HSK 1 Vocabulary List: All 150 Words You Need to Know to Pass HSK Level 1 Test
出租车 chūzūchē… 睡觉 shuìjiào… 怎么样 zěnmeyàng…
Do you know those words yet? They’re some of the HSK 1 vocabulary words. If you’re going to take the test, it’s time to memorize them!
If you don’t know, HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), meaning “Mandarin Chinese Proficiency Test”. It’s the world’s most well-known and acknowledged test for Chinese proficiency, with six competence levels. HSK 6 is the hardest level, considered near-fluent. HSK 1 is the easiest level, covering the basic level of Chinese.
And if you’re looking to test your skills and see where you’re at in Chinese, then HSK is a great place to try it out. Even though HSK 1 is the most basic formal Chinese test, passing the test is still an achievement worth celebrating. So here’s your quick guide to learning the necessary HSK 1 vocabulary words.
Required Vocabulary for HSK 1 Test
So, how many Chinese words do you need to learn to pass the HSK 1 test?
According to Hanban, the HSK test organizer, to pass HSK Level 1, you need to know 150 vocabulary words precisely. These words don’t change between tests, and you can expect to see them on any given HSK 1 test (though not all 150 words will necessarily appear in one test).
Here’s the official guideline from Hanban.
- HSK1: 150 words
- HSK2: 300 words
- HSK3: 600 words
- HSK4: 1200 words
- HSK5: 2500 words
- HSK6: 5000 words
What Else to Expect on HSK 1 Test
HSK 1 test is designed for basic Chinese learners. In HSK 1, Pinyin (Mandarin romanization) is provided along with Chinese characters for all questions on the test paper, and there is no writing section, meaning you don’t really need to know any character to pass the test (of course you’ll need to be totally comfortable reading Pinyin at least).
You do, however, need to be able to understand simple conversations from daily life constructed with these 150 required vocabulary words, and some basic Chinese grammar to pass HSK 1.
HSK 1 Vocabulary List – the 150 Words You Need to Know for HSK Level 1 Test
I will preface the list by saying that this is not meant to be the “generic word list for beginners” or “the most common Chinese words” by frequency. Instead, this is a vocabulary list crafted specifically for passing the HSK 1 test. Once you’ve got the 150 required words, you can start learning vocabulary words that are most relevant to your own personal daily speech.
Alright, so let’s start learning the HSK 1 vocabulary!
I’ve organized these words based on category (e.g. numbers, time, people, and places) because Chinese words are easiest to learn when you associate them with related words.
Enjoy the list!
11 Chinese Words for Numbers
We’ll start with the numbers.
Chinese numbers are important to know. They are straightforward and extremely regular. Once you know how to count to 10, you can instantly count up to 99 without any need for extra memorization. (In case you don’t, read here)
7 Chinese Pronouns
Chinese pronouns don’t change form according to whether they are the subject (doer of the action, e.g. “I”) or object (undergoer of the action, e.g. “me”).
Note while “he”, “she” (or “him”, “her”) are represented by two different Chinese characters, they are pronounced in exactly the same way.
Pay attention to 这儿 (zhèr) – “here”, and 那儿 (nàr) – “there” as well. People in southern China often use 这里 (zhèli) and 那里 (nàli) instead as part of the regional differences (all these words are readily understood in China though).
|I or me
|he or him
|she or her
|we or me
7 Chinese Question Words
Question words like “what”, “where”, “who” are technically pronouns too. I’ve listed them separately here because I would like to draw your attention to how WH Questions are raised in Chinese.
Essentially, the word order of a WH question in Chinese stays in line with the basic Chinese structure S-V-O (subject-verb-object), that is, you need to keep the word order of the statement and change the “asked part” to the corresponding question word.
This is a key grammar point in HSK 1 test. If you are not sure how to craft a WH question, read here.
|how many or how much
|how many or how much
14 Chinese Words for Time
These time words required by HSK 1 are often used together with numbers. You can pair numbers up with words like 月 (yuè) to say months of the year, like 一月 (yī yuè) – “January”, or 星期 (xīngqī) to say days of the week, like 星期二 (xīngqī èr) – “Tuesday”.
Note, the time in Chinese is expressed quite differently than in English. For instance, the elements of the dates must be named in ascending order: year + month + day, that is, 年 (nián) + 月 (yuè) + 日 (rì).
Words like 上午 (shàngwǔ), 下午 (xiàwǔ), if used, also need to be placed before the time to depict the period accurately.
|a certain point in time
36 Chinese Words for People & Things
HSK 1 expects you to know 36 nouns related to people and things to pass. Some of them are very important in Chinese culture, such as 茶 (chá) – “tea”, and 米饭 (mǐfàn) – “rice”, so they pop up a lot.
|person or people
|Mr or sir
|table or desk
|cup or glass
13 Chinese Words for Places & Directions
The following 13 words for places and directions are the ones you’ll encounter in HSK 1 test. Of course, they are equally useful outside the realm of testing to get by in China.
|home or family
|on, above or last
|under, below or next
5 Chinese Measure Words
The use of measure words is unique to the Chinese language. There are more than one hundred measure words used for different kinds of things in daily Chinese. Luckily, to pass HSK 1, you only need to learn five of them.
In real life, you can get by for quite a while by just using the most common, general-purpose measure word 个 (gè). It may not be strictly correct (works like 30% of the time), but you’ll be understood. (or, you can learn the 15 most common Chinese measure words in this article)
|generic measure word
|basic monetary unit of China
|year (of age)
31 Chinese Verbs
In the HSK 1 test, you’ll be quizzed on the following 31 verbs. Many of the verbs have multiple meanings, especially when combined with other words. Don’t worry about that for now, but just know there maybe – and usually are, more ways to use them once you get farther in your Chinese studies. For now, I simply included their most common meanings you need to know for taking HSK 1.
|to be in
|to live or to stay
|to look or to watch
|to drive or to open
|to make a phone call
|can (to know how to)
|can (to be able to)
14 Chinese Adjectives and Adverbs
Coming up next are the most basic Chinese adjectives and adverbs to describe things and actions. You will most likely be quizzed on how to describe things on the HSK 1 test. To do that, simply use 很 (hěn), the default connecting word to link a noun to an adjective, like 我很好 (wǒ hěn hǎo). The literal meaning of 很 (hěn) – “very” is very weak in such cases.
Another grammar point you’ll definitely need to know for the HSK 1 test would be the use of 不 (bù) vs 没 (méi). Bear in mind that 不 (bù) works with almost all the nouns and adjectives in Chinese, but to negate the verb 有 (yǒu), you have to use the negating word 没 (méi). That’s the only exception.
|both or all
4 Chinese Particles
Chinese particles are those function words that don’t have a concrete meaning on their own, but are used together with another word, phrase, or sentence to serve a grammatical purpose. To pass HSK 1, you need to know the following four basic particles.
Pay special attention to the question particle 吗 (ma). Don’t think of it as the question mark in Chinese. Use it only for yes-no questions.
1 Chinese Conjunction
和 (hé) is the only conjunction you need to know for HSK 1. However, be aware of the pitfall! It is much less versatile than the English “and”, and should only be used to connect nouns in Chinese. Never attempt to connect adjectives, verbs, phrases, or sentences with 和 (hé)! (Find out what you should do instead with this article)
7 Chinese Expressions
Finally, there are seven basic expressions that you must master for HSK Level 1 test (you’ll most likely hear them in the Listening Section).
Pay attention to the word 请 (qǐng). In Chinese, you can only use the word at the beginning of a sentence to start a request, not at the end. That is, you can say things like “please sit down”, but not “sit down, please”.
|hello (on the phone)
|it’s all right
HSK 1 Vocabulary Practice: The Best Way to Memorize HSK 1 Words
All right, so now you’ve seen the HSK 1 vocabulary list and know what you should study. But what’s the best way to memorize these words?
The best way to remember HSK 1 vocabulary (or any other level) is to use flashcards and create a maximum number of “exposures” to the new vocabulary in real life. Essentially, you’ll want to surround yourself with the new vocabulary, allowing the words to naturally move from short-term memory into long-term memory.
Step 1. Select and Create a Vocabulary List
Even though the HSK 1 vocabulary list is readily available for you, don’t just sit on it.
Instead, select and craft your own vocabulary list out of it by browsing our list first and then writing down the words you don’t know in a notebook. The objective here is to force yourself to see and write the words for yourself. Make them your Chinese vocabulary words.
Step 2. Use Flashcards
Flashcards are a powerful way to review Chinese words. You could do it old school and make actual, physical flashcards. Simply write down the new words in your list, with Pinyin or characters on one side, and the English definition on the other. This process itself gives you additional exposure to the unfamiliar vocabulary.
If you don’t have that much time to spare, then make use of flashcards apps such as Anki or Memrise. You can use them on desktop as well as on a mobile phone, so you can review the new words while commuting to school or work.
These apps also make use of spaced repetition – a clever algorithm that only shows you the flashcards that you’re about to forget. Sounds awesome, isn’t it?
Step 3. Get Out There and Try New Words
It’s all very well to recognize the words from vocabulary lists or flashcards, but you need to get more exposure to accurately and convincingly be able to use these words, to pass HSK 1, and speak Chinese!
So get out there and speak! Force yourself to use these new words with native Chinese speakers near where you live or online. The way native speakers respond to your shaky, early uses of new vocabulary will reinforce the meaning and usage of these words like nothing else.
If you can’t find anyone to practice with you, look up the words in a dictionary app such as Pleco and read the example sentences. These sentences will provide numerous more exposures to the words in context. You can even use Google or Baidu to identify how these Chinese words are actually used, a method that’s surprisingly effective.
Don’t miss out on our Grammar Channel! It’s a great reference resource you can go to for a quick recap/overview of grammatical structures, covering basic words in Chinese.
Bottom line: it’s important to not simply memorize Chinese words from a word list. Learn how the words are used in context, and they will more easily stick in your long-term memory.
And practice every day! Rinse and repeat until the test!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. To pass the HSK 1 test, do I have to know all the 150 words required?
Technically you don’t have to, since you won’t encounter all the 150 words required in one test, and you only need to score 120/200 to pass the test, meaning you can chance it. However, these 150 words are among the most basic, essential words you’ll need to speak Chinese. You should master them anyway and build your vocabulary from there.
2. Do I need to know how to write these words to pass the HSK?
You don’t have to write anything in the HSK 1 Test. All questions are delivered in the format of True or False, and Multiple Choices. Plus, Pinyin is provided along with Chinese characters for all questions on the test paper, meaning you don’t really need to be able to read characters to pass the test. That said, it’s still a good idea to knock out the basic Chinese characters at an early stage. Characters help you memorize vocabulary better, read with ease (making learning through native resources easier), and have a deeper understanding of how the Chinese language works. You can view the HSK 1 character list here.
There are endless directions you can take for learning Chinese. Now that you’ve got the HSK 1 vocabulary, you can figure out what’s best for you and start applying it. From here, you can continue to study HSK 2 vocabulary or start learning words more relevant to your daily needs. You could also boost your Chinese by learning about basic Chinese grammar rules, basic phrases and sentences.
Last but not least, don’t forget to check out our Chinese Learning Channel for beginners, where you can find tons of useful resources waiting for you!