HSK Test in Shanghai: The Complete, Definitive Guide for 2023
If you are learning Chinese or interested in pursuing a Chinese course in Shanghai, chances are you have heard about a test called the HSK. But what is the HSK test exactly? How does it work? What can you use it for? And what do you need to know to take the HSK test in Shanghai?
Have no fear if you are overwhelmed. In this guide, 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 Shanghai – test centers, dates, fees, and everything you need to know to register and prepare for the HSK test in Shanghai.
Let’s jump in!
Table of Contents
- General Information
- What Is the HSK?
- Is the HSK Right for You?
- What Are the HSK Levels?
- What Is the HSK Test Structure?
- Which Test Format Should You Choose?
- HSK Test in Shanghai
- 2023 HSK Test Dates in Shanghai
- HSK Registration Deadline & Results Release
- HSK Test Centers in Shanghai
- HSK Test Fees
- How to Register for the HSK Test
- HSK Test Preparation
- Determine Your HSK Level
- HSK Practice Tests
- HSK Study Plan
- HSK Preparation Courses in Shanghai
- HSK Test Day
What is the HSK?
HSK is short for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), which means “Mandarin Proficiency Test” in Chinese. It’s a standardized test that measures one’s mastery of the Chinese language. The organizer of HSK is the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC), an affiliation of the Chinese Ministry of Education also in charge of the Confucius Institutes.
The HSK test covers listening, reading, and writing. However, it does not cover speaking. So that means it quizzes on your general understanding of the language rather than pronunciation (there is a separate test called HSKK for that).
Learn More: From 1.0 to 3.0: The History of the HSK
Is the HSK Right for You?
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 Mandarin level or needs to demonstrate a mastery of Mandarin for professional purposes can take the HSK.
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 Chinese university, your HSK scores are good for two years from the date you take the test.)
So if you’re currently undecided about your future academic or career plans and you have some time (and money) to spare, then you might 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.
If, however, you feel as though you don’t have time to study or are reluctant to take the test for any reason, then double-check to see if you must take the HSK. Some schools will waive the requirement if you meet other criteria.
If you can avoid taking the HSK, you’ll save yourself considerable time and effort.
What Are the HSK Levels?
HSK Level 1 is the easiest and HSK Level 6 is the most difficult, although the test is currently being redesigned to ultimately reach up to Level 9 (more difficult) over the next couple of years. (Find out more about the new HSK).
You can register for any HSK level without going one by one. At each level, you either pass or don’t pass.
There are no ramifications if you fail, and you can retake the test as many times as you like. That said, you may want to avoid wasting money and time on the wrong HSK test. So follow the guideline from the test organizer.
Learn More: Which HSK Level Should You Take?
What Is the HSK Test Structure?
An HSK test is 35-130 minutes in duration depending on the level.
HSK 1 and HSK 2 are designed for basic Chinese learners and therefore quite short. The tests consist of only two sections: listening and reading. Each section is broken down into a number of questions (all multiple choices). Questions are presented in both pinyin and characters. There is no writing section.
Each section is scored out of 100. The two section scores 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 HSK 3 onwards, all the questions are presented only in Chinese characters. 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.
To obtain the HSK certificate, you just need to reach the passing score – 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.
Here’s a chart that summarizes the test structure, time, and scoring of each HSK test level:
|Level||Test Structure||Test Time||Test Scoring|
|Listening||Reading||Writing||Full Grade||Pass Grade|
* You’ll be given an extra 5 minutes to fill in your personal information.
Read on for more details about how the HSK tests are structured at each level.
Which Test Format Should You Choose?
There are two different formats of the HSK – the internet-based HSK (also known as computer-based HSK) and the traditional paper-based HSK. For both formats, you need to go to a physical HSK test center (though the name “internet-based” may suggest it, there is no way you can take the test on your own computer at home).
The internet-based HSK is the more popular choice nowadays, however, not all HSK test centers in Shanghai have the facilities to conduct the HSK in this format.
The internet and paper-based HSK tests are identical in difficulty level, test content, and scoring criteria. The only difference is that if you take the internet-based HSK, questions will be presented on a computer screen and you will be required to submit answers through the use of a keyboard and a mouse.
Universities and employers in China don’t have any preference in which format applicants take the HSK, and you can crush the test with flying colors in either format.
Generally, we recommend you take the HSK on a computer over paper if you are signing up for HSK levels 3-6, as you don’t have to physically write every character in the writing section, which can be hard for many learners.
But the paper-based version also has advantages such as note-taking and section-skipping. If you feel more comfortable taking a test with paper and pencil, then we encourage you to do it.
2023 HSK Test Dates in Shanghai
Like anywhere else in China, the HSK tests are offered 11 times a year in Shanghai, which means you have plenty of dates to choose from, so pick the best date for you and your schedule.
Here are the official HSK test dates for 2023.
|Test Date||Internet-based HSK||Paper-based HSK|
|Jan 07 (Sat)||y (yes)||y|
|Mar 18 (Sat)||y||y|
|Apr 09 (Sun)||y||y|
|May 14 (Sun)||y||y|
|Jun 11 (Sun)||y||y|
|Jul 16 (Sun)||y||y|
|Aug 20 (Sun)||y||y|
|Sep 16 (Sat)||y||y|
|Oct 15 (Sun)||y||y|
|Nov 18 (Sat)||y||y|
|Dec 03 (Sun)||y||y|
As you can see, the HSK tests are all administered on a Saturday or Sunday, with no exceptions. 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 internet-based HSK tests are 10 days before their respective test dates, while for the paper-based HSK, you must register 4+ weeks ahead of time.
You can view your test results on the HSK website two weeks after you take the internet-based test or 1 month after you take the paper edition, except for the tests held before the Chinese national holidays (Jan 07, Mar 18, Apr 09, and Sep 16). In these cases, the release of score reports will be postponed by another week.
The physical 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.
Here are the details of the HSK registration deadline and results release for 2023.
|Test Date||Registration Deadline||Score Release|
|Jan 07 (Sat)||Dec 28, 2022||Jan 30|
|Mar 18 (Sat)||Mar 08||Apr 10|
|Apr 09 (Sun)||Mar 30||Apr 24|
|May 14 (Sun)||May 04||May 29|
|Jun 11 (Sun)||Jun 01||Jun 26|
|Jul 16 (Sun)||Jul 06||Aug 01|
|Aug 20 (Sun)||Aug 10||Sep 04|
|Sep 16 (Sat)||Sep 06||Oct 09|
|Oct 15 (Sun)||Oct 05||Oct 30|
|Nov 18 (Sat)||Nov 08||Dec 04|
|Dec 03 (Sun)||Nov 23||Dec 18|
|Test Date||Registration Deadline||Score Release|
|Jan 07 (Sat)||Dec 11, 2022||Feb 14|
|Mar 18 (Sat)||Feb 19||Apr 18|
|Apr 09 (Sun)||Mar 13||May 16|
|May 14 (Sun)||Apr 17||Jun 14|
|Jun 11 (Sun)||May 15||Jul 11|
|Jul 16 (Sun||Jun 19||Aug 16|
|Aug 20 (Sun)||Jul 24||Sep 20|
|Sep 16 (Sat)||Aug 20||Oct 23|
|Oct 15 (Sun)||Sep 18||Nov 15|
|Nov 18 (Sat)||Oct 22||Dec 18|
|Dec 03 (Sun)||Nov 06||Jan 03, 2024|
When Should You Take the HSK?
Though the test dates are already fixed for the entire year, most test centers won’t allow you to register for the test far ahead of your test date (registration usually begins 3-4 months before the test date).
Also, take note that not all test centers in Shanghai administer HSK tests at every level on every test date. How often your test center gives the HSK at your level depends on their funding and on how popular it is, so double-check with your test center to see your available test dates.
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 a technical glitch registering online at the last minute, CLEC will not be able to make accommodations for you.
If you’re taking the HSK as part of a school application, you’ll need to schedule your HSK test date around your application deadlines.
Learn More: When Is the Best Time to Take the HSK?
HSK Test Centers in Shanghai
It’s extremely easy to take the HSK test in Shanghai. As of 2023, there are 31 authorized HSK test centers across 11 districts in Shanghai, and 26 of them offer the test-taker-friendly internet-based HSK test.
The districts where you can take the HSK test in Shanghai are Baoshan, Changning, Hongkou, Huangpu, Jing’an, Minhang, Pudong, Putuo, Songjiang, and Xuhui.
If you’re an international student in Shanghai, there’s likely an HSK test center at your university. You can have the opportunity to visit the testing site ahead of time to feel it out, and even find time to take some practice tests in that very building!
If you are not a student but just work or live in Shanghai, you can easily sign up for the HSK test at a Chinese language school or educational institution authorized to administer the tests in Shanghai, for example, Mandarin House, Mandarin Morning, Miracle Morning, to name a few. They are all centrally located in the city.
Learn More: Full List of the 31 HSK Test Centers in Shanghai
Now, choosing an HSK test center is actually not as simple as picking the one closest to you. You can be more strategic in your choice. We’ve come up with a few tips here to help you decide which center you should go to ace the HSK exam.
HSK Test Fees
The price of the HSK test will vary depending on the level that you sign up for. For 2023 HSK tests in Shanghai, the fees (in CNY) are 150 (Level 1), 250 (Level 2), 350 (Level 3), 450 (Level 4), 550 (Level 5), and 650 (Level 6).
|Test Level||Price in CNY|
The fees are the same for both the internet-based HSK and the paper-based HSK at any test center in Shanghai and across China.
Some test centers 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 center to find out their policy if needed.
How to Register for the HSK Test in Shanghai
The registration process for the HSK tests is straightforward. The easiest way to register for a test in Shanghai is with your HSK account on the HSK website. It allows you to register 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Follow these nine steps to complete your HSK registration online. We’ve included screenshots to make the process easier to follow.
HSK Test Preparation in Shanghai
Now that you know what HSK is used for and what it tests, we’ll cover strategies to do well on the test. 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 HSK 5 for admission to degree programs, but some may want a little more.
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.
#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.
We’ve created quite a few HSK practice tests (for all six levels) on our website using real questions from past HSK exams. Try them out online or download and print out the paper version. They require no registration and are completely free.
Best Books to Help Prepare for the HSK Test
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)
Price: 45.00-85.00 RMB depending on the level
-HSK Simulation Tests (2nd Edition)
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: 汉语水平考试模拟试题集(第2版)
Price: 32.00-65.00 RMB depending on the level
Bookstores in Shanghai for Buying HSK Books (and Other Chinese Textbooks)
- Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore
The closest thing you’ll find to whatever mega bookstore you know from your home country.
Address: No 390 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District
Open hours: 10:00-18:30 daily
- Shanghai Book City
The biggest bookstore in Shanghai. You can find many books for learning Chinese on the 4th floor.
Add: No 465 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District
Open hours: 9:30-21:00 daily
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 (this is important since the keyboard hit sound can get quite loud in the computer-based test, and in some test centers, paper-based tests and computer-based tests take place in the same testing room), 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 Mandarin each week.
Studying Mandarin doesn’t always have to mean textbooks and grammar drills. If you don’t use much Mandarin in your daily life, then start incorporating the language into your daily routine bit by bit.
Watch TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos in Mandarin. Read news articles, magazines, books, or blogs in Mandarin. See if you can find a Chinese tutor or someone with whom you can practice speaking Mandarin. 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 Shanghai? 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 Shanghai
A few institutions in Shanghai run the special HSK preparation course, and here are our top picks:
One of the oldest, best-established Chinese language schools in Shanghai. Their HSK Preparation Course has a solid, successful history (95% of the students have passed the HSK exam after the course).
Cost: 170-210CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
2. LTL School
Another well-established Mandarin school in Shanghai. Their HSK classes are taught by experienced teachers who know exactly the tools you need to pass your HSK Exam.
Cost: 185-260CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on how many hours you sign up
An education platform providing tutor matching services in Shanghai. 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 exams.
Cost: average 120-180CNY/hour for 1-1 tutoring depending on the tutor, plus a 400CNY one-time service fee.
#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 center at least half an hour before the test, and make sure you study enough past papers to let you know what to expect. Being familiar with the structure, 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 Shanghai
The HSK is the world’s most popular Chinese language test. Any non-native Chinese speakers can take the HSK test if they’re interested in assessing their proficiency level in Chinese. An HSK certificate can be a great boost to your academic and career potential.
It’s easy to take the HSK test in Shanghai with 31 authorized test centers in the city and 11 test dates a year. You can choose to take an HSK test from 6 existing levels (HSK 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and 2 formats (internet-based, paper-based), and can take the test as many times as you want. 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 Shanghai or hire a Chinese tutor to help you crush the test.