How to Choose the Best HSK Test Center?
So, your study plan is all set and you are ready to take the HSK test. But there’s one thing left to consider: Which HSK test center should you pick?
Finding an HSK test center is a simple, straightforward process. We’ve pulled a list of all HSK test centers on our website. You must register for the test and choose a test location 10 days to 1 month ahead of the test date, depending on the test format.
Just note not all testing centers administer HSK tests at every level from HSK 1 to HSK 6. For instance, if you intend to take the HSK 3 test in November, make sure the test center you have in mind will be administering it in that month. If you are not sure how to register for the HSK test, read our guide here.
Things to Consider When Choosing an HSK Test Center
Is choosing an HSK test center as simple as picking the one closest to you? Or can you be more strategic in your choice? We’ve come up with the following tips to help you decide which center you should go to ace the HSK exam.
1. Format of the HSK Test
There are two formats of the HSK test: paper-based and computer-based (internet-based). They are identical in difficulty level, test content and scoring criteria.
You have to decide which format to take when you register for the HSK. Both these two formats have pros and cons, but in general, we recommend you to take the HSK test on computer if it’s available. (find out why here)
That said, not all HSK test centers have the facilities to conduct the computer-based test. And in some regions or countries, this has not been an option yet. If you absolutely want to take the test on computer, you might have to do it in a test center far away from where you are located, so be prepared for the logistics involved.
2. Take HSKK Test or Not
Are you planning to take the HSKK test as well? It’s an independent oral test to assess learners’ speaking skills in Mandarin (both tests are organized by Hanban). You can take it together with HSK on the same day if you want, since the tests start at a different time of the day (usually HSK in the morning and HSKK in the afternoon, or vice versa).
HSKK tests are held in most HSK test centers, but there are some exceptions. If you want to take both HSK and HSKK on the same day, make sure you register for them at the same test center. (find out if you should take HSKK test or not)
3. Location of the HSK Test Center
If you are an international student studying in China, or there is a Confucius Institute in your university, there’s likely an HSK test center on your campus. This location is convenient for a number of reasons: there will be no disruptions to your current routine, you have the opportunity to visit the testing site ahead of time to feel it out, and you can even find time to take some practice tests in that very building!
But that proximity and familiarity come with a downside. You might be surrounded by peers from your Chinese classes, which could feel like a lot of pressure or something you’d rather not think about on test day.
Some students opt to take the HSK in a different school. This may be an opportunity to get out of the familiarity of your school and peers and surround yourself instead with a comforting, relaxing environment. Spending a few days away from your campus also presents unique opportunities for you to focus on the test and nothing else.
There are also quite many private language schools and education institutions that administer the HSK test (particularly in China). This is a great option if you are not a student. They are usually very accommodating and you won’t have to worry about other people you know testing at the same test center as you. You can focus on selecting the test center that’s most conveniently located to where you live!
4. Environment of the HSK Test Center
If possible, go check out the HSK test center you have in mind before making your selection. Pay attention to the details that will matter on test day.
If you plan to take the computer-based test, check out the conditions of the computer facilities and their headphones for the listening section (the computers have headphones, but if they look crappy, you should bring your own ones). If possible, find out what Pinyin input applications they use on the computers, and if they handout scratch paper for test-takers to take notes during the test.
If it’s a paper-based testing center, check out the conditions of the testing room. Is it well lit? How is the ambient noise? Is there a construction site nearby? Is it in an old building that may have air-conditioning or ventilation issues? Talk to the person in charge and find out whether the listening section is put on external speakers or through headphones (ambient noise barely affects the sound through headphones while with speakers, the sound can be easily affected by external noise and it bounces around in the room before you hear it).
In short, is this somewhere you can sit and focus on the task at hand? If not, look for another test center nearby. While you have to be prepared for a few things to not be perfect on the day of the HSK, you should definitely try to avoid anything you think might prevent you from doing your best.
5. Distance to the HSK Test Center
You should also factor in the commute it will take to the test center. Is the test center easy to get to? Do you know the route? Do you have to take public transit? Metro or bus?
Whatever the case, make sure you pick a place that is easy to get to or where a taxi or Didi shifu could easily drive you. The last thing you want to do on the day of the test is hassle too much with transit! (If the place is far from where you live but there is no other option, considering staying at a hotel nearby. A good night’s sleep will give you higher test scores!)
Once you pick a place, practice that commute ahead of test day.
6. Special Circumstances
Alert! Once you have registered the HSK test, you won’t be able to request to take the exam somewhere else for whatever reasons, and the registration fee is non-refundable.
If you encounter any technical problems before or during your test (such as a glitch in computer or headphones), contact your test proctor immediately. If the problem cannot be fixed promptly, you are entitled to ask for a rearrangement of the test. According to the Hanban website (administer of HSK tests), they can rearrange a test soon at no additional cost if this situation arises, however, you won’t be allowed to change the test center.
While choosing the HSK test center closest to where you live makes a lot of sense, be strategic when making your choice. Set yourself up for success by visiting the testing locations available to you. Evaluate the space itself, plan your route, and decide whether you would perform better near where you live or farther away. Now that you’ve thought long and hard about which test center is right for you, make sure you also select the best HSK test date!