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The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) (Chinese: 汉语水平考试), translated as the Chinese Proficiency Test[1] or the Chinese Standard Exam, is China's only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese.

Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi
Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi Logo.png
HSK Logo
Simplified Chinese 汉语水平考试
Traditional Chinese 漢語水平考試

It is not uncommon to refer to a standard or level of proficiency by the HSK level number, or score. For example, a job description might ask for foreign applicants with "HSK5 or better."

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


Background, purpose and useEdit

Development began in 1984 at Beijing Language and Culture University and in 1992 the HSK was officially made a national standardized test. By 2005, over 120 countries had participated as regular host sites and the tests had been taken around 100 million times (domestic ethnic minority candidates included).[2] The general count of candidates from outside of China is stated as being around 1.9 million.[3] In 2011, Beijing International Chinese College became the first HSK testing center to conduct the HSK test online.

The HSK test approximates the English TOEFL, and an HSK certificate is valid without any limitation in China. The test aims to be a certificate of language proficiency for higher educational and professional purposes.

The HSK is administered solely 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 discretion.[4]

The test can be either paper-based or internet-based, depending on what the specific test center offer. 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).

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

Current structure (since 2010)Edit

The current format was introduced in 2010, with a philosophy of testing "comprehensive language and communication ability".[1] Most notable is the inclusion of written segments at all levels (not just Advanced, as in the pre-2010 test), reformation of the ranking system, and use of new question structures. Complete vocabulary lists, previous tests, and simulated tests are available as preparation materials. A minor update of the vocabulary lists was made in 2012.

The HSK consists of a written test and an oral test, which are taken separately. This oral test is also known as the HSKK or 汉语水平口语考试.[5] [6]

Written testEdit

Level Vocabulary Written test Description[7][8]
(cumulative / new)
(cumulative / new)
Listening Reading Writing
1 150 150 174 174 20 questions, 15 min 20 questions, 17 min Not tested Designed for learners who can understand and use some simple Chinese characters and sentences to communicate, and prepares them for continuing their Chinese studies. In HSK 1 all characters are provided along with Pinyin.
2 300 150 347 173 35 questions, 25 min 25 questions, 22 min Designed for learners who can use Chinese in a simple and direct manner, applying it in a basic fashion to their daily lives. In HSK 2 all characters are provided along with Pinyin.
3 600 300 617 270 40 questions 30 questions 10 items Designed for learners who can use Chinese to serve the demands of their personal lives, studies and work, and are capable of completing most of the communicative tasks they experience during their Chinese tour.
4 1200 600 1064 447 45 questions 40 questions 15 items Designed for learners who can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and are capable of communicating with Chinese speakers at a high standard.
5 2500 1300 1685 621 45 questions 45 questions 10 items Designed for learners who can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films and are capable of writing and delivering a lengthy speech in Chinese.
6 5000 2500 2663 978 50 questions 50 questions 1 composition Designed for learners who can easily understand any information communicated in Chinese and are capable of smoothly expressing themselves in written or oral form.

The Listening, Reading and Writing tests each have a maximum score of 100. HSK 1 and 2 therefore have a maximum score of 200 with 120 points required to pass.[11][12] The higher levels have a maximum of 300 points with 180 points required to pass.[13][14][15][16] There is no minimum amount of points required for each of the sections as long as the sum is over 120 or 180 points respectively.

Hanban provides examples of the exam for the different levels together with a list of words that need to be known for each level.[17] These examples are also available (together with the audio for the Listening Test) on the websites of the Confucius Institute at QUT[18] and HSK Academy.[19]

Estimates of equivalent CEFR levelsEdit

In 2010, Hanban stated that the HSK's six levels correspond directly to the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)[8][20] However, this statement has been rejected by both the German[21] and French[22] associations of Chinese language teachers, which argue that HSK level 6 is equivalent to CEFR level B2 or C1.

HSK level Words (sum) Official Hanban estimate German association estimate[21] French association estimate[22]
6 5000 C2[23] B2 B2-C1
5 2500 C1[24] B1 B1-B2
4 1200 B2[25] A2 A2
3 600 B1[26] A1 A1-A2
2 300 A2[27] A1.1 A1.1
1 150 A1[28] Below A1 Below A1

Oral testEdit

The HSKK test is a separate test. However, the three HSKK levels correspond with the six HSK levels of the written test.

HSK level HSKK level ECR Words Questions Minutes
1 Beginner A 200 27 17
3 Intermediate B 900 14 21
5 Advanced C 3000 6 24

Former structure (before 2010)Edit

Test Rank (等第) Vocabulary
Score (级别) Certificate


Characters: 2865
Words: 8840
11 Advanced A
10 Advanced B
9 Advanced C*
- none



Characters: 2194
Words: 5257
8 Intermediate A
7 Intermediate B
6 Intermediate C
Characters: 1603
Words: 3052
5 Elementary A
4 Elementary B
3 Elementary C**
- none


Characters: 800
Words: 1033
3 Basic A
2 Basic B
1 Basic C
- none
*Generally signifies a professional level.
**Generally required for non-language academic programs.


Formerly, there were 11 possible ranks (1-11) and 3 test formats (Basic, Elementary/Intermediate, and Advanced). A rank of between 3 and 8 was needed to enroll in a Chinese university, depending on the subject being studied. A score of 9 or higher was a common business standard[citation needed].

A student taking the Basic test (基础HSK) could attain a rank of 1 through 3 (1-3), or fail to meet requirements and thus not receive a rank. The Elementary/Intermediate test (初中等HSK) covered ranks 3-8 (3-8), with ranks below 3 not considered. Likewise, the Advanced test (高等HSK) covered ranks 9-11 (9-11), with scores below 9 not considered.


The previous format for both Basic and Elementary/Intermediate HSK included four sections: listening comprehension, grammar structures, reading comprehension, and written expressions. Aside from the written expressions portion (which requires writing of Chinese characters), these two tests were completely multiple-choice. The Advanced HSK however, added an additional two portions: spoken and written.

Test dates and locationsEdit

The HSK is held at designated test centers in China and abroad.[29] A list of test centers can be found at the HSK website.[30] 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).[31]

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 汉语水平考试2007年起将增加口语写作, 2006-12-26, "The 2007 HSK Revision Will Add Spoken and Writing Portions."
  2. ^ Official HSK Center Introduction, HSK Center
  3. ^ [1], China Education center
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "汉语水平口语考试(HSKK) - Confucius Institute at Western Michigan University - 西密歇根大学孔子学院". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Chinese Character Lists by New HSK Level". Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Introduction on New HSK Test
  8. ^ a b "Chinese Tests_HSK". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "资源中心--汉语考试服务网". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Character lists are not published separately, but can be derived from the published word lists.
  11. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 1 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 2 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 3 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 4 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 5 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "HSK Test - HSK 6 (English)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "HSK Test - Vocabulary List and Information". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "QUT - The Confucius Institute - New Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK and YCT)". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Official HSK Vocabulary Lists translated in English, by HSK Academy
  20. ^ Introduction on New HSK Test, 2010, retrieved 26 July 2010 
  21. ^ a b German Association of Chinese Language Teachers (2010). "Erklärung des Fachverbands Chinesisch e.V. zur neuen Chinesischprüfung HSK: Statement of the German Association of Chinese Teachers on the new HSK structure and its equivalent levels in the European Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), in German, Chinese and English" (PDF). 
  22. ^ a b Bellassen, Joël (2011). "Is Chinese Europcompatible? Is the Common European Framework Common?: The Common European Framework of References for Languages Facing Distant Language". New Prospect for Foreign Language Teaching in Higher Education —Exploring the Possibilities of Application of CECR—. Tokyo: World Language and Society Education Center (WoLSEC). pp. 23–31. ISBN 978-4-925243-85-8. 
  23. ^ "HSK Level VI",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017 
  24. ^ "HSK Level V",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017 
  25. ^ "HSK Level IV",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017 
  26. ^ "HSK Level III",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017 
  27. ^ "HSK Level II",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017 
  28. ^ "HSK Level I",, Hanban, retrieved 12 October 2017, It is the counterpart of the Level I of the Chinese Language Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages and the A1 Level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEF). 
  29. ^ "HSK Test Preparation & Practice - Free Trial - HSK Practice Tests - HSK Practice Questions - HSK Score Improvement". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  30. ^ "考试计划--汉语考试服务网". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  31. ^ "HSK Test Regulations". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 

External linksEdit