Suppose you are an international student looking to study at a university in China. In that case, there is a lot of preparation to do aside from getting your Chinese Student Visa ready, booking your accommodation, getting your flight ticket, and preparing all necessary documents. 

You must also prepare to take the Chinese proficiency test, popularly known as the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), which universities and the Chinese embassy usually require. The test assesses how well you can speak standard Chinese and effectively communicate with the language. 

This article provides a comprehensive guide to HSK for international students, especially if you are planning to study higher education in Mainland China, Hongkong, and Macau. Read till the end for all the details. 

What is Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK)? 

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is a standardized test used to test the proficiency of Standard Chinese for foreigners and overseas Chinese. Chinese universities use the test as a part of their admission requirement for international students. The test is also administered by Hanban, now known as the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC), an agency under the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. 

In-service professionals, freelance workers, Chinese language trainees, and students interested in working or studying in Chinese-speaking areas are eligible to take the exam. However, the exam is meant for more than intending university students or graduate students. Elementary and secondary school students planning to study in China are also expected to take the exam. 

The test is ranked from HSk 1 to HSK 9. Your HSK level determines how proficient your Chinese skills are, with HSK 1 being the lowest and HSK 9 being the highest. Many universities will require that you have a proficiency level of HSK 4 or 5 to be considered for admission. The more competitive the school, the higher the HSK level required. 

What are the Benefits of Taking Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK)?

Taking the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) test has a lot of benefits. It helps you improve your ability to speak Chinese properly. It is also your best proof to show your Chinese speaking ability when filling out a Chinese university application, applying for a job, or even a visa. 

It also checks your use of Chinese in practical situations and allows students to access valuable materials needed to improve their language skills. Taking the test also gives you the chance to access Chinese scholarship opportunities. And after graduation, students willing to start a career in the country have a better chance of career advancement and access to different career and business opportunities. 

Typically, an HSK 5 or HSK 6 would significantly improve your admission chances and career choices. 

When and Where to Take Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK)? 

International students are expected to register online. You are expected to select the HSK level exam you want to write and register for. You can apply to take the Paper-based Test (at the center) or Internet-based Test (at the center or home). 

When filling out the form, you would know the option most likely available in your region and when it would be available. The test date and test location also depend on your country. You can also check the list of centers to find out the schedule for your country. 

Cost of Taking the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK)

The cost of taking the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi test depends on your country or location. However, the price can cost more them CNY150 depending on the HSK level. For instance, HSK Level 1 costs CNY150,  HSK Level 2 costs CNY250, HSK Level 3 CNYcosts 350, HSK Level 4 costs CNY450,  HSK Level 5 costs CNY550, while HSK Level 6 costs CNY650. 

The fee must be paid after confirming and submitting your information on the official website. You are also expected to have made the payment before the registration deadline. Failure to do so will make your registration invalid, and you wouldn’t be able to take the exam. And once payment has been made, the test cannot be canceled, and you will not be refunded if you miss the test. 


Overview of HSK Levels

Several HSK levels are required to test your proficiency in the Chinese language and assess the ability of non-Chinese speaking individuals to use the language to communicate effectively. This level ranges from HSK level one to HSK level nine. 

HSK1 and HSK2 teach basic Chinese skills, HSK3 and HSK4 move you to more sophisticated and advanced knowledge of Chinese, while HSK5, HSK6, and above indicate fluency and high proficiency in Chinese. However, higher institutions encourage students to have an HSK level of 4 to 6, depending on the Chinese-taught program. 

Check out this table for Linguistic Competence per HSK level.

HSK Level Linguistic Competence
HSK (Level 1) To have an understanding of elementary Chinses words, sentences, and characters and be able to learn more of the language with ease.
HSK (Level 2) To be able to use Chinese to easily communicate o different topics in Chinese.
HSK (Level 3) Know how to use Chinese to finish basic interactions while working or studying.
HSK (Level 4) Know how to communicate well enough, coherently, and effectively on complicated matters involving work, study, and life.
HSK (Level 5) Know how to fairly communicate smoothly and effectively on complex work, life, and study topics.
HSK (Level 6) Know how to communicate fluently, richly, and decently on some professional areas, study, and work topics.
HSK (Level 7) Know how to communicate fluently on higher-level topics and conduct basic normative on broader issues.
HSK (Level 8) Know how to have standardized communication on professional topics and be able to have decent and fluent conversions on different high-level topics.
HSK (Level 9) Know how to use different language skills properly and fluently communicate on various topics appropriately, depending on the situation.

Source: Chinese Proficiency Test Table

Overview of HSK Test Structure

The HSK test structure depends on the HSK level, and the test will usually take up to 130 minutes to complete depending on the level as well. For instance, HSK 1 and HSK 2, suitable for beginners, consist of listening and reading sections. 

HSK 3, HSK 4, HSK 5, and HSK 6 consist of three sections: reading, writing, and listening, all of which are presented in only Chinese characters. On the other hand, HSK 7,  HSK 8, and HSK 9 are more advanced levels that test the candidate’s Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Translating skills. 

And while HSK 1 to HSK 6 has a separate HSK speaking test, HSK 7 to HSK 8 has it included alongside Vocabulary, Listening, Reading, Writing, and Translating.

Check out this table for each HSK level’s Grade, Test Section, and Description.

Grade HSK Level Test Section Description
Beginner Lv. I Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The listening and reading sections both have 20 questions to be completed between 17 to 18 minutes. Each section scored over 100, giving you a total point of 200, and you would need to score 120 and above to pass the test.
Lv. II Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The listening section has 35 questions, while its reading section has 25 questions. Each section is scored over 100, giving you a total point of 200, and you would need to score 120 and above to pass the test.
Lv. III Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The reading section has 40 questions to be completed in 40 minutes, its writing section has 30 questions to be completed in 30 minutes, and 10 items in its reading section to be completed in 15 minutes.
Intermediate Lv. IV Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The listening section has 45 questions to be completed in 40 minutes.
  • The reading section has 40 questions to be completed in 15 minutes, While the writing section has 15 items to be completed in 25 minutes.
  • This level gives a total score of 300. You need to score 180 above to pass.
Lv. V Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The listening section has 45 questions to be completed in 35 minutes, the reading section has 45 questions to be completed in 45 minutes, while the writing section has 10 items to be completed in 40 minutes.
  • This level gives a total score of 300. You need to score 180 above to pass.
Lv. VI Vocabulary, Listening, & Reading
  • The listening section has 50 questions to be completed in 40 minutes, its reading section has 50 questions to be completed in 50 minutes, while its writing section has 1 item to be completed in 45 minutes.
  • This level gives a total score of 300. You need to score 180 above to pass.
Advanced Lv. VII Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, & Translating
  • The Listening section is divided into three with a total of 40 questions
  • The reading section has 28 questions. The writing section is divided into two parts with one question each, to be completed in 15 and 40 minutes, respectively.
  • The translation section has 2 questions to be completed in three minutes.
  • The speaking section requires candidates to answer questions orally.
Lv. VIII Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, & Translating.
  • The Listening section is divided into three, with a total of 40 questions.
  • The reading section has 28 questions. The writing section is divided into two parts with one question each, to be completed in 15 and 40 minutes, respectively.
  • The translation section has 2 questions to be completed in three minutes.
  • The speaking section requires candidates to answer questions orally.
Lv. IX Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, & Translating Reading
  • The Listening section is divided into three, with a total of 40 questions.
  • The reading section has 28 questions. The writing section is divided into two parts with one question each, to be completed in 15 and 40 minutes, respectively.
  • The translation section has 2 questions to be completed in three minutes.
  • The speaking section requires candidates to answer questions orally.

Ways to Prepare for HSK

1. Create an effective and efficient study plan

You can create an effective and efficient study plan, by selecting a specific time each day to study, and sticking to the plan till the day of the test. You can first study the easiest part of the language, then move to the challenging part, and also choose a conducive environment to study, like a library or quiet room. 

2. Study the test format

Studying the test format helps you understand how the question on the test will be set and the time allocated to complete it. When you are familiar with this, it makes it easier for you to study and understand how to answer each section. 

3. Practice the language

A great way to practice the language is to read and speak it as much as possible, this way, you get used to the vocabulary and are familiar with reading multiple Chinese words. Making it easy to answer the questions correctly. Another way to practice is by taking the free mock test available on the official website for HSK. 

4. Use of study materials and resources 

There are several materials and resources to help you prepare for HSK. Some include online books like Mandarin Companion, Apps like HelloChinese, and websites. They provide practical ways for people to learn Chinese Mandarin quickly. 

Universities and Institutions Accepting HSK

University Name City / Location Minimum HSK Score Accepted
Tsinghua University Beijing HSK Level 4
University of Hong Kong Hong Kong HSK Level 3
Beijing Language and Culture University Beijing HSK Level 4
Peking University Beijing HSK Level 5
East China University of Science and Technology Shanghai HSK Level 5
Zhejiang University Zhejiang HSK Level 5
Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai HSK Level 5
Liaoning Normal University Liaoning HSK level 5
Shenzhen University Guangdong HSK Level 4
Wuhan University Wuhan HSK Level 4

 

With this guide, International students can seamlessly apply for the HSK without making mistakes. However, be sure to start and submit your registration for the exam at the appointed time. You must also prepare to pass the exam and attain a minimum of HSK level four to be readily considered for admission at many Chinese universities. 

We hope you can ace your HSK test and prove your Chinese proficiency to the universities in China. Visit our Scholarships in China page to explore more of your options.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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