The HSK Test Levels
Now we’ve dissected the main reasons why you’d want to take an HSK test, let’s try to answer this question – what does it assess?
First of all, let’s clarify the structure of how HSK levels work.
If you’re wondering about the oral tests, they’re taken separately, and they correspond to two increasing levels for the written exam, so Beginner for Levels 1 and 2, Intermediate for Levels 3 and 4, Advanced for Levels 5 and 6.
Basic structure of an HSK Test
For each HSK level, there are listening, reading, writing and oral sections. The oral test is separate (called the HSKK) and is administered in three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
So what exactly does the test assess?
Does it assess your ability to read prose?
Does it assess your ability to write fluently?
Does it assess your ability to understand archaic Chinese?
Does it assess your ability to adapt to different contexts?
Rather than trying to answer the question, I think a better way to present the answer is by stating the design objective of the HSK test: to be able to use Chinese in practical situations.
And it does it in increasingly difficult levels, from Level 1, which is like the proficiency of a young child in kindergarten level to Level 6, which would allow you to express complex thoughts and opinions in Chinese fluently without thinking.
So if you’re thinking about the specific difficulty of the test, all you have to do is to ask yourself this question – does it meet a every day usage?
If the answer is yes, then it will most likely be an area that’s tested. (Think interviews, summaries, newspapers, news report, talking with a conductor, hearing a story, a conversation in the supermarket.)
On the other hand, if it’s no, then most likely, it’s not going to be tested. (Think archaic Chinese, Tang poetry, contemporary prose, ancient prose, analysis of prose, etc.)
In order to better help you understand what’s exactly in the HSK test, I’ve prepared some great stuff for ya – the next section is an entire section with complete, translated example questions and answers for each subsection of every section in every level.
So, you won’t only get an idea of the question type of each HSK Test level, you’ll also be met with real life examples taken from real HSK tests with exam tips to help you conquer the test at every level!
Before we head over to the next section, just three notes about the HSK exam (you’ll see how these are relevant later, promise)
– The six levels are best thought of as groups of three: Levels 1 and 2, Levels 3 and 4, Levels 5 and 6. For each group of two, the difference in difficulty is minimal, so I highly recommend that you choose the higher of the two for each group of levels.
– Points are assessed on an overall basis – so if you get a lower score for listening and a higher score for reading, that’s fine too – they need only be higher than the threshold overall.
– If you’d like to get a bird’s eye view to what an exam looks like, I’ve also prepared a Level by Level summary chart below so you can get a preview.