HSK is an international standardized test for non-native speakers for Simplified Chinese (Mandarin). This test assesses non-native Chinese speakers’ abilities in using the Chinese language in their daily, academic and professional lives. It is the equivalent of taking the English TOEFL, and is accepted as by all by all institutions in China.

HSK consists of six levels, with one being the easiest and six the most difficult.

  • HSK 1
  • HSK 2
  • HSK 3
  • HSK 4
  • HSK 5
  • HSK 6

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

Why take the HSK?

If you're planning to work in China, the HSK will be very helpful when applying for a visa. China uses a scoring system where everyone foreigner is scored on their background, qualifications, and skills. A HSK ceritificate will get you extra points (You can view the official work permit points table here).

If you want to go to university in China, having the HSK is also an asset. It is accepted by all universities in China.

Something between HSK5 and HSK6 is usually required to get admitted to a university in China. The more proficient you are, the better, but the requirements vary from school to school. Fudan University in Shanghai, for example, requires all applicants to pass HSK5 with 210/300 or above to attend any undergraduate degree program, and 240/300 or above to attend MBA. And, Peking University in Beijing requires minimum 210/300 on HSK6. (the passing grade for HSK5 and HSK6 is 180)

HSK only tests learners in three areas - listening, reading, and writing. Unlike other tests, there is no speaking section. Barely any school in China would ask for proof of oral Chinese proficiency during the admissions process.

Controversy with HSK & CEFR

Though Hanban, the HSK organizer, claims on its website that the HSK levels have a one to one correspondence to the CEFR levels: HSK’s level 1-6 to CEFR’s A1 (beginner)-C2 (proficient), the statement seems more like their wishful thinking as it was refused by CEFR.
Many language institutes share the same thoughts. For instance, the Fachverband Chinesisch in Germany (an organization similar to the Confucius Institute) thinks that HSK6 – the highest level of HSK corresponds to something between the upper-intermediate B2 and advanced C1 CEFR level, which is 1 and 1/2 level down the scale.

HSK Test Format

HSK 3.0

Starting from July 1, 2021, the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China has announced that they will be releasing a new version of the HSK test, titled HSK 3.0, which shall consist of 9 levels instead of 6.

They will be split into 3 groups, with 1-3 being elementary, 4-6 being intermediate, and 7-9 being advanced. The advanced course will be harder than the current HSK 6, require knowledge of up to 6,000 - 10,000 words.

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