Proven Strategies to Excel in HSKK and Oral Chinese Exams

Recently, I had this student reach out to me. He mentioned he’s been studying Chinese in college and even practicing speaking with a tutor. However, despite his efforts, he didn’t do well in his oral exam and now feels like he’s got nothing. So, how can we avoid this kind of situation and actually get better at oral Chinese exams?

If you aim for success in oral exams, it’s crucial to engage in effective practice with a professional instructor. Taking the common HSKK exam as an example, today I’ll share insights on how to strategically overcome HSKK and successfully navigate through the oral examination.

HSKK stands for “Hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǒuyǔ kǎoshì (汉语水平口语考试),” translating to “Chinese Proficiency Spoken Test.” It is a standardized examination designed to evaluate students’ proficiency in spoken Chinese. HSKK is divided into three levels – Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced. According to the latest requirements, if one registers for HSK 3, they are required to simultaneously register for HSKK Elementary. Similarly, HSK 4 requires concurrent registration for HSKK Intermediate, and for HSK 5-6, candidates must register for HSKK Advanced. For those aiming at HSK 7-9, simultaneous registration for HSKK Advanced is mandatory. In other words, for intermediate and advanced learners, the oral exam is an unavoidable hurdle.

However, once you grasp the training methods, preparing for the HSKK becomes efficient and straightforward. Previously, we have discussed preparation strategies for the HSKK Intermediate level. Now, let’s delve into techniques for the HSKK Advanced exam.

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The HSKK (Advanced) is primarily designed for students who have studied Chinese for at least two academic years, with 2-3 hours of classes per week and a grasp of around 3000 common words. Candidates should be capable of understanding spoken Chinese and expressing their opinions fluently.

HSKK Advanced Exam Level and Content

The HSKK (Advanced) consists of three parts with a total of six questions. The entire exam takes approximately 25 minutes, including a 10-minute preparation time.

Listening and Retelling (Part 1):
Three questions involve listening to a passage and then retelling it.
The time allocated for this part is 7 minutes.

Reading Aloud (Part 2):
One question requires candidates to read a provided passage aloud.
The time allocated for this part is 2 minutes.

Answering Questions (Part 3):
Two questions are provided, and candidates must read and answer them.
The time allocated for this part is 5 minutes.

This exam assesses the ability to comprehend spoken Chinese, proficiency in reading aloud, and the capability to respond to questions effectively. Candidates are expected to complete the entire test within 25 minutes, which includes a 10-minute preparation period.

Strategies for Each Question Type
Part 1
Grading Criteria and Standards:

High: Candidates can completely and fluently retell the main content of the material with minimal pauses and repetitions.

Medium: Candidates can retell some material content, but with more pauses, repetitions, and grammar errors.

Low: Candidates deviate significantly from the original material in retelling, resulting in disorganized language and minimal information.

Question Analysis:

Each question involves playing an audio segment, requiring candidates to retell what they have heard. There are a total of 3 questions. The style of these three questions is consistent, including narration, a combination of narration and argumentation, or expository text. Clearly, the first part assesses students’ listening skills, sentence organization, and expressive abilities.


Taking the mock test sample paper for HSKK as an example, let’s begin by listening to an audio segment.

Liú xiānshēng hé érzi qù huǒchē zhàn, jìnqù yǐhòu, lí kāi chē zhǐyǒu wǔ fēnzhōng le. Tāmen pǎo le qǐlái, Liú xiānshēng pǎo dé hěn kuài, xiān shàng le huǒchē. Tā kànjiàn érzi hái zài chē xiàmiàn, jiù yào xià chē. Lièchē yuán shuō: “Xiānshēng, bùnéng xià chē, chē jiù yào kāi le, lái bùjí le.” Liú xiānshēng zháojí de shuō: “Bùxíng, shì wǒ érzi yào zuò chē, wǒ shì lái sòng tā de.”


Mr. Liu and his son went to the train station. After they entered, there were only five minutes left before the train left. They started running, and Mr. Liu ran very fast, getting on the train first. When he saw his son still under the train, he wanted to get off. The conductor said, “Sir, you can’t get off. The train is about to leave, and there’s not enough time.” Mr. Liu anxiously said, “No, it’s my son who needs to take the train. I came to see him off.”

Breakdown of Skills:

We can break down this question into two parts: listening and response.

1. What to listen for?

Keywords: It’s crucial listen to the subject and predicate, or “who” did “what.” By hearing the sentence’s main subject, most of the meaning and sentence logic can be inferred. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, this passage is likely a narrative, so there must be a chronological order. It’s best to jot down keywords in the order they are heard, and you can use familiar symbols for convenience.

When listening for “who,” pay attention to the beginning of the sentence, including titles and personal pronouns. In this question, three people are mentioned: Mr. Liu, his son, and the train attendant. Note them in the order heard, and you can use symbols for clarity.

The verbs mentioned form a logical sequence of events: “zhǐyǒu wǔ fēnzhōng le 只有五分钟了” (only five minutes left) leads to “pǎo le qǐlái 跑了起来”(started running), “pǎo de hěn kuài 跑得很快” (run very fast) results in “xiān shàng le huǒchē 先上了火车” (getting on the train first), “kànjiàn érzi 看见儿子” (saw his son) leads to “xià chē 下车,”(get off) etc. If you’ve heard most of the story but missed some details, you can speculate based on the logical connections between verbs and the story’s development.

Complete endings: The three questions in the first part share a common feature – the ending might be unexpected and provide reasons or background to the story. If you didn’t hear, “Liú xiānshēng zháojí de shuō: ‘Bùxíng, shì wǒ érzi yào zuò chē, wǒ shì lái sòng tā de.’ 刘先生着急地说:‘不行,是我儿子要坐车,我是来送他的。’” (Mr. Liu anxiously said, “No, it’s my son who needs to take the train. I came to see him off.”)the story would deviate significantly. Therefore, in your retelling, try to recreate the original content, especially in the ending, or it will have a significant impact on your score.

2. How to respond?

Firstly, the completeness of your response depends on how much you heard, which requires a certain vocabulary, listening ability, and technique developed through regular practice.

However, the technique of answering during the exam also has a significant impact. Based on anything you heard or noted – words, phrases, connecting words – you can even try to recall the tone and intonation of the announcer when reading the question. Organize them chronologically, focusing on two points:

Form complete sentences: When retelling, try to avoid fragmented, disjointed narration. Therefore, maintain a moderate or slow pace, but express continuously at a steady speed, striving to form complete and fluent sentences, showcasing your language proficiency.

Pay attention to grammar and vocabulary: Use correct grammatical structures and appropriate vocabulary. Even if the words in your memory deviate from the answer, express them in the correct grammatical form. This helps demonstrate your proficiency in the Chinese language.

Part 2
Grading Criteria and Standards:

High: Candidates read fluently, effectively managing pronunciation, intonation, with only a small number of misreads, repetitions, or pauses.

Medium: Candidates can read most of the content but with a considerable number of misreads, pauses, repetitions, etc.

Low: Candidates can only read a small number of sentences.

Question Analysis:

The exam paper provides a passage and requires candidates to read it aloud. This section primarily assesses students’ pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary proficiency, overall comprehension of the text, and fluency.


Still, let’s take a passage from mock test as an example.

Wēixiào shì duì shēnghuó de yī zhǒng tàidù, gēn pínfù, dìwèi, chǔjìng méiyǒu bìrán de liánxì. Yīgè fùwēng kěnéng zhèngtiān fánnǎo yōuchóu, ér yīgè qióngrén què kěnéng xīnqíng shūchàng. Zhǐyǒu xīnlǐ yǒu yángguāng de rén, cáinéng gǎnshòu dào xiànshí de yángguāng, rúguǒ lián zìjǐ dōu kǔzhe liǎn, nà shēnghuó rúhé měihǎo? Shēnghuó zhōngyǒng shì yīmiàn jìngzi, dāng wǒmen kūqì shí, shēnghuó zài kūqì; dāng wǒmen wēixiào shí, shēnghuó yě zài wēixiào. Wēixiào shì duì tārén de zūnzhòng, tóngshí yě shì duì shēnghuó de zūnzhòng. Wēixiào shì yǒu “huíbào” de, rénjì guānxì jiù xiàng wùlǐ xué shàng suǒ shuō de lì de pínghéng, nǐ zěnyàng duì biérén, biérén jiù huì zěnyàng duì nǐ, nǐ duì biérén de wēixiào yuè duō, biérén duì nǐ de wēixiào yě huì yuè duō. Wēixiào shì péngyǒu jiān zuì hǎo de yǔyán, yīgè zìrán liúlù de wēixiào, shèngguò qiān yán wàn yǔ, wúlùn shì chūcì jiànmiàn, háishì xiāngshí yǐjiǔ, wēixiào dōu néng lājìn rén yǔ rén zhījiān de jùlí, lìng bǐcǐ bèi gǎn wēnnuǎn.


Smiling is an attitude towards life that has no inherent connection to wealth, status, or circumstances. A wealthy person may be troubled and sorrowful all day, while a poor person may be in good spirits. Only those with sunshine in their hearts can feel the sunshine of reality. If even you wear a frown, how can life be beautiful? Life is always a mirror, when we cry, life cries with us; when we smile, life smiles too. Smiling is a sign of respect for others and, at the same time, respect for life. Smiling has its “returns,” just like the balance of forces in physics. How you treat others is reciprocated, the more you smile at others, the more smiles you receive in return. Smiling is the best language among friends. A genuine, spontaneous smile speaks volumes; whether it’s a first meeting or a long acquaintance, a smile can bridge the distance between people, making each other feel warm. (2 minutes)

Breakdown of Skills:

In the preparation process, we can break down this question into three aspects.

1. Pronunciation and Intonation

To achieve correct pronunciation, the first step is to master the standard pronunciation of commonly used words. When reading aloud, familiarize yourself with each syllable’s initial sound, vowel, and tone, and pronounce them according to their standard sounds.

Additionally, strive for clear pronunciation, paying special attention to front and back nasal sounds and flat or slanting tongue sounds. Despite possible nervousness, be sure to pay attention to intonation! Moreover, when reading text, identify two types of words: those that are easy to mispronounce and those you don’t know how to pronounce.

2. Pauses

When reading aloud, some sentences are short and can be paused at punctuation marks. For longer and more complex sentences without punctuation, brief pauses can be introduced midway to express the meaning clearly. However, incorrect pauses can disrupt the sentence structure, which can affect the score, so pay extra attention.

There are two types of correct pauses:

2.1 Punctuation pauses, including commas, colons, periods, question marks, exclamation marks, ellipses, semicolons, dashes, and hyphens.

2.2 Grammar pauses, which are natural pauses in the middle of a sentence. These pauses are often made to emphasize or highlight the subject, predicate, object, modifier, adverbial, or complement in the sentence. Therefore, when reading materials, you can use slashes to divide sentence components to help you understand the sentence structure.

3. Attention

If you make a mistake, don’t panic. There’s no need to repeat or go back; maintain the same pace and continue reading.

Part 3
Grading Criteria and Standards:

High: Candidates can answer the questions with rich content, fluent expression, and a few pauses, repetitions, and grammar errors.

Medium: Candidates can answer the questions, but with less information, more pauses, repetitions, and grammar errors.

Low: Candidates provide irrelevant or incoherent answers with little information. Note: If a candidate does not respond, it is scored as 0.

Question Analysis:

This section typically consists of an introductory topic and a discursive topic. The introductory topic does not require expressing personal opinions, but the discursive topic must clearly convey personal views.

In the preparation process, create an outline for clarity during speaking. To avoid being too brief, expand the outline to explain your views from multiple perspectives or elaborate on your opinions on different viewpoints. Using more relevant vocabulary, idioms, and slang can enhance your score. Examples can be used to illustrate points and make the content more concrete. When speaking, ensure a loud, clear voice and a moderate pace.


Nǐ rènwéi lǐxiǎng de shēnghuó zhuàngtài shì shénme yàng de? Qǐng jiǎndān shuōshuo.
What do you think the ideal state of life is? Please briefly explain. (2.5 minutes)

Yǒurén rènwéi biànlùn kěyǐ ràng shuāngfāng qǔdé yīzhì de yìjiàn, yǒurén rènwéi biànlùn huì shǐ shuāngfāng gèng duìlì. Nǐ zěnme kàn?
2.有人认为辩论可以让双方取得一致的意见,有人认为辩论会使双方更对立。 你怎么看?(2.5分钟)
Some believe that debates can lead to consensus, while others think debates can make both sides more opposed. What is your perspective? (2.5 minutes)

Breakdown of Skill:

1. Build a clear structure and use smooth transitional language

Ensure a clear structure when answering questions: In the preparation process, create an outline to plan the response structure, including introduction, main body, conclusion, etc., ensuring a hierarchical and easily understandable answer.

2. Use logical transitional words

Employ appropriate transitional words such as “lìngwài 另外” (furthermore) or “rán’ér 然而” (however) to ensure coherence and smooth transitions, avoiding logical gaps.

3. Expressive vocabulary and rhetorical devices

Use vivid vocabulary to enhance expression: Choose vivid and imagery-rich words to make the language more compelling, making it easier for the audience to understand. The use of relevant vocabulary, idioms, and slang can help improve scores.

Flexibly use various sentence structures: Try using different sentence structures to enhance linguistic flexibility, making the expression more lively and interesting.

Use examples to illustrate viewpoints: Combine real-life examples to not only support the points but also make the expression more specific and persuasive.

If you are currently preparing for the HSKK or any other listening exams, we highly recommend clicking here for a free one-on-one trial class. With years of experience in preparing for HSK and HSKK, our professional teaching team is well-equipped to assist you, whether it’s for last-minute exam skills training or long-term exam format practice. We offer exclusive study materials accessible throughout the internet and personalized learning plans for each student. We look forward to working together with you, aiming to help you achieve excellent results in your Chinese language exams.

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