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What is Chinese Proficiency Test?

Chinese Proficiency Test

Degree programs taught in Chinese require students to have reached a certain level of Chinese language proficiency before they are admitted. This is to ensure that students are able to understand classes, complete assignments and sit exams. Most universities ask that applicants pass the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) to a certain level as a means of proving sufficient language proficiency. More information about the HSK is outlined below.

Background, Purpose and Use

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 1 million times. While today one may register online, all testing is still done in person, and all assessment is still handled within China.

The HSK test approximates the English TOEFL. The test aims to be a certificate of language proficiency for higher educational and professional purposes. Based on the test's original format, 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.

Current Structure: The New HSK

Hanban; China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban) is currently responsible for the HSK exams and introduced a new format in November 2009. See more about Hanban: http://www.hanban.org/.

The new ranking system reduces the three test formats to Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each level has two sub-levels: "acceptable" and "with honors".

New HSK (Revised Version) Structure

Test Rank Chars/Words (cumulative) Score Certificate
HSK Advanced Characters: 2633
Words: 5000
6 Advanced with Honors
Characters: 1709
Words: 2500
5 Advanced
HSK Intermediate Characters: 1071
Words: 1200
4 Intermediate with Honors
Characters: 623
Words: 600
3 Intermediate
HSK Elementary Characters: 349
Words: 300
2 Elementary with Honors
Characters: 178
Words: 150
1 Elementary

Official website of the new HSK: http://www.chinesetesting.cn/.

Former Structure: The Old HSK

Development began in 1984 at Beijing Language and Culture University, and in 1992 the HSK was officially made a national standardized test. Formerly, there were 11 possible ranks (1-11) and 3 test formats (Basic, Elementary/Intermediate, and Advanced). A student taking the Basic test could attain a rank of 1 through 3 , or fail to meet requirements and thus not receive a rank. The Elementary/Intermediate test covered ranks 3-8, with ranks below 3 not considered. Likewise, the Advanced test covered ranks 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 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.

Interpretation of the Score Levels of HSK

Test Types Score Levels Certificate Interpretation
HSK Basic   1 Basic C Means the candidate is able to understand simple sentences and express simple ideas and capable of simple communication in his or her daily life and study.
A Chinese learner who has mastered about 600 common Chinese characters and the corresponding grammar can reach this standard.
2 Basic B The candidate has acquired the basic Chinese competence that can meet the demand of basic daily life, a certain range of social communication and study to some degree.
3 Basic A / Elementary C The candidate can fulfill the minimal requirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and West Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
HSK Elementary - Intermediate   3 Basic A / Elementary C The candidate can fulfill the minimal requirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and West Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
4 Elementary B The candidate can fulfill the requirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and West Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
5 Elementary A The candidate can fulfill the requirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and West Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
6 Intermediate C The candidate can fulfill the minimal requirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Literature, History, and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
7 Intermediate B The candidate can fulfill therequirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Literature, History, and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
8 Intermediate A The candidate can fulfill therequirements in Chinese proficiency to be admitted to study in Literature, History, and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese universities for a Bachelor's Degree.
HSK Advanced 9 Advanced C The candidate has the advanced (low) Chinese language competence, which can be acquired after 3000 hours or more of regular modern Chinese language learning (or other Chinese learning experience equivalent to this). And this is the minimal standard to be qualified for the jobs requiring using Chinese for communication
10 Advanced B This is the moderate standard to be qualified for the jobs requiring using Chinese as the communication language
11 Advanced A This is the higher standard to be qualified for the jobs requiring using Chinese for communication and to be viewed as being qualified for a translator at the intermediate level.

Official website of the old HSK: http://www.hsk.org.cn/.

Correlation between the Old HSK Score and the New HSK Score

The new Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (new HSK) is based on the recent development of the structuralism and social linguistic theories. Its new concept of combining both teaching and testing in the testing design fulfills the old HSK's deficiency in the lower-level tests, and extends the old HSK's higher-level tests. This unique system of testing continually adjusts to the growing demand for Chinese globally. The below table shows the correlation in scores between the new HSK (level 3-6) and the old HSK (level 3-11).

Old HSK New HSK
Level 3
New HSK
Level 4
New HSK
Level 5
New HSK
Level 6
Certification Level Score Range Level Total Score (300)
Basic
Total Score (300)
Basic Certification C 100- 1 180-      
B 155- 2 210-      
A 210- 3 240- 180-    
Elementary, Intermediate
Total Score (400)
Elementary Certification C 152- 3   180-    
B 189- 4   192-    
A 226- 5   210-    
Intermediate Certification C 263- 6     180-  
B 300- 7     195-  
A 337- 8     210-  
Advanced
Total Score (500)
Advanced Certification C 280- 9       180-
B 340- 10       195-
A 400- 11       210-