HSK Certificate & Score Validity: How Long Are HSK Certificates & Scores Good for?

HSK certificate score validity

Do HSK scores expire? How long are HSK scores valid? Read this guide for the answers to those questions as well as everything you need to know about HSK certificate & score validity. In this guide, we’ll go over how long HSK scores are valid for, what happens after they expire, if you can still use expired scores, and how this affects your planning when applying to schools in China.

How Long Are HSK Certificates Valid?

The HSK certificate has permanent validity. It’s like a diploma. Once you receive it, it becomes your property and is valid forever.

How Long Are HSK Scores Valid?

HSK scores in the accompanying test report, however, do have an expiration date of sorts, and it’s important to know it. If you wish to use your HSK scores to apply to a college or university in China, your HSK scores are valid for two years only from the date you take the test.

What does HSK Certificates/Scores Validity Mean?

This means that if you took the HSK test of any level on Jul 12, 2020, your scores are valid until July 12, 2022. If you are applying to a college or university in China, you can only use valid HSK scores.

However, you should never throw your HSK certificate away, because it’s always useful when you apply for a work permit in China. (China now uses a work permit scoring system through which every foreigner is graded according to their qualifications and skills. You need to reach at least 60 points in that system to be granted the work permit and visa in China, and depending on the level acquired, an HSK certificate can bring you 1-5 points. View the official work permit points table.)

Besides, it never expires for employment purposes. Having the HSK certificate will always be a good testament to your Chinese proficiency. Saying it at a job interview or mentioning it on your resume/CV will work in your favor and impress your employers.

HSK6 test score validity

Can You Access Expired HSK Scores?

Your HSK test score will be available online at the HSK website two weeks after the test date (or one month if you take the paper-based test). Simply enter your test registration number (as shown on your Test Admission Card), and you can access your score online.

But what happens after the HSK expiration date passes?

Once it has been over two years since you took the HSK, your expired scores won’t disappear from the website. Though schools in China won’t accept these expired scores as official HSK scores for your application, you will still be able to view them online.

That said, the HSK website does not seem very well maintained and could encounter technical hitches from time to time. It’s always a good idea to keep an offline record of your scores within your reach. (The physical HSK test report will be sent to your test center 1-2 months after the test date, and you should be notified either by email or telephone for a pickup).

Why Do HSK Scores Expire?

Though you may find it annoying that HSK scores are only valid for two years, Hanban, the test organizer does this to ensure that it’s giving current information to schools so that those schools can accurately decide if you’d be able to follow their classes.

Say a person took the HSK test 10 years ago, when she was learning Chinese in school, and got a high score. In the years since, she hasn’t practiced Chinese very much and has forgotten a lot of what she knew. If HSK expiration didn’t exist, she could just use those old scores to apply to colleges and universities in China, and the schools would assume she still had a high level of Chinese. She could end up attending classes where she can’t understand what’s being discussed, which could lead to her getting bad grades and even dropping out. Restrictions on the validity of HSK scores are put in place to help avoid these situations.

Even though it can be frustrating that the validity of HSK scores is so short, especially if you’ve kept your skills honed, it’s much easier to retake the HSK than it is to enroll in a new school only to learn that you’re too out of practice with your Chinese skills to do well there.

take HSK exam

How to Plan for the HSK So Your Scores Are Valid?

Since HSK scores are only valid for two years if you plan to use them to apply to colleges or universities in China, you may need to do some planning to make sure you have valid HSK scores to submit when you apply. Follow these four steps to help you plan when to take the HSK.

#1: Check HSK Level Requirement for Each School

It’s important to know the HSK level requirement for each school you are applying to. While an HSK5 certificate at passing grade (180/300) is good enough for most universities in China, some universities ask for more. For example, Fudan University in Shanghai requires all applicants to pass HSK5 with 210/300 or above to attend any undergraduate degree program, and 240/300 or above to attend MBA. For certain degree programs, they even require the HSK6 certificate.

On the other hand, some universities such as Tsinghua University only require HSK4 at the point of application (you do, however, need to pass HSK5 within one year after your program has started, or you’ll be removed from the school.)

The last thing you want on the day of application is finding out you took the wrong HSK test and your scores are not valid for admission. So read the HSK level requirements carefully on their admissions page.

#2: Check Their HSK Score Validity Rules

If you plan on taking the HSK test early (at least a year before you begin applying), it’s important to find out their HSK score validity policies as well. For most schools, your HSK scores only need to be valid when you apply, but for other schools, the scores need to be valid through the start date of the program. There can be close to a year between these two dates, so it’s important to know each school’s policy.

Let’s look back at our earlier example. If you took the HSK test on July 12, 2020, your scores are valid until July 12, 2022. If you are applying to schools in the fall of 2021, and they all only require HSK scores to be valid when you’re applying, then you’re fine. However, if a school requires your scores to still be valid when you start class, then you’ll need to retake the HSK test since your scores will have expired by the time you begin class in September 2023.

Most schools will state their requirement on their admissions page, along with other HSK information. If they don’t, there is only one way to find out: contact them and ask. It’s much easier to make a quick call or send an email than it is to deal with out-of-date HSK scores.

#3: Figure Out the Time Frame That You Can Take the HSK

Once you know the HSK level requirements and validity deadlines for each of your schools, you can figure out which HSK test to take and the time frame in which you can it. 

If you want to take the HSK early, remember that you can’t take it more than two years before the validity deadlines for the schools you’re applying to.

If you plan on taking the HSK later, remember that it takes 1 to 2 months after you’ve taken the test for test centers to receive your certificate and accompanying test report. Give yourself enough time for them to receive your scores before application deadlines.

HSK test report

Also, note not all testing centers administer HSK tests at every level. For instance, if you intend to take the HSK 6 test on July 12, make sure the test center you choose will be administering it on that date.

#4: Consider Retakes

There is no limit on how many times you can take the HSK test, on the same level or not. This may be something you want to do, perhaps because you want to practice or you don’t feel confident you’ll meet the passing grade or score highly enough the first time you take the test. 

If you really don’t think you’re going to use your first HSK score, it’s fine to take it more than two years beforehand, since it won’t matter if those HSK scores are expired. However, you may want to consider taking free practice HSK tests instead to save money. (An HSK6 test, for instance, costs 650 Chinese Yuan, that’s about 100 USD)

On the other hand, if you’re taking the HSK close to school admission deadlines, make sure to leave yourself time for a retake if that’s something you think you’ll want to do. There is a test date every month, but you need to register 4 weeks ahead of time for the paper-based HSK test or 10 days ahead of time for the computer-based one. Also factor in the waiting time for reports.

HSK certificate validity

Recap: HSK Certificate & Score Validity

The HSK certificate has permanent validity, whereas the period of validity of the HSK score report, as certification for foreign students to enter a college or university in China, is two years (beginning from the date when the test is taken).

After the scores expire, you can still access them online but can’t send them to schools. The HSK score validity period is fairly short to ensure schools have accurate and current information about your Chinese skills.

Because HSK scores are only valid for two years, you may need to do some planning to make sure your HSK scores are still valid. Check with each school you’re applying to in order to learn what HSK level they require and how long they require scores to be valid (either until the admission deadline or the first day of class). Also, remember to leave ample time for you to receive the physical certificate and test report.