What is the HSK exam and should I take it?

What is the HSK exam?

The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) is the pinyin of the Chinese word 汉语水平考试. The English translation is the Chinese Proficiency Test” or “the Chinese Standard Exam.” The HSK is China’s only standardized test of Mandarin Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers. The test is administered by Hanban, an agency of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. The test is only for non-native speakers such as foreign students, second-generation Chinse, and others.

HSK is only 6 levels total and each level is just the “HSK” followed by the number. HSK1,HSK 2… HSK6. If you are applying for a job, then you might see “HSK5 or higher” as a requirement!

What’s the Quick History of the HSK?

The development of the HSK began in 1982 at Beijing Language and Culture University. However, it wasn’t until 10 years later in 1992 that the HSK was officially made the national standardized test for Chinese as a second language.

How many people take the HSK?

In 2005, over 120 countries had participated as regular host sites and the tests had been taken around 100 million times. The general count of candidates from outside of China is stated as being around 1.9 million.

Is the HSK a valid certification?

The HSK test approximates the English TOEFL, and an HSK certificate is valid without any limitation in China. It is the most valid certification for learning Chinese and proving your language proficiency.


Does the HSK use simplified Chinese characters or traditional Chinese characters?

The HSK is administered ONLY in Mandarin and in simplified Chinese characters; however, if the exam is paper-based, the test-taker can choose to write the writing assignments in simplified or in traditional characters, to his or her discretion. Read our other blog to learn the difference between simplified and traditional characters.


Is the HSK taken on paper or on a computer?

The HSK test can be either paper-based or internet-based, depending on the specific test center you go to. With an internet-based test, the writing part with characters (from HSK 3 on) is slightly easier since it’s only needed to write the pinyin and pick the right character from the keyboard (while in the paper-based you have to remember all strokes and write them down).

Bonus: Test takers with outstanding results can win a scholarship for short-term language study in China.


Where is the HSK taken? Do I take the HSK at a test center?

The HSK is held at designated test centers in China and abroad. A list of test centers can be found at the HSK website. Test dates are published annually and written tests are more frequently held than spoken ones, generally around once a month, depending on the test center. Test registration is usually open until 30 days prior to the actual test date for the paper-based test or around 10 days prior the actual test date for the computer-based test. Results are generally available around 30 days after completion (but no definite date is given for results).

The test cannot be taken on Taiwan, Kinmen, or any of the territories controlled by the Republic of China. In these areas, only the TOCFL exam can be taken. Conversely, TOCFL is not available in Mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanyu_Shuiping_Kaoshi


Should I take the HSK exam?

You may consider taking the test if your reasons for learning Mandarin fall into any of the following categories:

  • If you would like to enter the Chinese market, for either professional or business, the HSK can show how good your language proficiency is for you to work and interact with Chinese people.
  • If you are a student who wants to apply for a Chinese university, the HSK is a pre-requisite.
  • If you want to apply for the Confucius Institute Scholarship, your HSK scores will be one of your references


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