Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language

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Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language
Logo of the TOP
Traditional Chinese華語文能力測驗
Simplified Chinese华语文能力测验

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) (formerly known as the TOP or Test Of Proficiency-Huayu )(Chinese: 華語文能力測驗; pinyin: Huáyǔwén Nénglì Cèyàn) is Taiwan's Mandarin Chinese proficiency test. It is administered by the Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) (Chinese: 國家華語測驗推動工作委員會; pinyin: Guójiā Huáyǔ Cèyàn Tuīdòng Gōngzuòwěiyuánhuì). The committee is under the direction of the Ministry of Education of R.O.C.

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


The Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) was established in November 2005 under the direction of the Ministry of Education of R.O.C. Originally called the Chinese Language Testing Center and renamed in January, 2007, the Committee aims to develop and promote an effective Chinese assessment system, mainly the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL), for Chinese learners worldwide to assess their Chinese proficiency.

The SC-TOP has the following major missions:

  • To design and plan the test contents of TOCFL & CCCC
  • To build test item pools for TOCFL & CCCC
  • To develop computer-based Chinese proficiency test systems
  • To promote Taiwan’s Chinese proficiency tests for nonnative speakers of Chinese
  • To increase exchange among Chinese proficiency test organizations worldwide


The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) is a standardized language proficiency test developed for non-native speakers of Chinese. It is the result of a joint project of the Mandarin Training Center, the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, and the Psychological Testing Center of National Taiwan Normal University. The research project started in August 2001, and the tests started to be conducted in 2003. So far, it has served test takers from over 60 countries. The new version of TOCFL is developed since 2008, to become available in 2013.

The new version of the TOCFL has four proficiency bands: Novice, Band A, Band B, and Band C. Each of the bands has two levels. Therefore, there are a total of eight levels: Novice 1 and 2, followed by Levels 1 to 6. The items on the test of each level are 50 multiple choice items, to be answered in 60 minutes. Test takers can choose the test levels best suited to them based on their Chinese language proficiency and learning background. The former version (until 2013) had five levels only.

Purpose and Use[edit]

TOCFL test takers who reach the level requirements will receive a certificate. The certificate can serve as a Chinese proficiency credential for:

  • Applying for the Taiwan Scholarship.
  • Applying for academic programs at colleges or universities in Taiwan.
  • Serving as a reference of Chinese subject for University Entrance Committee for Overseas Chinese Students.
  • Serving as a job-required proof of Chinese language proficiency.

Currently a lot of[quantify] undergraduate and graduate programs in Taiwan adopt the certificate of TOCFL as the requirement for admission or as the evaluation of applicant’s Chinese proficiency. In addition, many international businesses in Taiwan, such as LG, adopt TOCFL as reference for their employee dispatch programs. Several overseas companies also refer to candidates’ TOCFL certificates when recruiting.

TOCFL Test-takers[edit]

TOCFL is a foreign language proficiency test for non-native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. Those who wish to know their level of Chinese proficiency, and those who want to study, work, or do business in Chinese-speaking countries or contexts are welcome to register for the test. The following table sets out the suggested learning hours of Mandarin Chinese, and suggested vocabulary base at each test level.

Band Level Suggested Learning Hours Number of words
A 1 120-240 hrs 502
A 2 240-360 hrs 999
B 3 360-480 hrs 2482
B 4 480-960 hrs 4960
C 5 960-1920 hrs 7945
C 6 above 1920 hrs 7945

Please note:

  1. The suggested number of course hours learning Mandarin Chinese required by overseas test-takers may need to be doubled. For example, the table indicates that Level 2 test-takers who take Mandarin Chinese courses in a Chinese-speaking country need to have completed 240–360 course hours. People taking courses in countries where other languages are spoken generally require 480–720 hours.
  2. The suggested vocabulary list for each level can be found online at the official site.

Comparison with HSK[edit]

It is difficult to directly compare the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi with the TOCFL.

Unlike TOCFL, HSK exists out of only six levels. The six HSK levels and the six Band A, B and C TOCFL levels all claim that these levels are equivalent to the six CEFR levels. Nevertheless, for each test, the number of words or characters required differs, with TOCFL generally requiring more vocabulary each level. Furthermore, the German and French associations of Chinese language teachers argue that HSK level 6 is equivalent to CEFR level B2 or C1 (about TOCFL Level 4 or 5).[1]

Claimed CEFR level Level (HSK) Level (TOCFL) Required words (HSK) Required words (TOCFL) Required characters (HSK, simplified) Required characters (TOCFL, traditional)
/ / Novice 1 / 146 / 167
/ / Novice 2 / 322 / 326
A1 Level 1 Level 1 150 502 174 488
A2 Level 2 Level 2 300 999 347 786
B1 Level 3 Level 3 600 2482 617 1304
B2 Level 4 Level 4 1200 4960 1064 1937
C1 Level 5 Level 5 2500 7945 1685 2555
C2 Level 6 Level 6 5000 7945 2663 2555

Test Format[edit]

TOCFL tests four language skills: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing.

TOCFL: Listening

The TOCFL Listening-Band A has four sections: Picture Description, Single-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), Multiple-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), and Dialogue (questions with text options). There are 50 multiple-choice questions in total. The entire test takes approximately 60 minutes.

The TOCFL Listening-Band B and Band C: Each has two sections: Dialogue and Monologue. There are 50 multiple-choice questions with text options. The entire test takes approximately 60 minutes.

TOCFL: Reading

The TOCFL Reading - Band A has five sections: Sentence Comprehension, Picture Description, Gap Filling, Paragraph Completion, and Reading Comprehension. There are 45 multiple-choice questions, and 5 matching questions. The entire test takes 60 minutes.

The TOCFL Reading - Bands B and C: Each has two sections: Gap Filling and Reading Comprehension. Each entire test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and takes 60 minutes.

TOCFL: Speaking

The TOCFL Speaking test adopts a holistic scoring approach, taking into account the content, fluency, and language skills of the test taker. The results are presented in the form of scale scores. The objective is mainly to assess the competence of the test takers to effectively accomplish the communication tasks verbally in different language contexts.

TOCFL: Writing

The TOCFL Writing test is an evaluation of the test-taker's ability to use written materials to effectively transmit information in particular contexts. The level-based grading system is based on the appropriateness and substance of the test-taker's responses to situational tasks, compositional structure and completeness, correct syntax, and the use of a suitably wide range of appropriate vocabulary.

Test Overseas[edit]

Aside from being available in Taiwan (Republic of China), SC-TOP has been providing overseas test services since 2006. However, compared to the HSK exam, the number of test locations is somewhat limited. According to the SC-TOP's official website,[note 1] the test can be taken in the following 21 countries:

  • Asian Pacific — Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Central and South America — Nicaragua, Paraguay
  • Europe — Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland
  • North America — Canada, United States

Out of these states, two recognize the Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China: Nicaragua and Paraguay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to the official SC-TOP website, the TOCFL exam can also be taken in the embassy of the Republic of China in Panama and in Burkina Faso. However, after these countries switched recognition to the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China, these embassies have been closed. It is therefore unlikely that the TOCFL test can still be taken in Panama and/or in Burkina Faso.


  1. ^ "Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP)". www.sc-top.org.tw. Retrieved 2019-01-18.

External links[edit]