Learn more about the HSK
Posted by: Mychinesestudyschool (IP Logged)
Date: August 27, 2012 04:39AM
The HSK, short for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, is an international standardized exam that tests and rates Chinese language proficiency. It assesses non-native Chinese speakers’ abilities in using the Chinese language in their daily, academic and professional lives. It is administered by Hanban, the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. HSK rating is required, among other things, to study in a Chinese university, and is widely recognized as proof of Chinese proficiency when applying for a job.
The HSK system had a total overhaul in 2010, making the old HSK grades more or less obsolete. The purpose of the overhaul was to improve the test’s ability to accurately portray the comprehensive language and communication ability, and to make the bureaucratic structure simpler.
The old HSK had 11 grades, of which only but the most advanced few were almost completely done by multiple-choice system. The new HSK has only six grades, but all of them include written and spoken sections, in addition to the listening comprehension, grammar and reading comprehension.
Practical Differences Between the Old and New HSK
The addition of more sections to the exam reduced the required vocabulary. While the old HSK advanced level required the knowledge of around 2860 characters, in the new one the number is around 2630. A far bigger difference however is in how the characters are used in making words by character combinations. The old test required the knowledge of around 6900 specific character combinations at the most advanced level, but the new one requires only roughly 4250. So compared to the old one, the new HSK has 8 % fewer characters and 38 % fewer character combinations.
Many of the characters and character combinations dropped from the new exam deal with proper names of people and places, especially transliterations of foreign names. That means that the focus has shifted towards practical application of the language rather than the memorization of specific things. The other chances in vocabulary reflect for example the advances in technology, such as computer related words replacing farming words, or chances in educational aspirations, such as硕士 (master’s degree) coming in and 少先队 (young pioneer) going out.
There was criticism of the old HSK being impractical, and forcing the students to concentrate on learning specific things just for the exam instead of learning practical language. The new HSK largely fixes this problem, and the grades should more accurately describe the actual capability to use the language, including producing spoken and written Chinese.
As a standardized test of general language proficiency, the HSK is not based on any particular textbook or study course. The candidates may in theory refer to any textbook while preparing for the test. However, it is necessary for any candidate to read HSK Test Syllabus, a guide for pre-test preparation, carefully. And in practice, taking a course specialized for HSK is still extremely helpful even with the new HSK.
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