HSK 6 Test Preparation: The Complete, Ultimate Guide for 2020

HSK level 6 guide

If you are planning to take the HSK level 6 test, this article is going to become your new Bible.

Not only are we going to show you the basic information such as test formats, dates, centers, fees, but we’ll also spell out all the steps for you to ace the HSK 6 test.

We’ll teach you everything you need to know about HSK 6 test structure, content, timing, and give you the most valuable tips, tricks, resources for test preparation, along with a step-by-step guide to the whole registration process, so you’ll be ready for the HSK 6 test in no time.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

Table of Contents

What is HSK 6?  

HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), which means “Chinese Proficiency Test”. It’s the world’s most prestigious and acknowledged test for 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 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 6:
You can easily understand what you read and hear, and express yourself smoothly in written and oral Chinese.

How Hard is HSK 6?

how hard is HSK 6

HSK 6 is the last stretch of the HSK tests, and is, with a doubt, the hardest one in this system.

However, the test itself is not as difficult as you might think. The HSK 6 test is known to be easier than other official language tests, such as the TOEFL or IELTS exams for English learners or the DELE exam for Spanish ones. HSK 6 roughly corresponds to CEFR C1 minus (Advanced), or a middle school (6-7th grade) Chinese exam (语文考试) in China. (Read here to compare HSK 6 with native Chinese fluency)

(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 6 = CEFR C2 “Proficient”, the statement is known as an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Read why here.)

To pass the HSK 6 test, you should be at ease with most aspects of Chinese in personal, academic, or professional settings. To be more precise, you are expected to know about 2,500 characters, 5,000 vocabulary words, and have a good mastery of Chinese grammar. The more you know, the easier it becomes for you to nail the test.

Good Reasons to Take HSK 6  

why take HSK level 6 test

HSK is often used in academic settings and by employers.

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 6 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 6 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 advanced 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 the HSK 6 certificate which represents the highest level of proficiency in Chinese.

Besides, the HSK 6 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 intend to work in China, the HSK 6 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 6 certificate can bring you 6 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 HSK 6 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 6 test could be an effective way to do it. Motivation in language learning always matters.

So…why not take the HSK 6 test?

HSK 6 Test Formats

Before you decide to take the HSK 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 test, you have to choose whether to take it on paper or a computer.

We generally recommend taking the HSK 6 test on the computer over paper if you have the option (not all HSK test centers have adequate facilities to conduct HSK 6 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, given the time limit.  

That said, the paper-based HSK 6 has its own advantages such as section-skipping and note-taking (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, there is no way you can take the HSK 6 test on your own computer at home.

HSK 6 Test Structure, Content & Timing  

HSK 6 test structure content

There are three sections on the HSK 6 test: Listening, Reading, and Writing. Each section has its own designated time limit. You need to finish 101 questions in total.  

The internet-based HSK 6 test time is 135 minutes, while the paper-based HSK 6 is 140 minutes long. The internet-based HSK6 is slightly shorter because you don’t need to transfer your answers from the test paper to the answer sheet in the Listening section.

 Here is a quick overview of the HSK 6 timing and the number of questions you’ll have in each section of the test.

Section Internet-based HSK 6 Paper-based HSK 6 Number of Questions
Added Time / 5 min (fill in personal info) /
Listening 35 mins 35 min 50
Added Time 5 mins (break) 5 mins (fill out answer sheet) /
Reading 50 mins 50 mins 50
Writing 45 mins 45 mins 1
Total 135 mins 140 mins 101

(There is a mandatory 5-minute break in the middle of the internet-based HSK 6 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.)

Note that all sections are time-locked in the internet-based HSK 6 test. If you find one section a breeze and finish it earlier than the official allotted time, you won’t be able to skip to the next section until the allocated time has expired. 

Now, let’s look at the HSK 6 test structure, content and timing in detail, section by section.

1. Listening Section 

HSK6 Listening is 35 minutes in length, making it the shortest section on the HSK6. This section consists of three parts including 50 questions in the form of Multiple Choice. All audio clips are played once only.

Part 1. Multiple Choice

In the first part, you’ll listen to 15 audio clips, which take the form of short passages. Each passage comes with 4 statements presented on the screen or test paper. Only one of the statements is consistent with the passage, and you need to pick it out from the 4 options.

Each audio clip is 20-25 seconds long, and you have 13 seconds to make your choice before proceeding to the next clip.

Part 2. Multiple Choice

In the second part of the Listening section, you’ll listen to 3 interviews. At the end of each interview, 5 questions will be raised with a time gap in between (the questions 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.

Each interview is 2 to 3 minutes long, and you have 13 seconds to make your choice for each question.

Part 3. Multiple Choice

Similar to Part 2, the last part of the Listening Section still takes the form of multiple choices. You’ll listen to 5-6 short passages, each accompanied by 3-4 questions at the end (the questions won’t appear on the screen/test paper). You need to select the best answer from the four answer options presented on the screen.

Each audio clip is 60-90 seconds in length, and you’ll have 12 seconds to make your choice for each question.

Here’s a chart that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 6 Listening section.

Part Type of Audio Clip Number of Clips Time/Clip Questions/Clip
Multiple Choice Passage 15 20-25 secs 1
Multiple Choice Interview 3 2-3 mins 5
Multiple Choice Passage 5-6 1-1.5 mins 3-4

2. Reading Section

HSK 6 Reading is the longest section on the HSK 6 test, lasting 45 minutes. This section consists of four parts: Choose Incorrect Sentence, Fill in The Blanks (Words), Fill in the Blanks (Sentences), and Multiple Choice. Let’s take a look at what each part stands for.

Part 1. Choose Incorrect Sentence

There are 10 items in Part 1. Each item consists of 4 sentences, one of which is grammatically incorrect, and you need to identify the incorrect one.

Part 2. Fill in the Blanks (Words)

You’ll encounter 10 short passages in Part 2, each with 3-5 words missing. You’ll be given four answer options for each set of blanks and need to fill them in with the appropriate answer.

Part 3. Fill in the Blanks (Sentences)

Very similar to Part 2, you’ll encounter 2 longer passages in this part, each with 5 sentences missing. You’ll be given four answer options for each set of blanks and need to fill them in with the appropriate answer.

Part 4. 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.

Although you are not timed on specific parts of Reading, you should generally aim to spend around 10 minutes each on part 1 to part 3, and 20 minutes on part 4. This gives you 50 minutes to answer all the 50 questions (essentially, a pace of about one minute per question).

Here’s a chart that summarizes the content and timing info of the HSK 6 Reading section.

Part Number of Questions Suggested Pace
Choose Incorrect Sentence 10 10 mins
Fill in the Blanks (Words) 10 10 mins
Fill in the Blanks (Sentences) 10 10 mins
Multiple Choice 20 20 mins

3. Writing Section

HSK 6 Writing is 45 minutes long. There is just one task in this section: Rewrite Passage. We explain how it works below.

Rewrite Passage

For this task, you’ll be shown a narrative passage of about 1,000 characters. The passage will be retracted after 10 minutes, and you have to rewrite it into a shorter passage of about 400 characters, based on your memorization, without adding your personal opinions. You also need to come up with a title for the passage.

In total, you’ll have

  • 10 minutes to read the passage
  • 35 minutes to plan and rewrite the passage

Unlike the internet-based HSK 6 where all sections are time-locked (you cannot skip sections), you are free to divide your time among the three sections in the paper-based HSK 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 test is 300 (100 for each of the three sections). To pass the HSK 6 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 6 test as part of the application to Chinese universities, be sure to look up the requirements for your specific schools.

Some top universities in China will set a minimum cutoff score (higher than HSK’s official passing score) you must earn on the HSK 6 test for admission (e.g. Peking University requires 210/300 on HSK 6 for undergrad applications). This is because the level of Chinese used in Chinese universities is higher than HSK 6, and the schools need to be sure that you have a genuine mastery or near-mastery of Chinese to handle the course load.

So, keep the cutoff score in your mind as you study for the HSK 6.

How (and When) to Register for the HSK 6 Test?

First thing first, to take the HSK 6 test, you need to decide on a test date and a test center.

HSK 6 Test Dates (2020)

HSK level 6 exam dates

There are 14 test dates every year for the HSK 6 test, which means you have plenty of dates to choose from, so pick the best date for you and your schedule.

Here are the HSK 6 test dates for 2020.

Test Dates Internet-based HSK 6 Paper-based HSK 6
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 6 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 students who are located in a country/region that doesn’t offer the internet-based test can only take it in the paper-based format.

Quick note: On March 07 and November 07, the HSK 6 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 6 Test?

If you’re taking the HSK 6 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 6 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 6 test even earlier to allow the retake.

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

HSK 6 Test Centers

The next step for you is to choose a test center that administers the HSK 6 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.

Take note that not all test centers administer the HSK 6 test on every test date throughout the year (usually they don’t). How often your test center gives the HSK 6 test depends on their funding and on how many advanced learners there are in your region, so double-check with your test center to see your available options. For example, if you plan to take the test in September, make sure your test center will be administering it in that month.

HSK 6 Test Fee

In 2020, the HSK 6 test fee is 650 CNY (≈ 93 USD) in China. 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 6 outside of China is converted into local currency and will vary depending on your location. Some test centers may charge an additional processing fee or postage fee on top of the test fee. Check out the website of your local test center, and you’ll find out exactly how much the HSK 6 test costs in your region.

How to Register for HSK 6 Online

HSK Level 6 online registration

Once you’ve made up your mind when and where to take the HSK 6 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 for the language that works best for you.

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 6 

On the next page, select HSK Level 6, a test format of your preference (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 6 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 to confirm some basic information you already filled in. You also need to input a few more details about yourself on this page, such as name, gender, ID, phone number. 

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 your information once again, and click on “Confirm and Submit”. You’ll see a confirmation page once your registration is successfully submitted.

6. Pay Test Fee

To finalize your HSK registration, you need to pay the test fee.

If your chosen test center offers the online payment option (all HSK test centers in China do), you’ll find a “Pay Online” button on the confirmation page. Click on that to access the payment page, simply select a payment method (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay, Wechat), and pay the test fee directly on this page.

If you are taking the HSK 6 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

If you are successfully enrolled, You will receive a confirmation email from Hanban 10 days before the test date. 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 6 Offline

Some test centers do not offer the online registration option, you must instead go to the test center to complete registration and payment on site.

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 at the center. (The requirement and test fee might vary from center to center, it’s a good idea to check with them in advance)

You can also register by courier if there’s no HSK test center near you. 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. The test center will issue you the HSK test admission card shortly after it processes your application for registration.

Registration Dates and Deadlines

HSK registration dates deadline

The registration deadline for the internet-based HSK 6 test is 10 days before your intended test date, however, if your aim to take the paper-based HSK 6, you must register at least 4 weeks in advance.  

Though the HSK 6 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 6 Certificate & Score Validity

HSK certificate validity-medium

You’ll get an HSK 6 certificate if you pass the HSK 6 test. The HSK 6 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 6 scores to apply to a college or university in China, your HSK 6 scores will be only valid for two years from the test date (e.g. if you took the HSK 6 test of on September 19, 2020, your scores are valid until September 19, 2022).

Your HSK 6 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 6, 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?

HSKK exam

HSK 6 is a 100% written test. It’s only concerned with your listening, reading and writing skills, and has no speaking section.

Passing the HSK 6 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, you can 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 6 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 6 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 6 Test

HSK exam tips tricks

HSK 6 is not terrifyingly difficult. There is a good chance that you’ll pass the test in one take, if you approach it with the right plan and strategies.

Here are our top 11 preparation tips and test-day advice for HSK 6. They 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 6 Characters

督… 勘… 履… 缀…

Do you know these characters yet? They’re some of the Chinese characters required for HSK 6. If you’re going to take the HSK 6 test, it’s time to memorize them!

At HSK 6, Hanban expects you to know 2,500 characters in total to pass the test (that’s 1,000 additional characters on top of HSK 4).

We’ve created the complete HSK 6 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 in the Writing section if you take the internet-based HSK test (you can type the Pinyin and then select the characters shown on screen), 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 6 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 6, you need to know 5,000 vocabulary words (see the vocabulary list here). These words can change between tests, but you can generally expect to see the words from this vocabulary list on any given HSK 6 test.

Just note that the HSK 6 vocabulary list does not represent the 5,000 high-frequency words that you hear or read most often in daily life, instead, it’s a list crafted specifically for passing the HSK 6 test, that is, heavily restricted.

Some of the words in the HSK 6 vocabulary list might not be commonly used (or used at all) in your language, but are very important in Chinese culture or society, e.g. 孝顺 (filial piety), 实事求是 (seek truth from facts), 天伦之乐 (domestic bliss), etc. They could pop up anywhere on an HSK 6 test, so you have to learn them.

How to Memorize HSK 6 Characters and Vocabulary?

how to memorize Chinese vocabulary

All right, so now you’ve seen the HSK 6 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 6 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 here is to force yourself to see and write the words for yourself, giving you more exposure.

If you are constrained by time, 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 programs also make use of spaced repetition – a smart algorithm that only shows you the flashcards that you’re about to forget.

Now, to pass HSK 6, 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 pre-compiled 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 6 Grammar

Grammar is the glue that holds the pieces of language together. In the HSK 6 test, you will be quizzed extensively on your knowledge of Chinese grammar.

To pass HSK 6, you need to have a good mastery of Chinese grammar beyond the basic usage of common words and patterns. You should start to get familiar with the exceptions and advanced forms of grammar points as well.

ImproveMandarin Grammar Channel is a fantastic place for studying HSK 6 grammar. It’s an excellent resource you can go to for a quick overview/recap of grammatical structures required for the HSK 6 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), and you’ll internalize the grammar points naturally.

Tip 4: Take FullLength Mock Tests

It’ll be wise to take some mock tests to get a better idea of your current level and know how much you’ll need to study for the HSK 6 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 6 test.

Make sure you take the mock tests in full length when you take them. This allows you to get used to the HSK 6 test time and steadily build up stamina for test day. (The HSK 6 test takes nearly three hours with the 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 6 mock tests online and offline. There are four ways to get them:

  • Official Website of Hanban: You can download the official HSK 6 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 6 mock tests with extremely realistic HSK 6 questions on our website.
  • Official Examination Papers of HSK (Level 6): This book published by People’s Education Press consists of five retired HSK 6 tests and costs 85.00 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六级(2018版).
  • New HSK Mock Tests for Level 6: This book is published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press. It contains 10 HSK 6 mock tests with realistic questions and costs 65.00 CNY. The name of the book in Chinese is 新汉语水平考试模拟试题集HSK六级.

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 6 Study Schedule

To pass the HSK 6 test, all you need is to reach the passing score (180/300) on the test. However, if you wish to use your scores to apply to a school in China, be sure to look up its requirements first. Some schools may require you to hit or exceed a certain score on the HSK 6 test for admittance. 

Make your score goal accordingly, and compare it with your mock test results. How far away were your mock test scores from the passing score or cutoff score?

General rule: it takes approximately 2-3 hours of studying Chinese to earn one point on the HSK 6 test. To make a test preparation schedule, subtract your score on your HSK 6 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 example, your current score on a mock test is: Listening 61, Reading 56, 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 70, Reading 65, 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 instance, if you still aimed for 210 points, your score goals could be: Listening 73, Reading 68, 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 6. 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, novels, 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 6 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 6 in just two months.

Tip 7: Learn from Other Test-Takers

One of the best ways to ensure your HSK 6 test experience goes smoothly is to learn from those test-takers who’ve already passed the test.

Many test-takers share their experiences of the HSK level 6 test in online forums. For some test-takers, the HSK 6 was easy and had no surprises. But for others, it was challenging and more stressful than they thought it’d be.

To shed light on what’s it like to take the HSK 6 test, and what does it take to pass the test, we also interviewed a few international students who took the test recently. To learn from their experience, read here, here and here.  

Tip 8: Attend an HSK 6 Preparation Course

HSK 6 prep course

If you find it too challenging to prepare for the HSK 6 on your own, why not take a preparation course for the test?

A good teacher familiar with the HSK 6 test structure can save you considerable time and effort. You’ll learn the exact vocabulary, grammar structures, sentence patterns, and test-taking skills you need to put you in great shape going into your HSK 6 Test.

Simply visit the website of your local Mandarin school or google “[your city name] + HSK 6 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 6 preparation programs are noticeably better than others. If you live in China, here are our top picks.

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 6 test.

Tip 9: 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.

And 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 10: 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 6 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 6 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 11: 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 6 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 6. 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 5 first to take HSK 6. 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 = CEFR C2 (Proficient), the statement is an overestimate and was refused by CEFR. Based on our research, HSK 6 roughly corresponds to CEFR C1 minus (Advanced). Read here for our full report on HSK levels.

The abilities of native speakers and second language learners don’t match up in many ways. While HSK6 is sufficient for general social, academic, and professional situations, there is still a gap from HSK6 to total proficiency in Chinese.

A point of reference is that the highest level – Level 11 in the old HSK system (before 2010) required a vocabulary of 10,000+ words. And according to the 9-year education curriculum framework established by the State Education Commission of China, Chinese students should have a mastery of 3,500 characters by the time they finish middle school (9th grade). However, the current HSK 6 only requires a mastery of 5,000 words and 2,500 characters, which is a very low estimate of the Chinese knowledge needed to be considered at an “educated native speaker” level.

That said, if you keep on learning from the point of HSK 6, progressing further to total proficiency won’t be too hard.

The Bottom Line on HSK 6 Study & Test Preparation

HSK level 6 test preparation

Let’s get real. Our tips and tricks alone will not be enough for you to ace the HSK level 6 test.

You have to study, practice, put in a lot of work during the months and weeks leading up to test. Like anything worthwhile, it’s hard work getting there.

Don’t wait days, weeks, or months before you get started on studying for HSK 6. 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 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 for the test?