Studying Chinese Series Part 1 – The HSK

An Introduction to the HSK

Do you need a certificate to prove your Chinese language ability to an employer? Are you planning to study in China at some point? Or do you just want to see how your Chinese skills stack up against everyone else? If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions then you need to know about the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi.

Translated into English as the Chinese Proficiency Test, but most commonly referred to simply as the HSK, this test is the Chinese equivalent of the TOEFL. Officially begun in the early 1900’s, the HSK is now offered at Confucius Institutes in over 120 countries worldwide.

The test itself is divided into 6 levels that progress upward in difficulty. Writing is tested beginning at the second level, while Listening, Reading and the Oral test components feature in all.

Level Vocabulary Description
1 150 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level I) can understand and use very simple Chinese words and phrases, meet basic needs for communication and possess the ability to further their Chinese language studies.
2 300 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level II) have an excellent grasp of basic Chinese and can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
3 600 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level III) can communicate in Chinese at a basic level in their daily, academic and professional lives. They can manage most communication in Chinese when travelling in China.
4 1200 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level IV) can converse in Chinese on a wide range of topics and are able to communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers.
5 2500 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level V) can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, enjoy Chinese films and plays, and give a full-length speech in Chinese.
6 Over 5000 Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level VI) can easily comprehend written and spoken information in Chinese and can effectively express themselves in Chinese, both orally and on paper.

At we have several more specialized test resources we suggest to students serious about taking the exam. If you need to review vocab, we offer a 2000 word “a to zuo” flash card kit. To review for the Listening section we suggest you use the HSK Express Series Listening Exercises.  Our Practicing HSK Grammar book is an excellent general resource too, but is also more tailored to questions you might see on this particular test than other grammar books.  And finally, if you want to take practice your test taking skills we have the HSK Express Series Sample Tests.

You can check testing dates and use sample questions to get an idea of what level you are at the official HSK website here.

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