HSK 5 Standard Course review

HSK Standard Course books review

The HSK Standard Course books are probably the most-used books to prepare for the HSK. How useful are these books to pass the exams and are they suitable for self-study? In this article, I review the books I’ve been using for the longest time: the HSK 5 Standard Course textbooks.

I bought both books – HSK 5 Standard Course books 1 + 2 – some years back, when I was preparing for the HSK 5 exam. I had only a couple of months left to the exam date and used them intensively, mainly reading the texts and studying the vocabulary. I didn’t have time to finish all the exercises. Nowadays, I still use occasionally them to review vocabulary and grammar. (I did pass the exam btw.)

To start from the start: the HSK Standard Course is a complete series, including textbooks, workbooks, teacher’s books, demo lessons and digital resources. It’s a pretty complete set of books, conceptualized to take you from one HSK level to the next without omitting a single HSK character. Everything is centered around the official HSK content, meaning the vocabulary and grammar points, and their sole purpose is to transfer this content.

The HSK 5 textbooks consist of ten units and thirty chapters. In each chapter you find a new text, a vocabulary list and exercises that introduce new words and grammar points. The audio files you can either play from the CD or find online – here for example: audio files for HSK 5 Standard Course on YouTube.

Maybe it also doesn’t hurt to say what these books are NOT. First and foremost, they aren’t “HSK training books” with mock exams and tips on how to pass the actual test. That isn’t part of the package. Secondly, these HSK books aren’t very practical in terms of helping you to use Chinese in real life situations. Not very practical at all actually… You’ll look in vain for conversational Chinese – stuff that you can use in a real situation. That’s not what these books are about.

Pro

  • Well-structured & steady-paced
  • Predictable & efficient
  • Comprehensive: everything you need to know for HSK 5
  • Broad array of texts
  • Helpful exercises
  • Audio quality is alright

Contra

  • Not all texts are equally accessible and interesting
  • Many texts contain a “moral lesson” and seem strangely idealistic
  • Could be more up-to-date (closer to present-day China)
  • No audio exercises

I think the authors have done a good job in writing a series that makes HSK 5 manageable. I expected these books to cover everything I have to know for HSK 5 and they deliver just that. All vocabulary and grammar you need for HSK 5 is in these two books. What’s more, the HSK 5 Standard Course books are well-structured and steady-paced, so you don’t get lost.

But there are some sources for frustration as well. Firstly the choice of topics… Another reviewer wrote the following and I couldn’t agree more: “It’s a significant jump in difficulty from HSK4 and some of the texts are extremely boring (like “I don’t want to learn Chinese anymore” boring) and sometimes introduce words in unnecessarily complicated contexts. For example, there’s a page-long text about the geology and the various minerals that contribute to the formation of spring waters in Jinan, there’s a 2-page long article about making radish pie.” That being said, not all the texts are uninteresting and demotivating.

Moreover, many texts contain some kind of “moral lesson” for the learner. I’ve noticed this more often with Chinese course books. This results in idealistic texts that seem strangely out of touch with the real world. Besides, I don’t always get the grammar explanations that in some cases are too short and lack examples to be understood properly. Finally, and this true for most course books, they could be more up-to-date, meaning they should depict the world we live in and cover things like Taobao, Douyin, WeChat and so on and the respective vocabulary.

Self-studying?

To use the HSK 5 Standard Course books for self-study is possible, after all, you have reached a certain degree of autonomy as a learner when you’ve passed HSK 4 and covered all the basics. I still wouldn’t recommend it though, because these books have been designed to be used in a classroom-context. They rely on a teacher to point out details and explain things. It might work with a Chinese friend to support you, but you’d still have to find the discipline to work through all 30 chapters. Other HSK course books like this one might be more suitable for self-study.

Conclusion

To wrap it up: There are many ways to prepare for HSK, but I don’t know of any other HSK course books with the same scope and quality. The HSK Standard Course books are most useful when you’re taking classes to prepare for the HSK or at least have a teacher or tutor to help you with the texts and exercises. You’ll still need mock exams to do actual HSK training, because these books only transfer the HSK content needed to pass the exam. In my opinion, these books are less suitable for self-study without a teacher, tutor or Chinese friend to support you, unless you’re a really autonomous learner that knows where to look for answers.

HSK Standard Course 5A - Textbook (English and Chinese Edition)
HSK Standard Course 5B - Textbook (English and Chinese Edition)

Disclosure: These are affiliate links. They help me to support this blog, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

That’s it. I hope you found this post useful. Please let me know if you have any other course books for HSK you’d like to recommend!

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HSK Standard Course 1 SET - Textbook +Workbook (Chinese and English Edition)
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Disclosure: These are affiliate links. They help me to support this blog, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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