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I. What is HSK?

The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK), (Chinese: 汉语水平考试), translated as Chinese Proficiency Test, is China's only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese. The HSK test approximates the English TOEFL, and an HSK certificate is valid without any limitation in China. The test aims to be a certificate of language proficiency for higher educational and professional purposes.

Each year HSK certificates are issued to those who meet required scores. Unlike the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language offered in Taiwan and administered in traditional Chinese characters, the HSK is administered in Simplified Chinese. In addition test takers with outstanding results can win a scholarship for short-term language study in China.

II.Current Test Structure (since 2010, revised in 2012) 

The current format was introduced in 2012, with a philosophy of testing "comprehensive language and communication ability". Most notable is the inclusion of spoken and written segments at all levels (not just Advanced), reformation of the ranking system, and use of new question structures.

The HSK consists of a written test and an oral test, which are taken separately: 

Level Vocabulary Written test Oral test Description
Words
(cumulative / new)
Characters
(cumulative / new)
Listening Reading Writing
1 150 150 174 174 20 questions, 15 min 20 questions, 17 min Not tested 17 min Designed for learners who can understand and use some simple Chinese characters and sentences to communicate, and prepares them for continuing their Chinese studies. In HSK 1 all characters are provided along with Pinyin.
2 300 150 347 173 35 questions, 25 min 25 questions, 22 min Designed for learners who can use Chinese in a simple and direct manner, applying it in a basic fashion to their daily lives. In HSK 2 all characters are provided along with Pinyin as well.
3 600 300 617 270 40 questions 30 questions 10 items 21 min Designed for learners who can use Chinese to serve the demands of their personal lives, studies and work, and are capable of completing most of the communicative tasks they experience during their Chinese tour.
4 1200 600 1064 447 45 questions 40 questions 15 items Designed for learners who can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and are capable of communicating with Chinese speakers at a high standard.
5 2500 1300 1685 621 45 questions 45 questions 10 items 24 min Designed for learners who can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films and are capable of writing and delivering a lengthy speech in Chinese.
6 5000 2500 2663 978 50 questions 50 questions 1 composition Designed for learners who can easily understand any information communicated in Chinese and are capable of smoothly expressing themselves in written or oral form.