The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi has become the main focus point of your life? Congratulations. And don’t worry, the HSK exam can be beaten like any other test. Here are my best tips to pass the HSK test.
- Be an early bird^^
- Make your own HSK master plan
- Know the exam like your favorite movie
- Join your local HSK crash course
- Cover your carpet with flashcards
- Become a grammar guru for your HSK level
- Work on your “HSK weakness”
- Read the answers first
1. Start preparing early
The early bird catches the worm. Best to know where you’re at well in advance: take a mock exam to estimate your level and don’t forget to measure your time. How good or bad is it?
The HSK test score doesn’t lie. Remember though: HSK evaluates your language proficiency, BUT writing the HSK exam is a practical skill on its own! The more familiar you are with all the HSK ins and outs, the better your position, the higher your score.
And that’s good news, because with some planning and strategy it all can be mastered. Climb the ladder and see things from above instead.
2. Make your own HSK study plan
Many HSK-participants don’t prepare for the test! (Or at least, that’s what they say.)
Everybody is different. In my experience things get more challenging, once you hit the higher levels (from HSK 4 upward). But, in the end, that’s all relative. HSK 1 can be just as challenging if you’ve just started your journey.
Preparing for the HSK exam is no rocket science though. The requirements for each level are clear. The vocabulary doesn’t change. The exam structure does neither. Some basic planning will do:
- Get an overview of the HSK vocabulary for your target level and HSK grammar points. And get your hands on some mock HSK exams for practice.
- Plan how much time you need to get those characters and grammar patterns into your brain. How much (learning) time do you have available?
- Develop a schedule based on all that.
- Stick to your schedule as much as you can, track your progress by writing occasional mock exams. How are you improving? Are you ready for the final test?
3. Know every detail about the test
What is there to know about a test? It’s a test, right? Why should I know everything about the test? That’s not what a test is all about.
But common experience shows: Getting an epic HSK score is as much about knowing your stuff as it is about knowing the ins and outs of the test and pleasing the (Hanban) testers.
4. Join your local HSK preparation class
Join a HSK preparation course if you can. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it’ll help you a great deal. If you put in the effort, nothing can go wrong. Your HSK teacher will guide you through the process and provide you with everything you need:
- HSK materials
- Teacher’s advise and guidance
- Mock tests and evaluations
By the way, this Youtube channel was the closest thing I could find to HSK prep class.
5. Make flashcards of hard to remember characters
Yes, yes, flashcards again. Not very original, yet an effective method. You can do it the old-fashioned way or use one of the various apps like Anki, Pleco, Memrise etc. Just focus on those characters that tend to slip your memory. The pile of “easy” cards should grow to be the largest over time.
These three basic categories can help you organize things a little .
6. Check the relevant grammar and patterns for your HSK level
Since HSK is still a traditional test that focuses on reading and includes such exercises as putting words in the right order (to compose sentences), you’d best take a look at the relevant grammar points for your HSK level. Thanks to John Pasden’s grammar wiki, everything you need is online. If you prefer watching instead of reading this Youtube playlist can be of use.
These 5 HSK apps can be helpful as well.
7. Work on your “weakness”
Thanks to the results from your mock exam you know in which area to boost your score. The method is simple: invest more time in that domain and turn your weakness into one of your strengths.
That sure sounds nice, but how do I do that? Here are some tips for improving your HSK score on listening, reading and writing:
- Listening: keep doing those HSK listening exercises until you start hearing the familiar Chinese voices in your sleep. Although the typical HSK dialogues are very unnatural to say the least, listening to the endless stream of short conversations helps to cement all that new vocabulary.
- Reading: for most HSK participants the reading part is a fight against time. If you feel like you’re still too slow: read more (yes.. I know) and work on your vocabulary. The more familiar you are with the characters, the easier it gets. This takes time, but it’s worth the effort.
- Writing: Writing Chinese characters under pressure of time can be a troublesome business. You don’t need to be able to write every character! Build around the characters you can write and start composing simple sentences. Don’t make it too difficult. Use basic verbs like 有，是，喜欢，知道。If you have to hit a minimum amount of characters, use “filler words” like 特别，非常，有的时候， 最近，越来越 and standard phrases 按照我的看法 and other sentences you’ve used before. Just make sure you’ve prepared your little Hanzi toolkit when the exam day arrives.
8. Read the answers first
When you’re finally writing the test, keep in mind to read the multiple choice answers first. That is to say, you sort of scan through them. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the listening or reading part.
Why? It’s simple: The answers usually provide more context than the questions do and they take less time to read! Once you run through the a, b, c, d options, you know what to focus on. Otherwise, you’ll loose a lot of brain capacity taking in ALL information. The truth is that you don’t need to. Skim through the answers, get the context and concentrate your attention on the relevant stuff.
Those are my tips! What helped you beat the HSK exam? How hard was it really? Feel free to leave a comment below…