HSK 5 Test Preparation: The Complete, Must-Read Guide for 2020

HSK level 5 guide

Planning to take the HSK level 5 test? You’ve come to the right place. This post is going to become your new Bible.

Not only are we going to show you the basic information such as test dates, centers, fees, but we’ll also present to you the most valuable tips, tricks, and resources to help you nail the HSK 5 test, without any nonsense.

We’ll cover the HSK 5 test structure, content, timing, section by section, and give you the complete character list, vocabulary list, grammar points required for HSK 5 (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 5 test in no time.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is HSK 5?  

HSK is the abbreviation for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), meaning “Chinese Proficiency Test”. It’s the world’s most well-known and acknowledged test for Mandarin Chinese proficiency, with six competence levels (six independent tests). The organizer of HSK is Hanban (汉办), an affiliation of the Ministry of Education of China that’s also in charge of 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 5:
You can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films and TVs, and can write and deliver a full speech.

How Hard is HSK 5?

test difficulty

HSK 5 is not a difficult test. It’s much easier than other official language tests, such as the TOEFL exam for English learners or the DELE exam for Spanish ones. HSK 5 roughly corresponds to CEFR B2 (Upper-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 5 = CEFR C1 “Advanced”, the statement is known as an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Read why here.)

To pass the HSK 5 test, you need to be comfortable reading and writing more complex things down in Chinese. To be more precise, you should know about 1,500 characters, 2,500 vocabulary words, and have a solid foundation in Chinese grammar. The more you know, the easier it becomes to nail the test.

Good Reasons to Take HSK 5  

why take HSK 5 test

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 5 certificate can be a real asset.

For example, Chinese universities use HSK as a standard metric for your Chinese proficiency. To make sure you can handle the course load, something between HSK 5 and HSK 6 is usually required to get admitted to an academic program based on Chinese. You won’t get your application approved if you only reach HSK 3 or HSK 4. That’s how the system works.

For professionals, HSK 5 is a good way of proving your language competency for job applications to Chinese companies and multinationals. When filling up your resume/CV, you cannot simply claim to speak Chinese on an upper-intermediate level according to your own estimations. Especially, if the knowledge of Chinese is not just a bonus point but a job requirement (for example, a job description might ask for foreign applicants with “HSK 5 or better”). 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 have any plan to work in China, the HSK 5 certificate will come in handy when you apply for a work permit. China now uses 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 5 certificate can bring you 5 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. Many Chinese learners use HSK levels and HSK test reports for self-assessment so that they can define more clearly what they need to work on, and work out what they would like to achieve at the next stage of Chinese studies.

Aiming for a higher HSK level like HSK 5 is also a great way to make the transition from an intermediate learner to an advanced learner. If you’re looking for an extra push or for a way to break through a plateau, taking the HSK 5 test could be an effective way to do it. Motivation in language learning always matters.

So…take the HSK 5 test!

HSK 5 Test Formats

Just like any other HSK tests, you can take HSK 5 in one of the two test formats: paper-based, and internet-based (also known as computer-based).

The two formats are identical in difficulty level, test content, and scoring criteria. Here’s what’s different:

Paper-based HSK 5 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 5 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 5 test, you have to choose whether to take it on paper or a computer.

We generally recommend taking the HSK 5 test on the computer over paper if you have the option (not all HSK test centers have adequate facilities to conduct HSK 5 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 5 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. Though the name “internet-based” may suggest it, there is no way you can take the HSK 5 test on your own computer at home.

HSK 5 Test Structure, Content & Timing  

HSK 5 structure content

The HSK 5 test consists of 3 sections: Listening, Reading, and Writing. Each section has its own designated time limit. In total, you need to finish 100 questions.

The internet-based HSK 5 test is 120 minutes in length, while the paper-based HSK 5 test time is 125 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 table gives you an overview of HSK 5 timing and the number of questions you’ll have on each section:

Section Internet-based HSK 5 Paper-based HSK 5 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 45 mins 45 mins 45
Writing 40 mins 40 mins 10 (tasks)
Total 120 mins 125 mins 100

(For internet-based HSK 5, 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 5 test, each section is time-locked, meaning you won’t be able to skip to the next section until the designated time has expired.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the HSK 5 test structure, content and timing, section by section.

1. Listening Section 

HSK 5 Listening is 30 minutes long, making it the shortest section on HSK 5. This section is made up of two parts containing 45 questions in total (all Multiple Choices). All audio clips are only played once.

Part 1. Multiple Choice

In the first part, you’ll listen to 20 audio clips, which take the form of 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 screen.

Each audio clip (dialogue + question) is 15-20 seconds in length, and you have 15 seconds to make your choice before proceeding to the next clip.

Part 2. Multiple Choice

The second part of the Listening Section still takes the form of multiple choices. You’ll listen to 16-17 longer dialogues or monologues, consisting of 4 or more sentences. At the end of the dialogue or monologue, 1-4 questions will be raised with a time gap in between (they won’t appear on the screen/test paper).

Each audio clip (dialogue/monologue + questions) is 20-90 seconds long, and you’ll have 17 seconds to make your choice for each question.

Here’s a chart that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 5 Listening section.

Part Audio Clip Type Number of Clips Time/Clip Questions/Clip
Multiple Choice Dialogue 20 15-20 secs 1
Multiple Choice Longer Dialogue/Monologue 16-17 20-90 secs 1-4

2. Reading Section

HSK 5 Reading lasts 45 minutes, making it the longest section on the HSK5. This section is made up of three parts: Fill in the Blanks, Choose Matching Statement, and Multiple Choice. Let’s take a look at what each part stands for.

Part 1. Fill in the Blanks

You’ll encounter 4 short passages in Part 1, each with a few words or sentences missing. You’ll be given 4 answer options for each blank and need to fill in the blank with the best answer. There are altogether 15 blanks in this part.

Part 2. Choose Matching Statement

There are 10 short passages in Part 2, accompanied by 4 statements each. Only one of the statements is consistent with the passage and you need to pick it out from the 4 options.

There are 10 items in Part 2. 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 3. Multiple Choice

In this part, you’ll get 5 longer passages and 20 questions in total. Each passage is accompanied by 3-5 questions that ask you specific questions about the content and style of the text. You need to select the best answer out of the four answer options provided.

Though you are not timed on specific parts of Reading, you should aim to spend around 15 minutes on the first part, 10 minutes on the second part, and 20 minutes on the third part. This gives you 45 minutes to read the 19 passages and answer the 45 questions (essentially, a pace of about one minute per question).

Here’s a chart that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 5 Reading section.

Part Number of Questions Suggested Pace
Fill in The Blanks 15 15 mins
Choose Matching Statement 10 10 mins
Multiple Choice 20 20 mins

3. Writing Section

HSK 5 Writing is 40 minutes long. This section consists of two parts: Arrange Word Order and Write Short Essay. Altogether there are 10 tasks. We explain the detailed tasks below.

Part 1. Arrange Word Order

There are 8 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 of the Writing section contains 2 tasks.

  • Task 1: You’ll be given several words and are required to write an essay about 80 characters in length using all the words provided.
  • Task 2: You’ll be presented a picture and are required to write an essay, also about 80 characters in length based on the picture.

Similar to 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 10 minutes on the first part (8 tasks) and 30 minutes on the second part (2 tasks).

Here’s a quick summary of the content and timing info of the HSK 5 Writing section.

Part Number of Tasks Suggested Pace
Arrange Word Order 8 10 mins
Write Short Essay 2 30 mins

Unlike the internet-based HSK 5 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 5 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 5 Scoring & Passing Grade

After you take the test, the test papers are then submitted (or mailed back, if paper-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 5 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 5 test is 300 (100 for each of the three sections). To pass the HSK 5 test, you just need to reach the total passing score (180 out of 300) – that’s all that matters.

However, if you’re taking the HSK 5 test as part of the application to Chinese universities, be careful! Some schools may want a little more by providing a minimum cutoff score you must earn on the HSK 5 to be accepted.

Take Fudan University, for example, it requires all applicants to pass HSK 5 with 210/300 or above to attend any undergraduate degree program, and 240/300 or above to attend MBA. So, be sure to always look up the requirements for your specific schools and keep the cutoff score in your mind as you study for the HSK 5.

How (and When) to Register for the HSK 5 Test?

First thing first, to take the HSK 5 test, you need to pick a test date and a test center.

HSK 5 Test Dates (2020)

HSK 5 test date

The HSK 5 tests are offered 14 times every year, which means you have plenty of dates to choose from, so pick the best date for you and your schedule.

Here are the HSK 5 test dates for 2020.

Test Dates Internet-based HSK 5 Paper-based HSK 5
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

As you can see, the HSK 5 tests are all administered on a Saturday or Sunday, with no exception. The test usually starts at 1:30 pm. The test dates are the same across the globe, but those located in a country/region that doesn’t offer the internet-based format can only take the paper-based test.

Quick note: On March 07 and November 07, the HSK 5 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.

When to Take Your HSK 5 Test?

If you’re taking the HSK 5 test as part of the school applications, you’ll want to schedule your HSK test date around your application deadlines. Since most schools require a copy of the physical HSK test report, you need to make sure there’s enough time for them to receive your scores before application deadlines. Therefore, you should take the HSK 5 test at least 2.5 months before application deadlines (1-2 months for mailing + 1/2 month cushion).

If you are not confident that you’ll meet the passing grade or cutoff grade the first time you take the test and anticipate retakes, then schedule the first HSK 5 test even earlier to allow the retake.

(Read here for more tips on choosing the best HSK test date)

HSK 5 Test Centers

Your next step is to look for a test center that holds the HSK 5 test.

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, while choosing the HSK test center closest to where you live makes a lot of sense, you can be more strategic when making 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 5 test on every test date throughout the year. How often your test center gives the HSK 5 test depends on their funding and on how popular the HSK 5 test is in your region, so double-check with your test center to see your available options. For instance, if you plan to take the test in December, make sure your test center will be administering it in that month.

HSK 5 Test Fee

In 2020, the test fee for taking the HSK 5 test in China is 550 CNY (≈ 80 USD). The price is the same for the internet-based HSK and the paper-based HSK.

Tests Price in CNY
HSK 1 150
HSK 2 250
HSK 3 350
HSK 4 450
HSK 5 550
HSK 6 650

The price for HSK 5 outside of China is converted into local currency and will vary depending on your location. Some test centers may charge an additional administration fee or postage fee on top of the test fee. To find out exactly how much the HSK 5 test costs in your region, check out the website of your local test center.

How to Register for HSK 5 Online

HSK 5 registration

Once you’ve made up your mind when and where to take the HSK 5 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 5 

On the next page, select HSK Level 5, your preferred test format (paper-based or internet-based), and pick a date and a center for your test. Bear in mind that some test centers only offer HSK 5 in one of two test formats, so check with them beforehand to make sure they’ll have this option for you. After submitting, you’ll be directed to the next page for confirmation.

4. Upload Your Photo

Press “Next Step” and you’ll see a page requesting you 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 filled in once again, and click on “Confirm and Submit”.

6. Pay Test Fee

You’ll be taken to the payment page. If the 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 HSK 5 test outside of China and your chosen 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 the payment is completed before the registration deadline, otherwise, the registration will be canceled automatically. (Once you’ve paid the test fee, the test cannot be canceled and there won’t be any refund)

7. Check Confirmation Email

You will receive a confirmation email from Hanban 10 days before the test date, if you are successfully enrolled. If you don’t receive the confirmation, contact Hanban immediately.

Hanban Contact Info
Phone: + 86 (10) 59307668/59307634
Email: kaoshi@chinesetest.cn

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. Bring and present your test admission card along with a valid ID on the test day.

How to Register for HSK 5 Offline

Some test centers do not offer the online registration option, so 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 them 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 5 tests are 10 days before their respective test dates, while for the paper-based HSK 5, you must register 4 weeks or more in advance.  

Though the HSK 5 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 typically 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 5 Certificate & Score Validity

HSK certificate score valid time

When you pass the HSK 5 test, you’ll get an HSK 5 certificate. The HSK 5 certificate has permanent validity. It’s like a diploma. Once you receive it, it becomes your property and is valid forever.

However, 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 (e.g. if you took the HSK 5 test of on Jul 12, 2020, your scores are valid until July 12, 2022).

Your HSK 5 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 the HSK 5, 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 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?

certify spoken Chinese

So far, you should’ve noticed that HSK 5 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 5 test is one thing, speaking Chinese is another. So, is there a way to assess your Chinese speaking skills and get certified for that?

Luckily, HSK is not the only Chinese proficiency test you can take. 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’s an objective way to 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 Advanced as it corresponds to HSK 5 and HSK 6.

You can take the HSK 5 and HSKK Advanced tests together on selected test dates. The HSKK Advanced is offered 7 times a year and all the test dates overlap with the HSK 5 test dates. The two tests start at a different time of the day (usually HSKK Advanced in the morning and HSK 5 in the afternoon, or vice versa). 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 5 Test

HSK 5 test tips

HSK 5 is not difficult per se, but to really ace the test, you need to approach it with the right plan and strategies.

Here are our top 10 preparation tips and test-day advice for HSK 5, which will not only help you feel ready for the test but will also give you the confidence you need to get a high score on test day.

Tip 1: Memorize HSK 5 Characters

辑… 勤… 硕… 豫…

Do you know these characters yet? They’re some of the Chinese characters required for HSK 5. If you’re going to take the HSK 5 test, it’s time to memorize them!

At HSK 5, Hanban expects you to know 1,500 characters in total to pass the test (that’s 500 more characters on top of HSK 4).

We’ve created the complete HSK 5 character list on this page.

It’s a good idea to practice writing Chinese by hand. Though you don’t have to physically write down the characters if you take the internet-based HSK test (you can type the Pinyin and then select the characters shown on screen in the Writing section), you still need to know which character to apply. Constant practicing on handwriting Chinese helps you memorize characters and vocabulary better, and you’ll become more at ease with spontaneous reading and writing.

Tip 2: Study HSK 5 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 5, you need to know 2,500 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 5 test.

Just note that the HSK 5 vocabulary list is by no means “the most common 2,500 Chinese words” by frequency, instead, it’s a list crafted specifically for passing the HSK 5 test, that is, heavily restricted.

Some of the words might not be used very often in your language, but are very important in Chinese culture or society, e.g. 改革 (reform), 老百姓 (ordinary people), 孝顺 (filial piety), etc. They could pop up anywhere on an HSK 5 test, so you have to learn them.

How to Memorize Chinese Characters and Words?

memorize Chinese vocabulary

Okay, so now you’ve seen the HSK 5 character list and vocabulary list and know what you should study. But what’s the best way to memorize them?

The best way to remember HSK 5 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 find it too time-consuming, then make use of flashcards apps such as Anki or Memrise. You can use them on desktop as well as on a cell 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.

Now, to pass HSK 5, 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 5 Grammar

Grammar is the glue that holds the pieces of language together. In the HSK 5 test, you will be quizzed extensively on your knowledge of Chinese grammar.

To pass HSK 5, you need to have a solid foundation in Chinese grammar beyond the basic usage of common words. For example, you should know the advanced ways of using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese such as to express purpose.

ImproveMandarin Grammar Channel is a fantastic place to start studying HSK 5 grammar. It’s an excellent resource you can go to for a quick overview/recap of grammatical structures required for the HSK 5 test. Reference it when you get confused or feel the need to refine your understanding of Chinese grammar.

Grammar doesn’t have to be theoretical. Once you’ve got the required patterns down, read as much as possible and across a variety of sources (news articles, magazines, blogs, novels, even comic books in Chinese), you’ll naturally internalize the grammar points, and start to understand more complex things in Chinese.

Tip 4: Take FullLength Mock Tests

To get a better idea of your current level and know how much you’ll need to study for the HSK 5 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 5 test.

And when you take the mock tests, make sure you take them in full length. This allows you to get used to the HSK 5 test time and steadily build up stamina for test day. (The HSK 5 test takes about two and a half hours with the 20-30 minute check-in. If you haven’t taken an intense Chinese test before, you’ll find it challenging on the test day) 

You can find HSK 5 mock tests online and offline. There are four ways to get them:

  • Official Website of Hanban: You can download the official HSK 5 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 5 mock tests with extremely realistic HSK 5 questions on our website.
  • Official Examination Papers of HSK (Level 5): This book published by People’s Education Press consists of five retired HSK 5 tests and costs 76.00 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五级(2018版).
  • New HSK Mock Tests for Level 5: This book is published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press. It contains 10 HSK 5 mock tests with realistic questions and costs 62.00 CNY. The name of the book in Chinese is 新汉语水平考试模拟试题集HSK五级.

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. Setting an HSK 5 Study Schedule

As we’ve mentioned, to pass the HSK 5 test and get the certificate, you just need to reach the passing score (180/300) on the test. But, if you intend to use your scores to apply to a university or college in China, be sure to look up their requirements first. Some of them may require you to hit or exceed a certain score on the HSK 5 test for admittance. 

So, make your score goal.

Now compare your mock test results and your HSK 5 score goal. How far away were your mock 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 5 test. To make a test preparation schedule, subtract your score on your HSK 5 mock 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, your current score on a mock 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.

Tip 6: Make a Weekly Study Plan

Look at your daily and weekly schedules and see how many hours a week you can spend studying for HSK 5. Even if your test date isn’t for months, you’ll still want to try to budget at least 46 hours of studying Chinese 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 the HSK 5 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 HSK 5 in just two months.

Tip 7: Attend an HSK 5 Preparation Course

HSK 5 preparation course

Too challenging to study for the HSK 5 on your own? Then take an HSK 5 preparation course!

A good teacher familiar with the HSK 5 test content can save you considerable time and effort. You will learn the exact vocabulary, grammar structures, sentence patterns, and test-taking skills you need to put you in great shape going into your HSK 5 Test.

Simply visit the website of your local Mandarin school or google “[your city name] + HSK 5 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 5 preparation programs are noticeably better than others. Here are our top picks if you plan to take the test in China.

1. MandarinRocks
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, and online
Cost: 170-210CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
Link: www.mandarinrocks.com/Shanghai-HSK-preparation-course.asp

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
Link: ltl-school.com/hsk-exam

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
Link: 
www.thatsmandarin.com/hsk-preparation-course/

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.

4. ShanghaiTutors
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.
Link: www.shanghaitutors.com/HSK-lessons-and-HSK-prepartion-lessons

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 5 test.

Tip 8: Get Plenty of Sleep the Night Before

Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before the test day. Tiredness will affect your ability to concentrate and make the test feel longer and more difficult than it really is.

If your test center is far from where you live but there is no other option, considering staying at a hotel nearby.

Avoid studying long hours the day before the test. Your brain needs a break, so don’t try to cram more information into it when it’s already exhausted. This is not the time to pull an all-nighter!

Instead, take it easy, lay out your clothes for the next day, eat your dinner, pack your bag, take a shower, set a couple of alarms and head to bed early. A good night’s sleep will give you higher test scores!

Tip 9: Eat a Good Breakfast

Even if you normally skip breakfast or avoid eating when you are nervous, do away with that on test day. Breakfast is extremely important, as your brain needs the energy to work at optimal capacity. You need to keep your mental focus on HSK 5 and not on your hunger. It would be a shame to study intensively before your test and then be too fatigued physically to do your best on test day.

What’s A Good Breakfast on the HSK 5 Test Day?

breakfast for test day

Mental alertness is key during the test. Protein-rich foods, such as eggs, nuts, and yogurt are all good choices as they promote brain activity and alertness. Fruits and whole-grain cereals are excellent as well, as they have been shown to promote quick thinking.

A good breakfast combination can be whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk/yogurt, eggs and toast with jam, porridge, oatmeal, or sugar-free muesli.

Make sure you have enough time to enjoy a healthy meal. If you really cannot stomach food, then try having a protein shake or smoothie.

You should 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.

Tip 10: Drink Water during Test

You are allowed to take a transparent bottle of water or drink to the HSK examination room, so bring it.

Water is most likely your best option. Make sure you drink enough of it before and during your test. Dehydration can make you lose your concentration, feel faint, and sap your energy.

Tea also works, though without a lot of sugar. Avoid sugary drinks like sodas and most fruit juices. These drinks will dehydrate you and hence promote weariness.

Avoid caffeine too, as it can increase your nervousness. However, if you are accustomed to drinking coffee regularly, then have a small cup (if you cut out the coffee suddenly and completely, you could end up with a caffeine-withdrawal headache).

Frequently Asked Questions

Any non-native Chinese speakers can take the HSK 5 test. There is no age restriction. However, we recommend that students be at least 7th grade (or 14 years of age) before attempting to take HSK 5. This test requires you to read some difficult passages and be familiar with some sophisticated vocabulary and most students are not exposed to this type of language before the 7th grade. Younger Chinese learners are recommended to take the YCT (Youth Chinese Test) instead.

No, you don’t have to pass HSK 4 first to take HSK 5. It’s not mandatory 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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.

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 5 = CEFR C1 (Advanced), the statement is an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Based on our research, HSK 5 roughly corresponds to CEFR B2 (Upper-intermediate). Read here for our full report on HSK levels.

The Bottom Line on HSK 5 Study & Test Preparation

HSK 5 study test preparation

Let’s get real. Reading our tips and tricks alone will not be enough for you to ace the HSK 5 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, don’t wait days, weeks, or months before you get started on studying for HSK 5. 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 in no time!

Remember, our website ImproveMandarin.Com is an excellent 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?