashcard apps you can use to help you like anki or memrise.
- Make sure you’re practising all of the skills; reading, writing, speaking and listening
- Learn the grammar structures; Chinese has different grammar structures to English and they are that difficult to learn. The grammar is one of the easiest things about Chinese and different levels have different structures that you need to learn.
- Get the tones down. A lot of people ignore the tones or think how important could they be. The answer is very. If you want to get a good grade in the HSK exams, it’s important that you master the tones.
What textbooks can I use to study for the HSK test?
There are many fantastic textbooks that you can use to help you prepare for the HSK. You can read our detailed article outlining the best textbooks for the HSK here.
We would recommend buying a course textbook that can take you through the grammar and a practise paper textbook that can help you prepare for the exam format.
What to do on the day of the HSK?
- On the day of the exam you want to wake up nice and early. You may not have slept well the night before but don’t worry, that’s pretty common with exams and the adrenaline should be able to carry you through.
- Make sure you eat breakfast! You may feel nervous and this might make you not want to have any breakfast but skipping breakfast is always a mistake. You’ll want something on your stomach because you will need your energy for the day.
- Get to the exam location early! The last thing you want is to be showing up to your exam late and in a panic. Make sure you get there nice and early to give you time to sort yourself and to go to the bathroom if necessary.
- Take water with you. If you’re nervous you will get thirsty and you’ll need water to help with that. Especially during the speaking part of your exam. Make sure you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the exam.
Do you have any other questions that you would like to ask? If so leave them in the comments below. We’re always happy to answer your questions.
Are you thinking about taking the HSK or have you already taken it? We always love to hear from you so make sure you tell us and share your experiences with our other readers, especially if you have any tips or tricks that you think might be able to help them.