HSK Global Test Dates for Internet-based & Paper-based HSK Tests (2021)
If you’re a non-Mandarin speaker looking to study in China, then you’ll likely have to take the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK). And if you’re confused about how and when to take the test, then have no fear.
We’ll walk you through the different types of HSK (and which one you should choose if you have the choice), how to decide between HSK test dates in 2021, and how to make a study schedule.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
HSK Test Levels
Most universities in China require their applicants to pass HSK5 for admission to degree programs, but some may want a little more or less (we’ll get to that in a minute), therefore, it’s important to know the exact HSK level requirement for each school you are applying to and take the corresponding HSK test.
Carefully read the schools’ admissions page and you will find that information.
Internet-based HSK vs Paper-based HSK
There are two different formats of the HSK – the internet-based HSK (also known as computer-based HSK) and the traditional paper-based HSK.
The internet-based HSK is favored by more students nowadays, however, not all HSK test centers have the facilities to conduct the HSK in this format. In some regions or countries, only the paper-based HSK test is offered.
The two formats of the HSK are identical in difficulty level, test content, and scoring criteria. The only difference is that if you take the internet-based HSK, questions will be presented on a computer screen and you will be required to submit answers through the use of a keyboard and a mouse.
Both these two formats have pros and cons. All things considered, we recommend you to take the internet-based HSK if you have the option (find out why here), but if you feel more comfortable taking a test with paper and pencil, then we encourage you to do it.
That said, universities in China don’t have any preference in which format that applicants take the HSK, and you can crush the test with flying colors in either format.
HSK Test Fees
The price of HSK tests is different at each level, and will vary depending on the country in which you take it, but will typically fall into the 20-100 US dollar range.
Here are the prices for taking the HSK in China (2021).
|Tests||Price in CNY|
The price is the same for the internet-based HSK and the paper-based HSK.
The price outside of China is converted into local currency and will vary depending on your location. Check on the website of your test center and you will know how much each HSK test costs.
Internet-Based HSK Test Dates (2021)
The internet-based HSK is given 14 times per year. The test dates are only on Saturdays and Sundays. You can take the test as many times as you want to, and there is no mandatory waiting time between tests.
Below are the official 2021 internet-based HSK test dates published by Hanban (HSK administer), along with registration deadlines and score release dates.
Note that though the test dates are already fixed, most test centers won’t allow you to register for the test far ahead of your test date (registration usually begins 3-4 months before the test date).
|Test Dates||Registration Deadlines||Score Release|
|Jan 09 (Sat)||Dec 30, 2020||Jan 25|
|Feb 06 (Sat)||Jan 27||Mar 01|
|Mar 07 (Sun)||Feb 25||Mar 22|
|Mar 20 (Sat)||Mar 10||Apr 05|
|Apr 10 (Sat)||Mar 31||Apr 26|
|May 15 (Sat)||May 05||May 31|
|Jun 19 (Sat)||Jun 09||Jul 05|
|Jul 18 (Sun)||Jul 08||Aug 02|
|Aug 22 (Sun)||Aug 12||Sep 06|
|Sep 11 (Sat)||Sep 01||Sep 27|
|Oct 17 (Sun)||Oct 07||Nov 01|
|Nov 06 (Sat)||Oct 27||Nov 22|
|Nov 20 (Sat)||Nov 10||Dec 06|
|Dec 05 (Sun)||Nov 25||Dec 20|
Also, take note that not all test centers administer HSK tests at every level on every test date.
How often your test center gives the HSK at your level depends on their funding and on how popular the test is in your region/country, so double-check with your test center to see your available test dates.
Your HSK test score will be available online at the HSK website two weeks after the test date, with the exception of the test date before the Chinese New Year. For this test, the release of score reports will be postponed by another week.
The physical test report, on the other hand, 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.
Paper-based HSK Test Dates (2021)
The paper-based HSK is given 12 times per year. Like the internet-based HSK, the test dates always fall on weekends.
The 2021 paper-based HSK test dates are listed below, along with registration deadlines and score release dates.
(Some test centers offer the paper-based tests on every single date, while some only offer them on selected dates. Always be sure to check with your test center to make sure you can take the test when you need to.)
|Test Dates||Registration Deadlines||Score Release|
|Jan 09 (Sat)||Dec 13, 2020||Feb 09|
|Feb 06 (Sat)||Jan 10||Mar 13|
|Mar 20 (Sat)||Feb 21||Apr 20|
|Apr 10 (Sat)||Mar 14||May 17|
|May 15 (Sat)||Apr 18||Jun 15|
|Jun 19 (Sat)||May 23||Jul 19|
|Jul 18 (Sun)||Jun 21||Aug 18|
|Aug 22 (Sun)||Jul 26||Sep 22|
|Sep 11 (Sat)||Aug 15||Oct 18|
|Oct 17 (Sun)||Sep 20||Nov 17|
|Nov 20 (Sat)||Oct 24||Dec 20|
|Dec 05 (Sun)||Nov 08||Jan 05, 2022|
You can view your score reports online at the HSK website one month after the day of the test, and the physical score reports are mailed to your test center 1-2 months after the test day.
How to Pick the Right HSK Test Date for You?
If you’re taking the HSK as part of a school application, you’ll need to schedule your HSK exam date around your application deadlines.
Some undergrad or grad school applications are due November or December, while other schools in China allow international applicants to submit applications later (in March or April). Always check the deadlines for each school you are applying to.
Also note that to be exempted from schools’ entrance examinations, in most cases you need to submit other test scores like SAT, IB, GCE A-level, ACT before the application deadlines.
So, if your application deadline is December 31st, it’s best to assume that the school wants to have every piece of information (including your HSK score report) before or on December 31st.
HSK scores take two weeks to get reported online (or one month if you take the paper-based test), but as much as 1-2 months to be delivered by mail to your test center or school. Since most schools in China require a copy of the physical test report, you need to give yourself enough time for them to receive your scores before application deadlines. It’s best to take the HSK test two and a half months before application deadlines.
Though taking the test far in advance may seem conservative, it’s to make absolutely sure that your universities in China receive your scores in time. Better to take the test a little early than to have your application denied because your scores were too late!
Setting an HSK Test Schedule
Now that we’ve looked at some of the basic facts about HSK dates, let’s discuss how to create a timeline for studying, taking the test, and getting the scores into your universities of choice before deadlines. The exact schedule I’ve outlined here won’t work for every application, so use it as an example and make the adjustments necessary for your own applications.
To make any test-taking schedule, it’s a good idea to work backward from your application deadlines. That way, you can see how much studying you need to do and how many times you can (or should) take the HSK.
Step #1: Find Your Application Deadline
Whether you’re planning to take the HSK just once or multiple times, it’s important to know the last possible date you can take the test before deadlines. Of course, you’ll always be able to take an earlier test, but knowing the cutoff will give you the flexibility to make any changes.
If, for example, your application deadline is December 31st, then subtract 2.5 months (mailing time of test report + time cushion) so that your scores arrive in time. This means that your final possible test date to take an HSK is on or before October 17th.
Step #2: Make a Score Goal
As we’ve mentioned, most universities in China require their applicants to pass HSK5 for admission to degree programs (some only require HSK4), in which case, you just need to reach the passing score (180/300) on the HSK – that’s all that matters. After that, you can be satisfied and turn your attention to other parts of your application.
However, some universities may require their applicants to hit or exceed a certain score on the HSK for admittance. The cutoff score varies from school to school.
For instance, Fudan University in Shanghai requires all applicants to surpass 210/300 on HSK5 to attend any undergraduate degree program, and 240/300 to attend MBA, while Peking University requires 210/300 on HSK6 for undergrad applications.
Be sure to always look up the HSK requirements for your specific schools and keep the cutoff score in your head as you study for the HSK.
Step #3: Take an HSK Practice Test
To get a general idea of how much you’ll need to study for the corresponding HSK test, it’s a good idea to take a practice test. That way, you can see where your current areas of strength and weakness are and see how the test works before you take the official HSK.
We at ImproveMandarin have produced quite a few full-length HSK practice tests with authentic listening, reading, and writing questions from past HSK exams, complete with audio files and answer keys. Access them for free here.
If you live in China, you can also purchase HSK preparation books that include access to practice tests in foreign bookstores or on Taobao.com. Our top recommendations are Official Examination Papers of HSK published by People’s Education Press (book name in Chinese: 汉语水平考试真题集2018版) and HSK Simulation Tests (2nd Edition) published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press (book name in Chinese: 汉语水平考试模拟试题集第2版). They cost 58.00-85.00 RMB depending on the level.
Step #4: Calculate the Hours You’ll Need to Study
Now it’s time to compare your practice test results and your HSK goals. How far away were your practice test scores from the passing score or cutoff score?
As a general rule, it takes approximately 2-3 hours of studying Chinese to earn one point on the HSK tests (level 4-6). To figure out a study plan, subtract your score on your HSK practice test from your score goal. Then calculate the approximate number of study hours you’ll need to put in to reach your goal.
For instance, let’s say you’ll take the HSK5 test. Your current score on a practice test is: Listening 60, Reading 57, Writing 66, with a total of 183 points. You know the school you are applying to has a cutoff of 210 points, so there is a 27 points gap. You can aim to improve each category by 9 points (Listening 69, Reading 66, Writing 75), then you have to study for 54-81 hours.
Now trying to improve each section equally may not be very practical, and you may find that you want to aim for higher scores on one or two of the sections.
For example, if you still wanted to earn 210 points, your score goals could be: Listening 72, Reading 69, Writing 69. You can spend more time on your weaknesses. In the end, you’ll spend the same time learning and earn 210 points in total.
Keep in mind that these study hours are guidelines for the average student and you may find that it takes you more or less time studying per section. Make your study schedule with these guidelines as a starting point, but be prepared to adjust if you find that you improve at a different rate.
Step #5: Make a Weekly HSK Study Plan
Look at your daily and weekly schedules and see how many hours a week you can spend studying for the HSK. Even if your HSK date isn’t for several months, you’ll still want to try to budget at least 4-6 hours of studying Mandarin each week.
Don’t panic if this seems impossible!
Studying Mandarin doesn’t always have to mean textbooks and grammar drills. Surrounding yourself and paying attention to the Chinese language – Chinese movies, TV shows, books, or conversation—is just as important as sitting down and studying grammar and vocabulary.
Learning and retaining a language happens over time, and you can’t really cram for it or just study for one or two hours a week. It’s a good rule of thumb to study at least one hour each day, five days per week.
If possible, try to schedule a test at least two months in advance. So if you study an average of 6 hours per week for 8.5 weeks, you’ll have studied 50 hours at the end of two months. At an average point improvement rate of 2.5 hours per point, you’ll earn approximately 20 points spread out over the listening, reading and writing sections on the HSK in just two months.
Step #6: Anticipate Taking the HSK Test More Than Once
Practice tests, however realistic there are, will never completely emulate the experience of taking the real HSK, so it’s a good idea to take the test more than once before your application deadlines if there is a big gap between your practice test results and your HSK goals.
Try to budget the time and money to take the HSK twice or even three times if you can manage it. (Of course, as soon as you reach the passing score or cutoff score, you can forget about HSK and turn your attention to other parts of your application. There is no need to “show off” by getting a high score like on the SAT or ACT.)
If you decide to take the HSK more than once, give yourself at least one month between test dates so that you can examine your scores, learn from your mistakes, and prioritize your studying. This means that it’s a good idea to start planning and studying at least two months before your final HSK test date (or four and a half months before your application deadlines).
Sample HSK Test Dates Schedule
If your application deadline is December 31st for example, then your test-taking schedule might look like this:
- Practice HSK: August 17th
- 1st Official HSK: September 11th
- 2nd Official HSK: October 17th
- Application deadline: December 31st
If you only intend to take an official HSK once, take it early rather than late, so you still have time for a retake if you accidentally fail to reach the passing score or cutoff score. If that’s the case, then your schedule will look more like this:
- Practice HSK: July 19th
- Official HSK: September 11th
- Retake if needed: October 17th
- Application deadline: December 31st
Of course, you can take the HSK far in advance to get it out of the way and have time to focus on the other pieces of the application. In that case, just make sure your scores are valid when you submit the applications (the validity of HSK scores is two years from the test date).
Recap: Picking HSK Test Dates
The HSK is an important test for non-native Mandarin speakers applying to schools in China, and it’s crucial to know when and how to take it so that you can do your best. Though the amount of information surrounding the test can be confusing, just take it one step at a time.
- 1. Decide which level of HSK to take, and in which format.
- 2. Look up the available HSK test dates in your region/country.
- 3. Work backward from your application deadlines.
- 4. Make your study plan and adjust it as you go.
Once you have a date and a plan, all you have to do is study hard, and you’ll nail the test!