HSK Prep // Top Tips on Passing the HSK Exam (Plus 2021 Updates)

How to Pass the HSK Exam (with Success Stories Included)

Many of our students ask what the best HSK prep is, so let’s enlighten you a little.

Here is a list of ten winning tips to succeed at the HSK along with a couple of useful video guides for you to enjoy.

HSK Prep – 2021 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 – Practice Tests

HSK Prep #5 – Listening Skills

HSK Prep #6 – Mock Exam WITH a Time Limit

HSK Prep #7 – HSK Prep Exams

HSK Prep #8 – Understand Your Wrong Answers

HSK Prep #9 – Focus on Reading & Writing

HSK Prep #10 – Revise, and Revise, and Revise

Discover Emma’s story – She passed the HSK 6 in just 14 months, mainly through online study

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

What Does That Mean?

Well, that is recognized as a language proficiency test for non-native speakers, such as students, and actually anyone studying Chinese.

And what does *that* mean?!

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.

For example, sometimes a job description or a level of degree at a university you want to study requires a certain level of Chinese in order to conduct business or study a certain major.

Studying Chinese? HSK might be on your agenda
Studying Chinese? HSK might be on your agenda

The test is administered by Hanban, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China.

Apart from that – even if there are certain controversies regarding the HSK and the level of Chinese they represent (we’ll get to that) – it is still an official document of your Chinese level, as well as a palpable goal in your Chinese studies. And we all know studying is a lot easier if you have a particular goal in mind.

I have realised that, at least for me, HSK level – be it 2, 4 or 6 represents a clear goal in my studies, especially when it comes to vocabulary.

So, What’s The Controversy?

Well, 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?

Well, that 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). But that’s also OK.

Learn Chinese at LTL - HSK Prep

I truly believe that studying a language is a life-long endeavour, especially when it comes to Chinese.

I also have to add one thing here – since I have been studying languages a huge part of my life and have been teaching them for a long time, I have seen people who have passed language assessment test and still were not be 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.

The moral of the story is the following – standardized tests have their own purpose (acquiring certain vocabulary or grammar points), but a language is a living organism and we should have fun learning it.

What does that mean?

Use it, learn it, make mistakes, have fun with it. That’s what’s it 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?


Did you know the HSK is actually changing in 2021?


Well, it’s all to do with what we talked about above, how C1 doesn’t match HSK5 and so 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 on the Internet 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.

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.

You can also use different study tools – flashcards are a good example.

HSK Prep #4 – 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 #5 – 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 Remember Chinese Tones for the Rest of Your Life 💡 Thumbnail

How to 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 #6 – 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 #7 – Take a HSK Prep Test

Taking such a class can help you significantly.

Pass with Flying Colours at LTL

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.

Where can I take HSK Prep classes? Right here at LTL! Even online in fact!

HSK Prep #8 – Scrutinize Your Wrong Answers

This is where a teacher really comes in handy!

Maybe you need help with a certain grammar point or there’s a word of chengyu you can’t memorize.

Scrutinizing the answers you get wrong and practising them will go a long way.

Chinese Proverbs // 9 Must Know Chinese Sayings Thumbnail

Chinese Proverbs // 9 Must Know Chinese Sayings

9 Chinese Proverbs and Sayings to Level Up Your Mandarin While there are many sayings in English, Chinese proverbs are comparatively used much more frequently in everyday speech. These idioms are called chéngyǔ 成语. Chengyu are generally four characters long,…

HSK Prep #9 – 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.

These are all important skills, don’t get me wrong, but learning Chinese characters, as well as focusing on reading and writing will allow you to read books, articles, watch movies.

HSK Prep #10 – 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?

You can indeed, either in person at our school or you can take an online HSK course if studying from home is more convenient.

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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  • LTL Avatar Alexander Krasnov
    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Mandarin School!

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