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Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi

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

The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK), (Chinese: 汉语水平考试), translated as Chinese Proficiency Test,[1] or 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.

The test is administered by Hanban, a non-government organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.

Background, purpose and use[edit]

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 (including by domestic ethnic minority candidates).[2] The general count 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 online HSK test.

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.

Each year HSK certificates are issued to those who meet required scores. Unlike the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language offered in Taiwan and administered in traditional Chinese characters, the HSK is administered in Simplified Chinese. In addition test takers with outstanding results can win a scholarship for short-term language study in China.

Current structure (since 2010, revised in 2012)[edit]

The current format was introduced in 2012, with a philosophy of testing "comprehensive language and communication ability".[1] Most notable is the inclusion of spoken and written segments at all levels (not just Advanced), reformation of the ranking system, and use of new question structures.

The HSK consists of a written test and an oral test, which are taken separately: [4]

Level Vocabulary Written test Oral test Description[5][6]
(cumulative / new)
(cumulative / new)
Listening Reading Writing
1 150 150 174 174 20 questions, 15 min 20 questions, 17 min Not tested 17 min 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 as well.
3 600 300 617 270 40 questions 30 questions 10 items 21 min 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 24 min 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.

Listening, Reading and Writing each have a maximum score of 100. HSK 1 and 2 therefore have a maximum score of 200 with 120 points required to pass.[9][10] The higher levels have a maximum of 300 points with 180 points required to pass.[11][12][13][14] 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.[15] These examples are also available (together with the audio for the Listening Test) on the website of the Confucius Institute at QUT.[16]

Estimates of equivalent CEFR levels[edit]

In 2010, Hanban stated that the HSK's six levels correspond on a one-to-one basis with the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)[6][17][18]

This statement has been strongly opposed by both the German association of Chinese language teachers and the French one, which argue that the level reached is, at most, B2-C1.

Written levels Spoken levels Cumulative vocabulary 2010 Hanban estimate German Association 2010[19] French (Bellassen 2011)
6 Advanced + 5 000 C2 B2 B2-C1
5 2 500 C1 B1 B1
4 Intermediate 1 200 B2 A2 A2
3 600 B1 A1 A1-A2
2 Beginner 300 A2 A1.1 A1.1
1 150 A1[20] – (no competence) – (no competence)

Also, following criticism, the Hanban 2012's edition doesn't contain the former claim of one-to-one relationship between HSK and CEFR levels.

Former structure (before 2010)[edit]

Test Rank (等第) Chars/Words
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级-3级), or fail to meet requirements and thus not receive a rank. The Elementary/Intermediate test (初中等HSK) covered ranks 3-8 (3级-8级), with ranks below 3 not considered. Likewise, the Advanced test (高等HSK) covered ranks 9-11 (9级-11级), with scores below 9 not considered.

It is not uncommon to simply 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 previous format for both Basic and Elementary/Intermediate HSK included four sections: listening comprehension, grammar structures, reading comprehension, and written expressions. Aside from 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.

Complete vocabulary lists, previous tests, and simulated tests are available as preparation materials.


In addition to the regular HSK test, there is also a version of the test which includes only speaking. It is known as the HSKK or 汉语水平口语考试.[21]

Test dates and locations[edit]

The HSK is held at designated test centers in China and abroad.[22] A list of test centers can be found at the HSK website.[23] 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).[24]

See also[edit]


  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. ^
  5. ^ Introduction on New HSK Test
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^ Character lists are not published separately, but can be derived from the published word lists.
  9. ^ Detailed information about HSK 1
  10. ^ Detailed information about HSK 2
  11. ^ Detailed information about HSK 3
  12. ^ Detailed information about HSK 4
  13. ^ Detailed information about HSK 5
  14. ^ Detailed information about HSK 6
  15. ^
  16. ^ Examples for the different levels for the new HSK at QUT
  17. ^ Statement of the German Association of Chinese Teachers on the new HSK structure and its equivalent levels in the European CEFR (in German, Chinese and English)
  18. ^ Introduction on New HSK Test, 2010, retrieved 26 July 2010 
  19. ^ German Association of Chinese Language Teachers (2010), Erklärung des Fachverbands Chinesisch e.V. zur neuen Chinesischprüfung HSK 
  20. ^ HSK Level, 2010, retrieved 26 July 2010, 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). 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Map of HSK Test Center locations outside of China
  23. ^ Test dates for written and spoken test
  24. ^ Test Regulations
  • 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 

External links[edit]