HSK Test in Pakistan: The Complete, Definitive Guide for 2020
If you are learning Chinese or interested in pursuing a Chinese course, you might be aware of a Chinese language test called HSK, which you can take in Pakistan. But what is the HSK test exactly? How does it work? What’s it used for? And what do you need to know to take the HSK test in Pakistan?
Have no fear if you are overwhelmed. In this post, we’ll walk you through what the HSK is, its levels, formats, structure, and whether or not you’ll need to take it. You’ll find all the details about the HSK test in Pakistan – test centres, dates, fees, and everything you need to know to register and prepare for the HSK test in Pakistan.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- General Information
- What Is the HSK?
- HSK vs Other Chinese Proficiency Tests
- Who Should Take the HSK?
- Benefits of the HSK
- HSK Levels & Requirements
- HSK Test Structure & Passing Grade
- HSK Formats
- HSK Test in Pakistan
- 2020 HSK Test Dates in Pakistan
- HSK Registration Deadline & Results Release
- HSK Test Centres in Pakistan
- HSK Test Fees
- HSK Score Validity
- How to Register for the HSK Test
- HSK Test Preparation
- Determine Your HSK Level
- HSK Practice Tests
- HSK Study Plan
- HSK Preparation Courses in Pakistan
- HSK Test Day
- Recap: Taking the HSK Test in Pakistan
What Is the HSK?
HSK is the short form for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), which means “Chinese Proficiency Test” in Chinese. As its name suggests, HSK is a standardized test designed for non-native Chinese speakers (foreigners and Chinese ethnic minorities) as a way of certifying their knowledge in Mandarin Chinese.
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 in Pakistan and across the globe. HSK scores are primarily used by Chinese universities as part of the admissions process for international students.
Typically, those who take the HSK want to attend university or graduate school in China. But anyone who wants to assess their proficiency in Mandarin or need to demonstrate a mastery of Mandarin for professional purposes can take the HSK. Test-takers that pass the HSK test will get an HSK certificate at their corresponding level.
The HSK focuses on how Chinese is used in an academic setting, which is why schools and universities in China use HSK scores for admissions purposes. The reading section in the HSK uses formal, academic language and sophisticated vocabulary rather than casual or colloquial Chinese.
HSK vs Other Chinese Proficiency Tests
HSK enjoys great international prestige. This test has been going on for more than 30 years now, and it’s been taken millions of times around the world over 120 countries.
Though it’s popular, the HSK is not the only Chinese test as a foreign language. Hanban administers several Chinese proficiency tests for different purposes.
If you want just one authoritative Chinese language proficiency certificate, you’ ll most likely end up taking the HSK. But, if you want to prove your skills in spoken Chinese, the HSK is not the right test for you because it’s a 100% written test predominantly concerned with listening, reading and writing, and has no speaking section.
If you’re looking to assess your oral Chinese proficiency, then you need to take the Chinese Proficiency Spoken Test (HSKK) instead of the HSK. 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 independent test that you can take together or separately with the HSK test.
Business Chinese Test (BCT) is another Chinese language proficiency test that assesses communicative skills in a business setting. This BCT test consists of two relatively independent tests: BCT (Listening & Reading) and BCT (Speaking & Writing). You can opt to take one or both of them at a time. The BCT tests everyday and business language, rather than academic language, and so is more appropriate for work environments.
Young Chinese learners can take the Youth Chinese Test (YCT), which is specifically designed for primary and middle school students. The YCT is also divided into two independent tests – spoken and written to test youngsters’ abilities to use Chinese in their daily and academic lives.
HSK, HSKK, BCT, and YCT are all administered by Hanban and you can take any of these Chinese proficiency tests in Pakistan, depending on your age, academic and career goal. The certificates you will obtain are highly respected worldwide except in Taiwan. If you plan to study or work in Taiwan, you may want to take the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) instead. TOCFL is Taiwan’s Mandarin Chinese proficiency test. As with the HSK in Mainland China, the TOCFL can be required in some Taiwanese universities and companies. For political reasons, TOCFL is not recognized in Mainland China.
Who Should Take the HSK?
The HSK is intended mainly for students looking to attend a university or graduate school program in China. But people can also take the HSK for other purposes. You may take the HSK if you want to:
- attend a Mandarin-based university program in China
- apply for an HSK/Confucius Institute scholarship
- be licensed or certified in a particular field (teacher, translator, interpreter, tour guide…)
- demonstrate your mastery of Mandarin for employment purposes
- apply for a work permit/visa to work and live in China
- benchmark your progress in Mandarin learning
Any non-native Chinese speakers can take the HSK test. There is no age restriction. But, we recommend that students be at least 7th grade (or 14 years of age) before attempting to take a high-level HSK test (Level 5 or 6). These tests require 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.
Not every college or university in China requires incoming international students to take an HSK. Some schools will waive the need for you to take an HSK test if:
- your program is based on English instead of Mandarin
- you take their college admission exam instead (Mandarin is tested along with other subjects)
- you have earned a diploma or degree from another university in China
Benefits of Taking the HSK Test in Pakistan
Many Pakistanis choose to take the HSK test for further study in China. Before a Chinese college or university accepts you into an academic program, the admissions board needs to know that you can handle the course load of a Mandarin-based program: they use the HSK as a standardized metric for your Mandarin skills.
To be able to follow a class taught primarily in Mandarin, a fair understanding of the language is needed. Therefore most universities in China require applicants to pass a high-level HSK test such as HSK5 or HSK6 for admission to degree programs.
Some schools may want a little more by providing a minimum cutoff score you must earn on the HSK to be accepted, since they have higher academic standards and require students to have a mastery or near-mastery of Chinese. (We’ll get to HSK levels and scoring in a minute).
You can also apply for scholarships using your HSK test results. The Ministry of Education of China awards scholarships to students who achieve excellent scores on their HSK exam to further their studies in Chinese universities or Confucius Institutes in Pakistan.
For professionals, HSK opens doors to a wide range of job opportunities in Pakistan and China, and supports career advancement. An HSK certificate can be used as proof of your language competency for job applications to Chinese companies, joint-venture, and multinationals. When filling up your resume/CV, you cannot simply claim to speak “good enough” Chinese 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 Pakistani applicants with “HSK5 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. Saying it at a job interview will work in your favor and impress your potential employers. Even employers that don’t require Mandarin proficiency can get a more complete picture of you, knowing your strengths.
Even if you’re currently undecided about your future career path, you might still want to consider 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 do wish to work in China, the HSK will be very handy when you apply for a work permit in China. China now uses a work permit scoring system through which every foreigner is graded according to their background, qualifications, and skills. You need to reach at least 60 points overall in that system to be granted the work permit/visa, and depending on the HSK level acquired, an HSK certificate can bring you 1-5 points.
HSK1=1 work permit point
HSK2=2 work permit points
HSK3=3 work permit points
HSK4=4 work permit Points
HSK5 or HSK6= 5 work permit points
(View the official work permit points table)
If you are learning Chinese simply because you enjoy it, the HSK might not seem that important on the surface, but it can still be very useful. It provides an objective assessment of your skills, defining which stage you’re at with your Chinese learning. Plus, tests are useful study techniques to help you improve quicker. When you take the HSK, you have to recall and apply what you have learned. This process greatly improves your chances of remembering information. The HSK test report also makes your future study sessions more productive by showing what you need to work on at the next stage.
HSK Levels & Requirements
You are not required to take the HSK tests in level order, instead, you can choose any level at will. And you can take the same test as many times as may be necessary for obtaining your desired certificate.
That said, you may want to avoid wasting money and time on the wrong HSK test. So, what HSK level are you now? Which HSK level test should you take? Here’s the official guideline from Hanban:
- HSK1: You can understand and use simple words and phrases
- HSK2: You can communicate simply and directly on daily topics you are familiar with.
- HSK3: You can conduct basic communication in daily life, study and work. You can manage most communication when traveling in China.
- HSK4: You can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and can communicate with native Chinese speakers fluently in common situations.
- HSK5: You can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films and TVs, and can write and deliver a full speech.
- HSK6: You can easily understand what you read and hear, and express yourself smoothly in written and oral Chinese.
*For HSK1 and HSK2 tests, knowledge of Chinese characters is optional because pinyin is provided along with characters on test papers.
The below table gives you an overview of requirements on each HSK level in numbers:
|Level||Words you need to know||Characters you need to know||Correspondence to CEFR* (claimed by Hanban)|
|HSK 1||150+||150 (optional)||A1 (beginner)|
|HSK 2||300+||300 (optional)||A2 (elementary)|
|HSK 3||600+||600||B1 (intermediate)|
|HSK 4||1200+||1000||B2 (upper-intermediate)|
|HSK 5||2500+||1500||C1 (advanced)|
|HSK 6||5000+||2500||C2 (proficient)|
We’ll explain a bit more about the HSK-CEFR correspondence and what your expectations should be when taking the test.
CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is the international standard established by the Council of Europe to assess language learner’s ability to use 40+ Indo-European languages. Hanban claims that the HSK levels have a one to one correspondence to the CEFR levels: HSK’s level 1-6 to CEFR’s A1 (beginner)-C2 (proficient).
However, there have been lots of disputes over this claim. For instance, the Fachverband Chinesisch in Germany (an organization similar to the Confucius Institute) thinks that the HSK6 is only between B2-C1 levels in the CEFR.
We agree with this.
According to the Council of Europe that established the CEFR standard, a person at C2 level should be able to function in the language to the same ability as an educated native speaker. However, we interviewed many learners who had taken HSK5 or HSK6 as well as native Chinese students and teachers, and they unanimously concluded that the 1-1 HSK-CEFR correspondence claimed by Hanban is an overestimate.
For starters, knowing 2,500 words is not enough for you to read Chinese newspapers and magazines, and 5,000 words is a low estimate of the vocabulary needed to be considered at an “educated native speaker” level. In fact, the level of Chinese used in Chinese universities is higher than HSK6. (read our report here)
The reason why Hanban made the HSK tests sound more awesome than they really are is simple: to encourage more people to learn Chinese and take the tests! For this, Hanban intentionally made the HSK tests a lot easier than before (the old HSK before 2010 consisted of 11 levels, and the current HSK6 only corresponds to level 8-9 in the old HSK system, where you needed a vocabulary of 10,000+ words to reach level 11).
So, here is our amended and more objective version of HSK-CEFR Correspondence:
There is no reason to be dismayed! Look at it this way: you can get a high-level Chinese proficiency certificate much easier than before!
And that’s not bad at all: HSK6 is sufficient for most social, academic, and professional contexts, and if you keep on learning from that point, progressing further to total proficiency in Chinese won’t be too hard.
HSK Test Structure & Passing Grade
Depending on the level, an HSK test lasts 35-130 minutes.
HSK1 and HSK2 are designed for basic Chinese learners and therefore fairly short. The tests consist of only two sections: listening and reading. Each section is broken down into a number of questions in the form of multiple choices. Questions are presented in both pinyin and characters. There is no writing section.
Each section is scored out of 100. The scores of the two sections are then added together for a final, total score of 200 points, and you need to score at least 120 to pass the tests.
From HSK3 onwards, all the questions are presented in Chinese characters only. The tests consist of three sections: listening, reading (all multiple choices) and writing. The total score is 300 (100 each for listening, reading and writing sections), and you need to score at least 180 to pass the tests.
Here’s a chart that summarizes the test structure, time and scoring of each HSK test level:
|Level||Test Structure||Test Time||Test Scoring|
* You’ll have an extra 5 minutes to fill in your personal information.
After you take the test, the test papers are then mailed back to Hanban headquarters in Beijing. The test centres that administer the tests in Pakistan do not grade the test papers.
At each level, you either pass or don’t pass. To obtain the corresponding HSK certificate, you just need to reach the passing grade, and that’s all that matters.
However, if you’re taking the HSK as part of school applications, be sure to always look up the requirements for your specific schools and keep the cutoff score in your head as you study for the HSK. As mentioned, some good schools in China may want a bit more than just a passing grade.
HSK Formats in Pakistan
Technically, there are two formats of the HSK test – the internet-based HSK (also known as computer-based HSK) and the paper-based HSK. However, HSK test centres in Pakistan currently only offer the HSK test in the paper-based format, as they have yet to meet Hanban’s requirements to conduct the test in the digital format.
Paper-Based HSK Test
You will be required to sit at a desk with the question papers and answer sheets for the listening, reading, and writing sections (level 3-6 only) in an official HSK test centre. You will need to write your answers in either 2B-pencil or pen.
2020 HSK Test Dates in Pakistan
The HSK tests are offered 12 times a year in Pakistan, which means you have plenty of dates to choose from, so pick the best date for you and your schedule.
The official HSK test dates for 2020 in Pakistan are:
- Jan 11 (Sat)
- Feb 09 (Sun)
- Mar 21 (Sat)
- Apr 11 (Sat)
- May 09 (Sat)
- Jun 14 (Sun)
- Jul 12 (Sun)
- Aug 23 (Sun)
- Sep 19 (Sat)
- Oct 17 (Sat)
- Nov 21 (Sat)
- Dec 06 (Sun)
As you can see, the HSK tests are all administered on weekends, with no exception. HSK levels 2, 4, 6 usually start at 9 am and HSK levels 1, 3, 5 usually start at 1:30 pm.
HSK Registration Deadline & Results Release
The registration deadlines for the HSK tests in Pakistan are 4 weeks before their respective test dates.
Here are the details of the HSK registration deadline and results release for 2020.
|Test Dates||Registration Deadline||Score Release|
|Jan 11 (Sat)||Dec 15, 2019||Feb 18|
|Feb 09 (Sun)||Jan 13||Mar 09|
|Mar 21 (Sat)||Feb 23||Apr 21|
|Apr 11 (Sat)||Mar 15||May 11|
|May 09 (Sat)||Apr 12||Jun 09|
|Jun 14 (Sun)||May 18||Jul 14|
|Jul 12 (Sun)||Jun 15||Aug 12|
|Aug 23 (Sun)||Jul 27||Sep 23|
|Sep 19 (Sat)||Aug 23||Oct 26|
|Oct 17 (Sat)||Sep 20||Nov 17|
|Nov 21 (Sat)||Oct 25||Dec 21|
|Dec 06 (Sun)||Nov 09||Jan 06, 2021|
Your HSK test score will be available online at the HSK website one month after the test date, with the exceptions of the test dates before the Chinese New Year and National Day Holiday (Jan 11, Sep 19). For these two tests, the release of score reports will be postponed by another week. The physical test report, on the other hand, will be sent to your test centre 1-2 months after the test date, and you should be notified either by email or telephone for a pickup.
A Note on HSK Registration Dates and Deadlines
Though the test dates are already fixed for the entire year, most test centres won’t allow you to register for the test far ahead of your test date (registration usually begins 3-4 months before the test date).
Also, take note that not all test centres in Pakistan administer HSK tests at every level on every test date. How often your test centre gives the HSK at your level depends on their funding and on how popular it is. Always double-check with your test centre to see your available test dates.
It’s always better to register early than late after you decide on the date, because most test centres 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.
If you intend to use your HSK scores to apply to colleges or universities in China, you’ll need to schedule your HSK test date around your application deadlines. Make sure you read our tips on how to pick the right HSK test date for you.
HSK Test Centres in Pakistan
China’s growing importance to Pakistan is driving the boom in Chinese language learning among Pakistanis. As a result, the number of people taking the HSK test in Pakistan is soaring in recent years. As of 2020, there are 8 authorized HSK test centres in Pakistan, all of which offer the paper-based HSK test.
You can take the HSK test in the following six cities in Pakistan: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Petaro.
Here’s the complete list of the 8 official HSK test centres in Pakistan.
1. Confucius Institute at National University of Modern Languages (NUML Islamabad)
Address: Ghazali Block, National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Sector H-9, Islamabad
Phone: +92 312 537 4368
2. Confucius Institute at University of Karachi
Address: Main University Road, Karachi 75270
Phone: +92 310 738 6666
3. Confucius Institute at the University of Punjab
Address: Quaid-e-Azam Campus, Lahore 54590
Phone: +92 42 9923 3139
4. Confucius Institute at University of Agriculture Faisalabad
Address: Jail Road, Faisalabad, Punjab 38040
Phone: +92 310 521 4858
5. CRI Confucius Classroom
Address: CRI Islamabad Bureau, H18, St10, F8/3, Islamabad
Phone: +92 310 622 6588
7. Institute of Management Sciences Peshawar
Address: 1-A, Sector E-5, Phase VII, Hayatabad, Peshawar
Phone: +92 312 388 8887
8. Institute of Career Development (ICD)
Address: Lahore head office, ICD House 107, Mumdot block, Mustafa, Lahore
Phone: +92 42 3542 0894 5
Note: ICD has 2 more centres in Karachi and Islamabad. Not all exams are conducted at all 3 centres. It’s suggested to contact ICD to reconfirm available open dates and venues.
HSK Test Fees in Pakistan
The price of the HSK test will vary depending on the level that you sign up for. For 2020 HSK tests in Pakistan, the fees (in PKR) are 1600 (Level 1), 1600 (Level 2), 3500 (Level 3), 3500 (Level 4), 5500 (Level 5) and 5500 (Level 6).
|Test||Price in PKR|
The fees are the same at any test centre in Pakistan. Some test centres allow payment online while others will require you to pay in person. You can make a quick call or send an email to your test centre to find out their policy if needed.
HSK Score Validity
The HSK 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 test day. The HSK score validity period is fairly short to ensure schools have accurate and current information about your Chinese skills.
How to Register for the HSK Test in Pakistan
The registration process for the HSK tests is easy and straightforward. Follow our guide here if you are not sure how to register for the HSK test in Pakistan.
HSK Test Preparation in Pakistan
Now that you know what HSK is used for and what it tests, we’ll cover a few tips to do well on the test in Pakistan. Even if your Chinese skills are well above average, it’s a good idea to incorporate a few tips and strategies into your studying and test-taking. That way you can bring your “A” game on test day.
So let’s go through a few HSK tips.
#1: Determine What HSK Level You Need to Take
If you’re taking the HSK test to attend a university in China, make sure you know the exact HSK level requirement for each school you are applying to. Most universities in China require their applicants to pass HSK5 for admission to degree programs, but some may want a little more or less. They might also waive the requirement if you meet other criteria.
First, make a list of all the Chinese universities to which you want to apply. Next, go directly to their websites or Google “[school name] + international admissions.”
Almost always, the first link that pops up will be the page you’re looking for. Here, you can check to see their HSK level/score requirements and other policies. If the school doesn’t say them clearly on the admissions page, then contact the school’s admissions office directly. After all, you don’t want to study and pay for a test if your school of choice won’t accept it!
If you’re taking the HSK test for employment purposes, you might want to skip the low-level HSK tests (1-3) and aim for higher levels (4-6). For the certificate to work, it’s common to aim for the highest levels: Level 5 or 6.
Well, if you simply want to assess your Chinese skills in a formal setting and have some time to spare, you are free to take whatever level test and as many times as you like. But you might want to take a free practice test first to find your current level (and save money!)
#2: Take HSK Practice Tests
To get a better idea of your current HSK level and how much you’ll need to study for the HSK test, it’ll be smart to take some practice 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.
You can visit the Hanban website and download the official HSK practice tests (available at all levels) in PDF format for free.
We at ImproveMandarin have also created a few highly helpful HSK practice tests with extremely realistic HSK questions on our website. Check out our HSK Channel.
Best Books to Help Prepare for the HSK test
You can also purchase HSK preparation books that include access to practice tests on Amazon.com. Our top recommendations are:
-Official Examination Papers of HSK (2018 Version)
This book series is published by People’s Education Press and is available at all 6 HSK levels. Each book consists of five retired HSK tests at the respective level, accompanied by an audio CD for the listening section and detailed answers.
Book name in Chinese: 汉语水平考试真题集(2018版)
-New HSK Mock Tests
This book series published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press contains 10 mock tests with realistic questions at each level. The books come complete with an audio CD and answers.
Book name in Chinese: 新汉语水平考试模拟试题集
Once you’ve got a practice 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, and time yourself using official time limits.
#3: Make a Weekly HSK Study Plan
Look at your daily and weekly schedules and see how many hours a week you can spend studying for the HSK. Even if your HSK date isn’t for several months, you’ll still want to try to budget at least 4–6 hours of studying Chinese each week.
Studying Chinese doesn’t always have to mean textbooks and grammar drills. If you don’t use much Chinese in your daily life, then start incorporating the language into your daily routine bit by bit.
Watch TV shows, movies, YouTube videos in Chinese. Read news articles, magazines, books, or blogs in Chinese. See if you can find someone with whom you can practice speaking Chinese. They are 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.
#4: Attend an HSK Preparation Course
If you find it challenging to study for the HSK on your own, why not take an HSK preparation course in Pakistan? A good teacher familiar with the HSK structure can save you considerable time and effort. You will learn the exact grammar structures, vocabulary and sentence patterns you need to put you in great shape going into your HSK Test.
Best HSK Preparation Courses in Pakistan
A few Mandarin schools in Pakistan run special HSK preparation courses, and here is our top pick:
Institute of Career Development (Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi)
Institute of Career Development offers one of the leading HSK preparations courses in Pakistan with a good record of student pass rates. The courses can be taken in some of their centres as well as on their online learning portal. The institute also serves as one of the eight official HSK test centres in Pakistan.
#5: Relax on the Test Day
The HSK is a test but it’s not the be-all and end-all. If you’re relaxed, you will be far more likely to do well, and if you fail, you can always retake the test after more study.
One of the best ways to help yourself relax is to make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before, eat a good breakfast, arrive at the test centre at least half an hour before the test and make sure you study enough past papers to let you know what to expect. Being familiar with the structure, timing and content of the test will help to put you at ease.
Also, drink enough water before and during your test to stay hydrated, so you won’t feel weary and lose your concentration.
Recap: Taking the HSK Test in Pakistan
The HSK is the world’s most recognized Chinese proficiency test. Any non-native Chinese speakers can take the HSK test if they’re interested in assessing their Chinese language skills. An HSK certificate can greatly boost your academic and career potential.
It’s easy to take the HSK test in Pakistan with 8 authorized test centres in the country and 12 test dates a year. You can choose to take an HSK test from 6 existing levels (HSK1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in the paper-based format, and can take the test as many times as you want to. The HSK certificate has permanent validity (if you’re taking the HSK as part of a school application, then the scores are valid for two years).
To pass the HSK, you need to accurately determine your level, take some practice tests, make a study plan, stick to it, study hard, relax on the test day and let your instincts flow. If needed, you can take an HSK preparation course in Pakistan to help you crush the exam.