The new HSK exam
December 2, 2020
The HSK exam will be completely revamped before the end of this year, read on to know the changes in store and how it will impact you.

There’s been considerable chatter around the new HSK exam system that will be released this month. As India’s premium Mandarin language institute, Inchin Closer has decided to bring you the changes that will mark this new HSK exam system that will impact the future of thousands of sino-aspirants around the world.

Firstly, the HSK exam will now consist of 9 levels instead of the erstwhile 6. The entry barrier to Mandarin will also be raised considerably. Earlier, HSK 1 students only needed to learn 150 Mandarin words to pass the first level, now it is expected that HSK 1 students will need to master 500 Mandarin words. This means that for HSK 6 students who earlier knew roughtly 5,000 Chinese words, thats no longer the limit, in order to be a 100% HSK certified, you will now need to know close to 10,000 Mandarin words.

The third and more over arching change known is that the exam is positioned to be more practical and will be closer aligned to the CEFR (Central European Framework of Reference) system. This is a centralised, standardised, language system that defines how most European languages are learnt, taught, tested and perceived by employers.

On all visible fronts, Inchin Closer’s current syllabus is best positioned to follow the new HSK exam system. At Inchin Closer, we already teach more than 150 words at the Beginners level, we make sure our syllabus is based on the CEFR graded system of learning, is culturally accurate, teaches practical Mandarin which is commonly used on the streets of Shanghai and imparts a holistic understanding of Chinese by teaching all 4 skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing Mandarin. This ensures that we not only cover the HSK syllabus but also the HSKK curriculum. Of course, having native Chinese teachers, teach the language to our students is an added authentic bonus.

How will the changes impact you?

The 汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì hasn’t been updated since 2010, and even then it was minimal adjustments that were made to the original 1992 structure. This is only the 2nd major overhaul made to the Chinese proficiency test since its origin.

The changes will impact those most at the initial levels of the language and those at the higher levels of the language. Initial levels since HSK 1 will now have more words to learn to pass the test, higher levels since now HSK 6 isn’t the finite level to achieve native status. It will now take a lot more to prove a foreigner can really speak Chinese.

The changes are however a boon for employers and university admission committees which will be better able to judge an applicants Chinese language level. The exam will give them a stronger gauge to understand how proficient someone is in Mandarin. According to information released by Hanban the authority administering the test, HSK 7 and above test takers will need to give only 1 scaled test, based on their performance on this test, they will be given HSK 7, HSK 8 or an HSK 9 certificate. Additionally for this penultimate test, the ability to translate will also be measured.

Going forward; Inchin Closer is prepared

As more information is released by China’s Ministry of Education and Hanban, Inchin Closer will constantly work on updating and revising our syllabus to ensure that it is in line with the new HSK exam standards. Just as our current syllabus is aligned with the existing HSK words, we will revise our curriculum, textbooks, materials and teaching techniques to reflect the new HSK exam. We will also update our internal tests for each level, to make sure they continue to be HSK compliant. Our native Chinese teachers will be trained in the requirements of the new HSK system and we will upgrade our teaching techniques to make sure all Inchin students can easily prepare for and pass the new HSK exams.

LevelDifficulty levelNumber of wordsDifference with old HSK
HSK 1Beginners500350
HSK 2Beginners1272972
HSK 3Elementary22451645
HSK 4Intermediate32452045
HSK 5Intermediate43161816
HSK 6Upper intermediate5456456
HSK 7Advanced11,092 (TBC)n/a
HSK 8Advanced11,092 (TBC)n/a
HSK 9Upper advanced11,092 (TBC)n/a

Lastly, don’t let these changes dampen your spirits, persevere in studying Chinese language, for knowing a language is more about understanding a country, her culture and people. It extends much beyond passing a language level and getting a certificate. Like we say at Inchin Closer, count your Chinese friends, not your language level!

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