HSK 4 Test Preparation: The Complete, Definitive Guide for 2020
Planning to take the HSK level 4 test? You’ve come to the right place. This post is going to become your new Bible.
Not only are we going to share with you the basic information such as test dates, centers, fees, but we’ll also provide you with the most valuable tips and resources to help you do your best in each component of the HSK 4 test.
We’ll cover the HSK 4 test structure, content, timing, section by section, and give you the complete character list, vocabulary list, grammar points required for HSK 4 (all with explanations!), and a series of highly realistic mock tests. We’ll also give you a step-by-step guide to the whole registration process, so you’ll be ready for the HSK 4 test in no time.
Let’s jump in!
Table of Contents
What is HSK 4?
HSK is the acronym for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), which means “Chinese Proficiency Test”. It’s the most well-known and acknowledged test for Chinese proficiency in the world, with six competence levels (six independent tests). The HSK test is organized by Hanban (汉办), an affiliation of the Ministry of Education of China that also runs the Confucius Institutes worldwide.
In the HSK system, HSK 1 and HSK 2 correspond to very basic Chinese skills. HSK 3 and HSK 4 introduce more sophisticated knowledge of Chinese. HSK 5 and HSK 6 serve as indicators of high proficiency and fluency in Chinese.
Since language proficiency is something highly subjective, Hanban offers short descriptors for the six HSK levels and explains what you can do at each level.
Here’s what you can do at HSK 4:
You can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and can communicate with native Chinese speakers fluently in common situations.
How Difficult is HSK 4?
HSK 4 is not a hard test. It’s far easier than other official language tests, such as the TOEFL exam for English learners or the DELE exam for Spanish ones. HSK 4 roughly corresponds to CEFR B1 (Intermediate).
(The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, aka CEFR, is the world’s most influential standard to validate foreign language ability. Though Hanban claims on its website that the HSK levels have a one to one correspondence to the CEFR levels: HSK Level 4 = CEFR B2 “Upper-intermediate”, the statement is known as an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Read why here.)
To pass the HSK 4 test, your vocabulary needs to be wide enough to meet all your needs when dealing with familiar matters and points of personal interests, whether it’s at work, at home, or in a social gathering. To be more precise, you should know about 1,000 characters, 1,200 vocabulary words, and 120 grammar patterns. The more you know, the easier it becomes for you to nail the test.
Good Reasons to Take HSK 4
In the present era, you can barely get anything at all without pointing someone at the corresponding paper with a stamp on it, especially in China. So an HSK certificate can be a real asset.
For example, when filling up your resume/CV, you cannot simply claim to speak intermediate Chinese according to your own estimations. Especially, when the knowledge of Chinese is not just a bonus point but a job requirement. In this case, you want to prove it by demonstrating an HSK certificate that is widely recognized.
Besides, the HSK certificate never expires and will always be a good testament to your Chinese proficiency. Even if you’re currently undecided about your career plans, you might still want to think about taking the test, regardless. This will give you some flexibility for your future, whether or not you think you need an HSK certificate right now.
And if you wish to work in China, the HSK will come in handy when you apply for a work permit. China now adopts a work permit scoring system through which every foreigner is graded according to their background, qualifications, and skills. You need to reach at least 60 points overall in that system to be granted the work permit/visa. An HSK 4 certificate can bring you 4 points. (View the official work permit points table)
If you are learning Chinese simply because you enjoy it, the HSK might not seem that important on the surface, but it can still be very useful. It provides an objective assessment of your skills, defining which stage you’re at with your Chinese learning.
Plus, tests are useful study techniques to help you improve quicker. When you take the HSK 4 test, you have to recall and apply what you have learned. This process greatly improves your chances of remembering information. The HSK 4 test report also makes your future study sessions more productive by showing what you need to work on at the next stage.
HSK 4 Test Formats
Before you decide to take the HSK 4 test, you should know that there are two formats of the test: paper-based, and internet-based (also known as computer-based).
The two formats are identical in difficulty level, test content, and scoring criteria. The difference is:
Paper-based HSK 4 Test
You will be required to sit at a desk with the question papers and answer sheets for the listening, reading, writing sections in an official HSK test center. You will need to write your answers in either 2B-pencil or pen.
Internet-based HSK 4 Test
You will be required to sit the listening, reading, writing tests in front of a computer with the questions presented on the screen in an official HSK test center. The computer is connected to Hanban servers that administer the test. You will need to submit your answers through the use of a keyboard and a mouse.
When you register for an HSK 4 test, you have to choose whether to take it on paper or a computer.
Generally, we recommend taking the HSK 4 test on the computer over paper if you have the option (not all HSK test centers have adequate facilities to conduct HSK 4 in the digital format). This is because you don’t have to physically write every character in the writing section, which can be hard for many learners.
That said, the paper-based HSK 4 has its own advantages such as note-taking and section-skipping (read here for a full comparison of the two formats). If you feel more comfortable taking a test with paper and pencil, then we encourage you to do it.
Note that for both formats, you need to go to an official HSK test center. Even though the name “internet-based” may suggest it, it’s not possible to take the HSK 4 test on your own computer at home.
HSK 4 Test Structure, Content & Timing
There are three sections on the HSK 4 test: Listening, Reading, and Writing. Each section has its own designated time limit. In total, you need to finish 100 questions.
The internet-based HSK 4 test time is 100 minutes, while the paper-based HSK 4 lasts 105 minutes. The paper version is slightly longer because you need to transfer your answers from the test paper to the answer sheet in the Listening section.
The following chart gives you an overview of HSK 4 timing and the number of questions you’ll have on each section:
|Section||Internet-based HSK 4||Paper-based HSK 4||Number of Questions|
|Added Time||/||5 min (fill in personal info)||/|
|Listening||30 mins||30 min||45|
|Added Time||5 mins (break)||5 mins (fill out answer sheet)||/|
|Reading||40 mins||40 mins||40|
|Writing||25 mins||25 mins||15 (tasks)|
|Total||100 mins||105 mins||100|
(For internet-based HSK 4, there is a mandatory 5-minute break in the middle of the test, between the Listening and Reading sections for you to fill out registration sheet, which is in fact not necessary since it’s filled out automatically on computer.)
Bear in mind that in the internet-based HSK 4 test, each section is time-locked, and you won’t be able to skip to the next section until the designated time has expired.
Now, let’s take a look at the HSK 4 test content and timing in detail, section by section.
1. Listening Section
HSK 4 Listening is 30 minutes long. This section consists of three parts: the first one is True or False, and the latter two are Multiple Choice. All audio clips are only played once. In total, there are 45 questions.
Part 1. True or False
In the first part, you’ll listen to 10 audio clips, which take the form of monologues. At the end of each monologue, a statement will be read (it’ll also appear on the screen/test paper), and you need to determine if that statement is true or false based on your understanding of the monologue.
Each audio clip (including monologue and statement) is 15-20 seconds long, and you have 10 seconds to make your judgment before proceeding to the next clip.
Part 2. Multiple Choice
In the second part, you’ll listen to 15 short dialogues. Each dialogue consists of 2 sentences. At the end of each dialogue, a third person will raise a question (the question won’t appear on the screen/test paper), and you need to select the best answer from the four answer options presented on the screen/test paper.
The length of each audio clip (dialogue + question) is also 15-20 seconds. You will have 17 seconds to make your choice.
Part 3. Multiple Choice
The last part of the Listening Section still takes the form of multiple choices. You’ll listen to 15 longer dialogues or monologues, each consisting of 4-5 sentences. At the end of the dialogue or monologue, 1 or 2 questions will be raised (they won’t appear on the screen/test paper).
Each audio clip (dialogue/monologue + questions) is 20-40 seconds in length, and you’ll have 17 seconds to make your choice for each question.
Here’s a table that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 4 Listening section.
|Part||Audio Clip Type||Number of Clips||Time/Clip||Questions/Clip|
|True or False||Monologue||10||15-20 secs||1|
|Multiple Choice||Dialogue||15||15-20 secs||1|
|Multiple Choice||Longer Monologue/Dialogue||15||20-40 secs||1-2|
2. Reading Section
HSK 4 Reading is 40 minutes in length, making it the longest section on the HSK 4. This section contains 40 questions and is made up of three parts: Fill in The Blanks, Arrange Sentence Order, and Multiple Choice. Let’s take a look at what each part stands for.
Part 1. Fill in The Blanks
You’ll encounter 10 items in Part 1. Each item consists of one or two sentences with one word missing. You’ll be given a list of word options and need to select the best word to fill in the blank.
Part 2. Arrange Sentence Order
There are also 10 items in the second part. Each item consists of three sentences and you need to arrange them in the correct order.
Part 3. Multiple Choice
In this part, you’ll get 17 to 20 very short passages and 20 questions. Each passage is accompanied by 1-2 questions that ask you specific questions about the content. You need to select the best answer out of the four answer options provided.
Although you are not timed on specific parts of Reading, you should aim to spend around 10 minutes each on the first and second part, and 20 minutes on the third part. This gives you 40 minutes to answer the 40 questions (essentially, a pace of about one minute per question).
Here’s a table that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 4 Reading section.
|Part||Number of Questions||Suggested Pace|
|Fill in The Blanks||10||10 mins|
|Arrange Sentence Order||10||10 mins|
|Multiple Choice||20||20 mins|
3. Writing Section
HSK 4 Writing is just 25 minutes long, making it the shortest section on the HSK 4. This section consists of two parts: Arrange Word Order and Write Full Sentence. Altogether there are 15 tasks. We’ll explain what they mean below.
Part 1. Arrange Word Order
There are 10 tasks in this part. In each task, there are a few words in jumbled order, and you are required to put the words in the correct order to construct a complete sentence.
Part 2. Write Full Sentence
The second part consists of 5 tasks. Each task comes with a picture and a word. You need to write a sentence based on the picture using that word.
Just as Reading, there is no time limit for each part of the Writing section and you are free to divide your time between the two parts. We suggest you spend around 15 minutes on the first part (10 tasks) and 10 minutes on the second part.
Here’s a quick summary of the content and timing info of the HSK 4 Writing section.
|Part||Number of Tasks||Suggested Pace|
|Arrange Word Order||10||15 mins|
|Write Full Sentence||5||10 mins|
Unlike the internet-based HSK 4 where each section is time-locked (you cannot skip sections), you are free to divide your time among the three sections in the paper-based HSK 4 test. (Technically, you are not supposed to do so, as the time limit for each section is still mentioned on the test paper, however, the rule is rarely enforced in reality, and no one will stop you if you feel the need to skip around.)
HSK 4 Scoring & Passing Grade
After you take the test, the test papers are then mailed back (or submitted, if internet-based) to Hanban headquarters in Beijing. The test centers that administer the tests do not grade the test papers.
You’ll get three section scores and one total score on your HSK 4 score report. Depending on the total score, you either pass or fail.
Your total score is the overall score you get on the test and is equivalent to the sum of your three section scores for Listening, Reading, and Writing. The maximum score you can get on the HSK 4 test is 300 (100 for each of the three sections). To pass HSK 4, you just need to reach the total passing score (180 out of 300) – that’s all that matters.
How (and When) to Register for the HSK 4 Test?
First thing first, to take the HSK 4 test, you need to choose a test date and a test center.
HSK 4 Test Dates (2020)
There are 14 test dates for the HSK 4 test every year. That means you have plenty of dates to choose from, so pick the best date for you and your schedule.
Quick note: On March 07 and November 07, the HSK 4 tests are offered exclusively in the digital format (internet-based). If you are a die-hard paper and pencil fan, plan to take the test on other dates.
The HSK 4 tests are all administered on a Saturday or Sunday, with no exception. The test usually starts at 9:00 am. The test dates are the same across the globe, but those based in a country/region that doesn’t offer the internet-based format must instead take the paper test.
|Test Dates||Internet-based HSK 4||Paper-based HSK 4|
|Jan 11 (Sat)||y (yes)||y|
|Feb 09 (Sun)||y||y|
|Mar 07 (Sat)||y|
|Mar 21 (Sat)||y||y|
|Apr 11 (Sat)||y||y|
|May 09 (Sat)||y||y|
|Jun 14 (Sun)||y||y|
|Jul 12 (Sun)||y||y|
|Aug 23 (Sun)||y||y|
|Sep 19 (Sat)||y||y|
|Oct 17 (Sat)||y||y|
|Nov 07 (Sat)||y|
|Nov 21 (Sat)||y||y|
|Dec 06 (Sun)||y||y|
HSK 4 Test Centers
Your next step is to look for a test center.
Finding an HSK test center might be easier than you thought, given the popularity of the test. There are over 300 test centers in China alone, and nearly 1,000 outside of China. We’ve pulled a list of worldwide HSK test centers on our website.
Now, choosing an HSK test center is not always as simple as picking the one closest to you. You can actually be more strategic in your choice. We’ve come up with a few tips here to help you decide which center you should go to ace the test.
Also, take note that not all test centers administer the HSK 4 test on every test date throughout the year. How often your test center gives the HSK 4 test depends on their funding and on how popular the test is in your region, so double-check with your test center to see your available options. For instance, if you intend to take the HSK 4 test in October, make sure your test center will be administering it in that month.
HSK 4 Test Fee
In 2020, the test fee for taking the HSK 4 test in China is 450 CNY (≈ 65 USD). The price is the same for the internet-based HSK and the paper-based HSK.
|Tests||Price in CNY|
The price for HSK 4 outside of China is converted into local currency and will vary depending on your location. Some test centers might charge an additional processing fee or postage fee on top of the test fee. You can check out your test center’s website to see exactly how much the HSK 4 test costs in your country/region.
How to Register for HSK 4 Online
Once you’ve decided on when and where to take the HSK 4 test, you can get registered online.
Here’s a quick tutorial.
1. Open HSK website
Go to the official HSK test website www.chinesetest.cn. Select the language option on the top right bar.
Make sure you use Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers to access this website (not Google Chrome), otherwise it won’t function well.
2. Create a User Account
Click on the “New User” button to create an account. Fill in your personal information such as email address, nationality, native language, date of birth, etc. Keep a note of your user name (email) and password before you submit.
3. Register HSK 4
On the next page, select HSK Level 4, your preferred test format (internet-based or paper-based), and pick a date and a center for your test. Note that some test centers only offer HSK 4 in one of two test formats, so check with them beforehand to make sure they’ll have the option you want. After submitting, you’ll be taken to the next page for confirmation.
4. Upload Your Photo
Press “Next Step” after confirming the information, and you’ll be directed to a page where you need to upload your photo. The photo has to be a recent, standard, 2-inch ID photo in white background and JPG format (maximum size 100KB). This is important because if you fail to upload a photo that meets the criteria, you won’t be allowed to enter the examination room later to take the test.
5. Confirm Again
Verify the information you just filled in one more time, and click on “Confirm and Submit”.
6. Pay Test Fee
You’ll be taken to the payment page. If your chosen test center offers online payment options, simply select a payment method (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay), and pay the test fee directly on this page. (All HSK test centers in China offers this option)
If you are taking the test outside of China and your test center does not offer online payment options, you will then need to pay the test fee at that center. In either case, make sure that you complete the payment before the registration deadline, otherwise, the registration will be automatically canceled. (The test cannot be canceled once you’ve paid the test fee, and there won’t be any refund)
7. Check Confirmation Email
If you are successfully enrolled, you will receive a confirmation email from Hanban 10 days before your test. Contact Hanban immediately if you don’t receive that confirmation.
Hanban Contact Info
Phone: + 86 (10) 59307668/59307634
8. Print Test Admission Card
You may either log into the HSK website and print your test admission card on the “Personal Center” page or collect it at the test center. You must bring and present your test admission card along with a valid ID on the test day.
How to Register for HSK 4 Offline
Some test centers do not offer the online registration option, and you must go to the test center to complete on-site registration and payment.
Make sure you have your identification document (e.g. ID card, passport, driving license, residence permit, etc) and two recent, standard, 2-inch ID photos (in white background) with you when heading over to the test center. Fill in the registration form and pay the test fee on-site. (The requirement and test fee might vary from center to center, it’s a good idea to check with your center in advance)
If there’s no HSK test center near you, you can register by courier. You will need to send a copy of your ID to the center, your resume including your Chinese and English names, nationality, gender, postal address, and two 2-inch ID photos. You also need to remit the necessary expenses to the center by cash order. Shortly after the center processes your application for registration, it’ll issue you the HSK test admission card.
Registration Dates and Deadlines
The registration deadlines for the internet-based HSK 4 tests are 10 days before their respective test dates, while for the paper-based HSK 4, you must register 4 weeks or more in advance.
Although the HSK 4 test dates are already fixed for the entire year, 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).
Once you decide on your test date, it’s always better to register early than late, because test centers all have limited seating. Registration will always be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. Besides, if you experience technical glitch registering online at the last minute, Hanban will not be able to make accommodations for you.
HSK 4 Certificate & Score Validity
You’ll get an HSK 4 certificate when you pass the HSK 4 test. The HSK 4 certificate has permanent validity. It’s like a diploma. Once you receive it, it becomes your property and is valid forever.
However, the period of validity of the HSK 4 score report, as certification for foreign students to enter a college or university in China, is two years beginning from the date you take the test (though it does not have a point of reference in the real world, as most universities in China require applicants to pass a high-level HSK test such as HSK 5 or HSK 6 for admission to degree programs).
Your HSK 4 test score will be released two weeks after the test date (or one month if you take the paper-based test) on the HSK website. Simply enter your test registration number (as shown on your Test Admission Card), and you can access your score online.
Once it has been over two years since you took HSK 4, your expired scores won’t disappear from the website, and 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 at times. 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.)
How to Get Certified for Speaking Skills?
You must have noticed that HSK 4 is a 100% written test. It’s only concerned with your listening, reading and writing skills, and does not test your speaking.
Passing the HSK 4 test is one thing, speaking Chinese is another. So, is there a way to objectively assess your Chinese speaking skills and get certified for that?
Luckily, HSK is not the only Chinese proficiency test you can take. If you wish to certify your proficiency in spoken Chinese, simply take another test called HSKK (Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi, or “Chinese Proficiency Spoken Test”). HSKK is a relatively new test organized by Hanban that specifically assesses learners’ pronunciations, tones, clarity, continuity, variety, and fluency in speech. It’ll measure your overall speaking ability in real life.
Just as HSK, HSKK is divided into different levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). We recommend that you take HSKK Intermediate as it corresponds to HSK 3 and HSK 4.
You can take HSK 4 and HSKK Intermediate tests together on selected test dates. The HSKK Intermediate is offered 7 times a year and all the test dates overlap with the HSK 4 test dates. The two tests start at a different time of the day. Just make sure you register for them at the same test center. (Read here for more information on HSKK)
A common misconception is that HSKK is just a part of an HSK test, as the “speaking section”, but that’s not correct. HSK and HSKK are two independent tests that can be taken separately, at any level.
Top Tips for Passing the HSK 4 Test
HSK 4 is not a difficult test, but it doesn’t mean you can just show up for it ill-prepared. To nail the test, you need to have some strategies. Here are our top 7 tips for passing HSK 4 along with some other key HSK info you need to know.
Tip 1: Memorize HSK 4 Characters
暂… 聘… 疑… 随…
Do you know these characters yet? They’re some of the Chinese characters required for HSK 4. If you’re going to take the HSK 4 test, it’s time to memorize them!
At HSK 4, Hanban expects you to know 1,000 characters in total to pass the test. Here’s the complete list.
爱 八 爸 杯 本 不 菜 茶 车 吃 打 大 的 点 电 店 都 读 对 多 儿 二 饭 飞 分 高 个 工 国 果 汉 好 号 喝 和 很 后 话 回 会 机 几 家 见 叫 她 姐 今 九 觉 开 看 客 块 来 老 冷 里 了 六 妈 吗 买 么 没 们 米 面 名 明 哪 那 呢 能 你 年 女 朋 七 气 前 钱 请 去 热 人 认 三 商 上 少 生 师 十 什 时 识 视 是 书 谁 水 睡 说 四 岁 他 太 天 听 同 我 五 午 下 先 现 想 小 校 些 写 谢 学 样 一 衣 医 椅 影 友 有 雨 语 院 月 再 在 怎 这 中 钟 住 桌 子 字 昨 作 坐 做 吧 白 百 班 帮 报 比 笔 边 便 表 别 病 步 长 常 场 唱 出 穿 床 次 从 错 但 到 道 得 等 弟 第 懂 动 房 非 告 哥 歌 给 公 共 狗 瓜 贵 过 孩 黑 红 欢 还 火 鸡 间 件 教 近 进 经 就 考 可 课 快 乐 累 离 两 路 卖 慢 忙 猫 每 妹 门 奶 男 您 牛 旁 跑 票 起 汽 千 情 晴 球 然 让 日 肉 色 身 事 试 室 手 司 思 送 诉 虽 所 它 题 体 跳 外 完 玩 晚 往 为 问 洗 笑 新 姓 休 雪 眼 羊 药 要 也 已 以 意 因 阴 泳 游 右 鱼 员 远 运 早 站 找 真 正 知 纸 助 着 走 最 左 阿 啊 安 把 般 搬 板 办 半 包 饱 北 备 被 必 变 宾 冰 才 参 草 层 查 差 超 衬 成 城 迟 除 楚 船 春 词 聪 答 带 单 担 蛋 当 灯 地 典 调 定 东 冬 短 段 朵 饿 而 耳 发 法 方 放 风 夫 服 附 复 该 干 感 刚 根 跟 更 故 顾 刮 怪 关 馆 惯 害 河 候 乎 护 花 化 画 坏 环 换 黄 婚 或 绩 级 极 急 己 记 季 加 检 简 健 讲 角 脚 较 接 街 节 结 解 介 界 借 斤 京 睛 净 境 静 久 酒 旧 居 句 据 决 卡 康 渴 刻 空 口 哭 裤 筷 蓝 篮 礼 李 理 力 历 脸 练 亮 辆 聊 料 邻 留 楼 旅 绿 马 满 冒 帽 末 目 拿 南 难 脑 鸟 努 爬 怕 盘 胖 皮 片 漂 平 妻 期 其 奇 骑 且 轻 清 秋 求 趣 容 如 赛 伞 扫 山 衫 烧 绍 声 实 史 始 世 市 瘦 叔 舒 束 树 数 刷 双 算 特 疼 梯 踢 提 甜 条 铁 头 突 图 腿 万 网 忘 望 位 喂 文 闻 舞 务 物 西 希 息 习 喜 戏 系 夏 鲜 相 香 箱 响 向 像 鞋 心 信 兴 星 行 熊 须 需 选 牙 颜 阳 爷 业 宜 议 易 音 银 饮 应 迎 用 邮 又 于 育 遇 元 园 愿 越 澡 择 张 丈 照 者 直 只 终 种 重 周 主 注 准 自 总 租 足 嘴 矮 按 案 败 扮 棒 保 抱 倍 笨 鼻 毕 遍 标 饼 并 播 部 擦 猜 材 彩 餐 厕 察 尝 诚 乘 程 持 抽 处 传 窗 此 粗 存 袋 戴 弹 刀 导 倒 登 低 底 掉 丢 堵 肚 度 断 锻 队 烦 反 肥 费 份 奋 丰 封 否 肤 符 福 父 付 负 富 改 赶 敢 钢 糕 格 各 功 供 购 够 估 挂 观 管 光 广 逛 规 海 寒 汗 航 合 何 盒 贺 厚 呼 虎 互 户 划 怀 悔 活 货 获 积 基 激 及 即 计 纪 技 际 既 寄 价 假 坚 减 建 江 将 奖 降 交 郊 饺 巾 金 仅 紧 尽 禁 惊 精 景 警 竞 竟 镜 究 局 举 拒 具 剧 距 聚 绝 科 棵 克 肯 苦 款 况 困 拉 辣 懒 浪 厉 丽 利 励 俩 连 怜 联 炼 凉 谅 量 列 林 零 龄 另 流 律 虑 乱 论 落 麻 码 漫 毛 美 梦 迷 密 免 秒 民 命 母 内 耐 恼 闹 弄 暖 排 牌 判 陪 批 啤 篇 骗 聘 评 瓶 泼 破 普 弃 签 歉 敲 桥 巧 切 亲 琴 穷 区 取 全 泉 缺 却 确 裙 扰 任 扔 仍 入 散 森 沙 伤 稍 勺 社 申 深 甚 省 剩 失 使 士 示 式 适 释 收 首 受 售 授 输 暑 术 帅 顺 死 松 速 酸 随 孙 台 抬 态 谈 汤 糖 躺 趟 讨 填 厅 停 挺 通 童 桶 推 脱 碗 危 微 围 卫 味 温 无 误 吸 惜 细 咸 险 线 详 象 消 效 辛 醒 幸 性 修 羞 秀 许 压 呀 亚 烟 严 言 研 盐 演 厌 验 扬 洋 养 叶 页 姨 疑 忆 艺 引 印 赢 永 勇 优 尤 由 油 愉 与 羽 预 原 约 阅 云 允 杂 咱 暂 脏 则 责 增 展 占 章 招 折 针 争 整 证 之 支 汁 值 职 植 止 址 指 至 质 众 洲 祝 著 专 转 赚 仔 资 族 座
It’s a good idea to knock out the 1000 common Chinese characters at an early stage, even though it’s not a requisite for reaching conversational fluency in Chinese. 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.
Tip 2: Study HSK 4 vocabulary
Vocabulary is essential to any language test. It is arguably the most important thing to study and understand.
According to Hanban, to pass HSK 4, you need to know 1,200 vocabulary words (see the vocabulary list here). These words can change slightly between tests, but you can generally expect to see the words from this vocabulary list on any given HSK 4 test.
Just note that the HSK 4 vocabulary list is not meant to be “the most common 1,200 Chinese words” by frequency, instead, it’s a list crafted specifically for passing the HSK 4 test.
Some of the words might not be used very often in your language, but are very important in Chinese culture, e.g. 包子 (steamed bun), 民族 (ethnic group), 打针 (needle injection), etc. They could pop up anytime on an HSK 4 test, so you have to learn them.
How to Memorize Chinese Characters and Words?
All right, so now you’ve got the HSK 4 character list and vocabulary list and know what you should study. But what’s the best way to remember them?
The best way to memorize HSK 4 characters and words 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 them to naturally move from short-term memory into long-term memory.
Flashcards are a powerful way to review Chinese characters and words. You could do it old school and make actual, physical flashcards. Simply browse the lists and write down the unfamiliar characters and words on one side, and the English definition on the other. The objective is to force yourself to see and write the words for yourself, giving you more exposure.
If you time-constrained, then make use of flashcards apps such as Anki or Memrise. You can download them to your desktop as well as to your mobile, 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.
Now, to pass HSK 4, you need to do more than flipping flashcards, you have to get more exposure to accurately and convincingly be able to use these words.
The best strategy? 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.
Bottom line: it’s important to not simply memorize Chinese characters and words from a list. Learn how they 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!
Tip 3: Master HSK 4 Grammar
Grammar is the glue that holds the pieces of language together. In the HSK 4 test, you will be quizzed extensively on your knowledge of Chinese grammar.
To pass HSK 4, you should know about 120 grammar structures and sentence patterns. For example,
- Expressing Coexistence with 既 (jì)…又 (yòu)…
- Expressing Transition with 尽管 (jǐnguǎn)…但是 (dànshì)…
- 11 Ways of Using Using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese
The best resource for studying HSK 4 grammar is ImproveMandarin Grammar Channel. It’s a great reference resource you can go to for a quick recap/overview of grammatical structures required for the HSK 4 test.
Tip 4: Take Full–Length Mock Tests
To get a better idea of your current level and know how much you’ll need to study for the HSK 4 test, it’ll be smart to take some mock tests. 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 4 test.
Make sure you take the mock tests in full length. This allows you to get used to the HSK 4 test time and steadily build up stamina for test day. (With the check-in, the HSK 4 test can take more than two hours. Though it’s not a long test, if you haven’t taken an intense Chinese test before, you might still find it challenging on the test day)
You can find HSK 4 mock tests online and offline. There are four ways to get them:
- Official Website of Hanban: You can download the official HSK 4 mock test in PDF format for free from the website of Hanban, the HSK tests organizer.
- ImproveMandarin HSK Channel: We’ve created a few highly helpful HSK 4 mock tests with extremely realistic HSK 4 questions on our website.
- Official Examination Papers of HSK (Level 4): This book published by People’s Education Press consists of five retired HSK 4 tests and costs 68.00 CNY. You can find it on Amazon, Taobao, and in many foreign language bookstores in China. The name of the book in Chinese is 汉语水平考试真题集HSK四级(2018版).
- New HSK Mock Tests for Level 4: This book is published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press. It contains 10 HSK 4 mock tests with realistic questions and costs 58.00 CNY. The name of the book in Chinese is 新汉语水平考试模拟试题集HSK四级.
Once you’ve got a mock test and are ready to take it, try to recreate a real testing environment as closely as possible: find a slightly noisy place to take your test in (this is important since the keyboard hit sound can get quite loud in the internet-based test, and in some test centers, paper-based tests and internet-based tests take place in the same testing room), and time yourself using official time limits.
Tip 5: Make a Weekly HSK 4 Study Plan
Look at your daily and weekly schedules and see how many hours a week you can spend studying for HSK 4. Even if your test date isn’t for months, you’ll still want to try to budget at least 3-5 hours of studying Chinese each week.
Studying Chinese doesn’t always have to mean cracking textbooks and grammar. If you don’t use much Chinese in your daily life, then start incorporating the language into your daily routine bit by bit.
Watch TV shows, movies, YouTube videos in Chinese, or read Chinese news articles, magazines, novels in Chinese. The character and words required for HSK 4 are used so often you’ll seem them over and over again in the texts you read.
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 set aside 40-60 minutes each day for studying Chinese, five days a week at this stage – and I highly recommend that you do, because it will help you immensely down the road.
Tip 6: Attend an HSK 4 Preparation Course
Too challenging to study for the HSK 4 on your own? Then take an HSK 4 preparation course!
A good teacher familiar with the HSK 4 test structure can save you considerable time and effort. You will learn the exact skills you need to put you in great shape going into your HSK 4 test.
Simply visit the website of your local Mandarin school or google “[your city name] + HSK 4 preparation course”. If the school doesn’t have a readily available course, ask them if they can customize a program for you. After all, you’re the customer!
Some HSK 4 preparation programs are noticeably better than others. Here are our top picks if you plan to take the test in China.
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, and online
Cost: 170-210CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
One of the oldest, best established Chinese language schools in China. Their HSK Preparation Course has a solid, successful history (95% of the students have passed the HSK exam after the course).
2. LTL School
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, Chengde, Xi’an, Beihai, and online
Cost: 185-260CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
A well-established Mandarin school with multiple branches. Their HSK classes are taught by experienced teachers who know exactly the tools you need to pass your HSK test.
3. That’s Mandarin
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and online
Cost: 168-350CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
That’s Mandarin has established a strong reputation in the field of teaching Chinese as a second language. They offer quality face-face HSK preparation courses at their schools and on their online learning platform Mandarin Café.
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and online
Cost: average 120-180CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on the tutor, plus a 400CNY one-time service fee.
A reliable education platform providing tutor matching service. Some of their tutors are very experienced and skilled in HSK preparation and are happy to work out a personalized solution to help you prepare for the HSK 4 test.
Tip 7: Relax on the Test Day
The HSK 4 is a test but it’s not the be-all and end-all. If you’re relaxed, you will be far more likely to do well, and if you fail, you can always retake the test after more study.
One of the best ways to help yourself relax is to make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before, eat a good breakfast, arrive at the test center at least half an hour before the test and make sure you study enough past papers to let you know what to expect. Being familiar with the structure, content, and timing of the test will help to put you at ease.
Also, drink enough water before and during your test to stay hydrated, so you won’t feel weary and lose your concentration.
Mental alertness is key during the test. Make sure you have enough time to enjoy a healthy meal on the test day. Protein-rich foods, such as eggs, nuts, and yogurt are all good choices as they promote brain activity and alertness. If you really cannot stomach food, then try having a protein shake or smoothie.
Avoid eating food made of flour, such as cookies, muffins, cakes or any food high in refined sugar, such as chocolates, candies, desserts. Not only do they take longer to digest, but they can also give you an unexpected sugar rush during the test, making you jittery and distracted. Lots of carbs (such as rice or potato, pasta eaten in large quantities) can also have an adverse effect, as they can make you feel heavy and sleepy.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s always good to have a certificate with you to demonstrate your Chinese proficiency. HSK 4 is certainly useful, but if you need an academic or professional qualification, then you should aim for a higher HSK level. For example, most of the Chinese universities would require you to pass HSK 5 or HSK 6 before they can accept you into an academic program based on Chinese. You won’t get your application approved if you only reach HSK 4. That’s how the system works.
Essentially, HSK is useful if you want to define which stage you’re at with Chinese. In a more casual learning environment, or if you’re just learning Chinese because you enjoy it, then HSK levels are just another tool to help with your Chinese learning.
Sitting an exam requires a lot of study. In preparation for an HSK test, you have to set aside time to study specific materials that might be unrelated to your goal. If your Chinese-learning goal does not align with the HSK scale, then you can skip the test.
HSK Levels don’t fully correspond to CEFR. Though Hanban claims on its website that the HSK levels have a one to one correspondence to the CEFR levels: HSK Level 4 = CEFR B2 (Upper-intermediate), the statement is an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Based on our research, HSK 4 roughly corresponds to CEFR B1 (Intermediate). Read here for our full report on HSK levels.
Any non-native Chinese speakers can take the HSK 4 test. There is no age restriction.
No, you don’t have to pass HSK 3 first to take HSK 4. It’s not required to take the HSK tests in level sequence. You can register for any level that you like.
Hanban only offers HSK tests in simplified Chinese, but you can answer in traditional Chinese in the writing section, if you like.
You can register for the HSK 4 easily on the official HSK test website www.chinesetest.cn (read our guide here). All test centers in China offer online payment options for the test fee. If your selected test center does not offer the online registration option, then you must go to the test center to complete registration and payment on-site, or use a courier service.
Test date change is permitted (one time only) if you make the request 10 days before your registered test. However, you will be charged an extra fee equalling 30% of the test fee, if your request is made between 10 days to 27 days before the test (otherwise, it’s free). Once the deadline (10 days before the test) has passed, test date change will no longer be possible.
No. Once you have registered the HSK 4 test, you won’t be able to request to take the test somewhere else for whatever reasons, and the test fee is non-refundable.
Your HSK 4 test score will be available on 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.
The physical score report and the certificate (you’ll get one if you pass) 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. (They will be kept at the test center for up to 2 years after the test date)
Yes. You can take the HSK 4 test as many times as you like to, until you are happy with your score. There is no waiting period. The test fee is due each time you register for a retake.
The Bottom Line on HSK 4 Study & Test Preparation
Let’s get real. Reading our tips and tricks alone will not be enough for you to ace the HSK 4 test. To do well on the test you must prepare and practice your Chinese during the months and weeks leading up to the test.
So start today – right now! Take the steps we’ve outlined above and knock them out one by one. You’re going to nail the test!
Remember, our website ImproveMandarin.Com is a great reference resource for you to sharpen your HSK and Chinese skills. If you have any questions or hiccups, we’re right here to help you.
Are you ready?