The Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) is an international standardized test that assesses the Chinese language abilities of non-native Chinese speakers.
In recent years, the role of Chinese in international communication has become increasingly prominent, and along with it the demand for Chinese learning has grown. Owing to this, the Chinese government has sought to develop scientific, standardized, inclusive, open, and easy-to-implement guidelines for Chinese learning, teaching, testing, and evaluation, thereby promoting quality and effectiveness of education and teaching. After all, it’s a lot easier to teach when there are clear standards of what should be taught.
On July 1, 2021, China released a new set of HSK rules and standards. This document describes the updates:
Learners’ Chinese proficiency is divided into “three levels and nine levels”, which mainly includes four basic language elements: syllables, Chinese characters, vocabulary and grammar. Speech communication ability, topic task content and language quantitative indicators form three evaluation criteria; Chinese listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation are the five language skills, and these are all assessed so as to accurately calibrate learners’ Chinese level. The overall difficulty of HSK9 was also further improved.
Everyone is very concerned about whether the vocabulary in this document is within the scope of HSK. In reality, the syllables, Chinese characters, vocabulary, and grammar outline in this document should be the goals for developing proficiency for all foreign learners of Chinese. The scope of HSK takes into consideration the specific situations of Chinese education in various countries. As it currently stands, the HSK 1-6 basically meets the needs of foreign Chinese learners at the elementary and intermediate levels. However, for foreign Chinese learners studying in China for their master’s degree, especially majoring in Chinese or conducting overseas Sinology research, up to now there has been a lack of assessment tools for Chinese at the advanced levels.
Therefore, the HSK examination authority will be adding levels 7-9 on top of the existing six levels, which is where we get the so-called “three levels and nine levels” examination grade system. It’s worth noting that the current HSK levels 1-6 will not be adjusted in the near future.
Many candidates will see that the formal implementation of the new standard will begin from July 1, 2021 and think that the updated HSK itself will be available starting then. However, the methodical development of HSK levels 7-9 requires following a strict process and implementation period. As such, the first available test is scheduled for December 2021 with the official launch planned for the test in March 2022. The HSK 7-9 will adopt the format of “one paper with three levels”, meaning that all examinees will take the same test and their level will be determined based on their results.
The HSK 1-6, the current from of the exam, will not be adjusted in the near future. The examination grading, content, reference vocabulary, and format will remain unchanged and will continue to be implemented. In addition, HSK 1-6 candidates’ results are still valid. Textbooks and courses compiled and developed according to HSK 1-6 can also still be used.
That said, over the next 3-5 years the HSK levels 1-6 will be gradually brought into accordance with the standards and actual situations of Chinese learners in various countries. Generally speaking, the exam will continue the ideal of being “learner centered”, and the principle of complementary examinations and teaching methodologies, making appropriate and step-by-step adjustments within the specified scope over time.
In summary, the new HSK standard divides learners’ Chinese proficiency into “three levels and nine levels”, and is designed to guide Chinese learning development among Chinese learners of other countries. As should be expected, the opportunity for advanced certification of Chinese language abilities will also come with the expectation of mastery of a greater range of vocabulary compared with the current HSK 1-6 model.
With all this focus on the HSK levels 7-9, you may be asking yourself whether you should actually consider taking the HSK unless you’re at an advanced level. However, rest assured that no matter what your level of Chinese proficiency is, you should have the HSK as one of your goals. Not only is it THE standardized test recognized by all authorities in China and many international employers around the world, but having a concrete, quantitative goal to works towards is key to making consistent, measurable, and effective improvement – having something to assess your skills with means that you can know if and when you improve.
Of course, if you would like to pursue your Chinese studies or test preparation with us, we’d love to help you! Simply get in touch with any questions you may have, or even sign up for a free trial class to see if we’re right for you: /free-trial/
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