Cracking the HSK Exam Code: Your Ultimate Guide to Effective Preparation
Passing the HSK exam is often a big priority for our students and understandably so.
Having an HSK certification under your belt can be a game changer, from securing a job to snatching up a scholarship.
Not to mention, bragging rights!
HSK prep can be stressful, but with the right plan of action, you can skip the stress and feel ready to show off your Chinese skills.
Here is our list of ten winning tips to succeed at the HSK along with a couple of useful video guides for you to enjoy.
HSK Prep – 2023 Update
HSK Prep #1 – Understand HSK & Know Your Level
HSK Prep #2 – Make a Study Plan
HSK Prep #3 – Drill the Vocab
HSK Prep #4 – Download the Right Apps
HSK Prep #5 – Practice Tests
HSK Prep #6 – Listening Skills
HSK Prep #7 – Mock Exam WITH a Time Limit
HSK Prep #8 – HSK Prep Exams
HSK Prep #9 – Understand Your Wrong Answers
HSK Prep #10 – Focus on Reading & Writing
HSK Prep #11 – Revise, and Revise, and Revise
HSK Prep – FAQs
What is the HSK Exam?
HSK or the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试) is the Chinese Proficiency Test used in China.
We actually made a video explaining everything about the HSK and the most frequently asked questions…
Check it out here 👇
Essentially, it is recognized as a language proficiency test for non-native speakers, such as students, and actually anyone studying Chinese.
In short, if you are studying Chinese and need some sort of formal or official proof of your Chinese level, the HSK test is the best and safest way to go.
The test is administered by Hanban, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China.
Passing the HSK exam can give you a critical advantage in the job market or when applying for university courses and scholarships.
There has been some controversy along the way…
Way back in 2010, Hanban stated that the six levels of HSK (so HSK1, HSK2, HSK3, HSK4, HSK5 and HSK6) directly correspond to the six levels of language competence as defined by the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR).
That’s the framework which defines language competence from level A1 (beginner) to C2 (fluent).
The statement has, however, been rejected by the German and French associations of Chinese language teachers. They argue that HSK6 corresponds to either B2 or C1.
What does that mean in practice?
If you pass HSK4 your Chinese level is probably not B2, but closer to B1, or a more advanced A2 (actually, probably it is somewhere in between of A2 and B1).
My two cents…
But that’s okay. Studying a language is a life-long endeavor, especially when it comes to Chinese.
I also have to add one thing here – studying and teaching has been a huge part of my life and I have seen people who have passed language assessment tests and still were not able to communicate fluently in their target language (that is the language they have been studying).
In my teaching career, I have worked with people who had the vocabulary of a 19th century Dickens’ novel character and were still not able to form a simple sentence.
So, use it, learn it, make mistakes, have fun with it. That’s what learning languages is all about! (living the language, ahem LTL, now you know what it stands for!)
So what are some of the best tips when studying for and preparing the HSK exam?
First things first, the HSK exam has undergone major changes in recent years, with the new version released in November 2022.
Well, it’s all to do with what we talked about above, how C1 doesn’t match HSK5 and so on.
Does that mean the new HSK exams are more difficult? Well, some of them, yes. HSK4 for example has now more or less doubled the vocabulary it will test you on.
We outlined everything we know in this handy little video guide.
HSK Prep #1 – Understand the HSK, Know Your Level
Understand the purpose of the HSK (acquiring certain vocabulary and grammar points) and get an overview of what the HSK is and the vocabulary.
There is plenty of information online where you can find out what is required in the examination.
If you want to discover how many characters you should know to pass your level of HSK, visit our HSK Levels page or watch the video above.
Remember to check up-to-date information. As we mentioned above, the goalposts have changed in recent years.
HSK Prep #2 – Make a Study Plan
Once you’ve become familiar with the structure of the test, make a study plan, which will give you a good idea of how to prepare for the exam.
The HSK focuses on the vocabulary, grammar, as well as listening and reading skills.
Practice and hone your skills with one of our favourite Chinese language learning apps that are specifically tailored for “HSK exam-ers”!
HSK Prep #3 – Drill The Vocabulary & Grammar
Vocab and grammar are the basics of the HSK – there are certain grammar points, as well as vocabulary that needs to be acquired for each level.
Drilling vocabulary and grammar in another language is a fundamental aspect of language learning that helps reinforce your understanding and retention.
Here’s some of our best study tips when it comes to learning HSK vocab and grammar:
Prepare flashcards with the target words or grammar rules on one side and their translations or explanations on the other. Review the flashcards regularly, testing yourself and focusing on the ones you find challenging.
Use spaced repetition software or apps that employ algorithms to show you words or grammar points at increasing intervals based on your performance. This technique optimizes retention by prioritizing the items you struggle with.
Chinese Listening Practice // How To Improve Your Chinese Listening Skills
Today we’ll be delving into some Chinese listening practice and telling you exactly the steps to improve your Chinese listening comprehension.
Practice new vocabulary and grammar within sentences or short texts to understand how they function in real-life situations. This approach enhances comprehension and usage.
Reinforce vocabulary and grammar by writing short essays, journal entries, or sentences using the newly learned words and structures. This reinforces memory and improves language production skills.
Listening and Speaking Drills
Listen to native speakers or language resources, such as podcasts, videos, or language exchange partners, to expose yourself to vocabulary and grammar in authentic contexts. Engage in conversations to practice using the language actively.
Remember that language learning is a gradual process, and everyone learns differently. Be patient with yourself and adapt your drilling techniques to suit your learning style and preferences.
HSK Prep #4 – Download the Right Apps
These apps offer a wide range of tools, such as vocabulary flashcards, grammar exercises, pronunciation practice, and interactive lessons, which cater to learners of all levels and most importantly – to different interests.
Psst… Did you know LTL has a whole bunch of Anki decks ready for you to download and get practicing with right away?
Critically, language learning apps allow users to immerse themselves in language study anytime and anywhere, making it easy to incorporate language practice into daily routines.
So no excuses for not practicing Chinese on the commute to work!
Additionally, many apps use gamification techniques, progress tracking, and adaptive learning algorithms, tailoring the content to individual strengths and weaknesses, thus maximizing learning efficiency and motivation.
If you’re not sure which apps to download for learning and practicing Chinese, check out our ultimate guide here.
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HSK Prep #5 – Practice Tests
Practice tests are a great way to test your ability to pass a certain HSK level and is time well spent in your HSK prep.
Taking timed HSK test will give you an opportunity to simulate the real exam. Using this method you will “force” yourself to finish within the stipulated time frame.
Do as many exercises as possible, look over the answers and mistakes.
Where can I take this test – use the app we mentioned above HSK ONLINE, they have an abundance of past and mock papers at all levels.
HSK Prep #6 – Work On Your Listening
Listening is usually a big problem for people studying a language – I know it is for me!
The key is being relaxed, believe it or not! If you are not relaxed, you can’t focus on listening.
Read the question in the exam that corresponds to the section you are listening to. This might give you useful info. Also, remember that the first sentence usually gives the overall idea on the section you are reading.
While listening, you can also write down key words – this will allow you to focus on the main issues, such as: what happened?; when, where and how?; what does the speaker want to tell us?
For extra practise, listen to content outside of the syllabus when you’re not studying to stay immersed!
How to Learn and Remember Chinese Tones for the Rest of Your Life 💡
Ever felt intimidated by Chinese Tones? There is no need, trust us! Keep in mind that no matter which language you speak, you use tones in your daily life.
HSK Prep #7 – Do A Mock Exam, Within The Time Limit
This is extremely important!
OK, OK, maybe you get the answer right, but it takes you half an hour to read everything?
We are glad you are on the right track, but the point of HSK (and all standardised tests for that matter) is answering the questions (correctly!) within the stipulated time limit!
So, if the official time limit of the test is an hour and a half or two hours, you should try and practice within that time limit.
This will also significantly lower your anxiety when you take the actual test.
HSK Prep #8 – Take a HSK Prep Test
Taking such a class can help you significantly.
The teacher will show you what the graders are looking for at every section, break down the basics, tell you what you did wrong and explain any dilemma you might have.
Studying in a group can also help, you will get an idea where you stand in relation with other students and how much you need to improve.
HSK Prep #9 – Scrutinize Your Wrong Answers
This is where a teacher really comes in handy!
Maybe you need help with a certain grammar point or you just can’t seem to make that one chengyu make sense.
Scrutinizing the answers you get wrong and practising them will go a long way.
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While there are many sayings in English, Chinese proverbs are comparatively used much more frequently in everyday speech. These are called chéngyǔ 成语.
HSK Prep #10 – Practice Reading & Writing
Of course, an important part of the HSK test is reading and writing.
I have a feeling a lot of people focus more on listening and speaking because they need those skills for basic communication when in China.
HSK Prep #11 – Revise, Revise, Revise
Repetitio est mater studiorum. Study, practice, revise – need we say more?
The more you practice and revise, the more you will learn and remember and finally reach the goal of passing your HSK test.
Good luck and jiayou! You got this.
HSK Exam – FAQ’s
What does HSK stand for?
Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi – literally, Chinese Level Test.
How many levels in the HSK?
The HSK has 6 levels but this is expected to change to 9 in 2021.
Can I study the HSK with LTL?
What is the pass rate of LTL students with the HSK?
95% of our students pass their HSK Exam.
We have all the tools you need to succeed.
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