HSK Test in Singapore: The Ultimate Guide for 2023
If you are learning Mandarin or interested in pursuing a Mandarin course in Singapore, chances are you have heard about a test called 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 Singapore?
Have no fear if you are confused. 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. We’ll cover every detail of the HSK test in Singapore – exam centre, dates, fees. At the end of this guide, you should know everything you ever need to register and prepare for the HSK test in Singapore.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- General Information
- What Is the HSK?
- Who Should Take the HSK?
- Why Take the HSK?
- HSK Levels & Requirements
- HSK Test Structure & Passing Grade
- HSK Formats
- HSK Test in Singapore
- 2022 HSK Test Dates in Singapore
- HSK Registration Deadline & Results Release
- HSK Test Centre in Singapore
- 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 Singapore
- HSK Test Day
- Recap: Taking the HSK Test in Singapore
What Is the HSK?
HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, the Pinyin version for 汉语水平考试, meaning “Chinese Proficiency Test” in Chinese.
As the name suggests, HSK is a standardized test designed for non-native Chinese speakers (foreigners, overseas Chinese, and ethnic minorities of China) as a way of certifying their knowledge in Mandarin Chinese. The organizer of HSK is Hanban (汉办/Chinese Language Council International), an affiliation of the Ministry of Education of China that’s also in charge of the Confucius Institutes in Singapore 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 Mandarin 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 high-level vocabulary rather than casual or colloquial Mandarin.
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 university program taught in Mandarin 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 for employment purposes
- apply for a work permit/visa to work and live in China
- benchmark your progress in Chinese language learning
Any non-native Chinese speakers in Singapore can take the HSK test (no citizenship or PR needed). There is no age and education 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
Why Take the HSK in Singapore?
Many Singaporeans take the HSK test to further their study in China. Before a Chinese 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 Chinese skills.
To be able to follow a class instructed in Mandarin, a decent understanding of the Chinese 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 the Confucius Institute in Singapore at NTU.
For professionals, HSK can be used as proof of language competency for job applications to Chinese companies, joint ventures, 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 foreign 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 knowledge of Mandarin can get a more complete picture of you, knowing your strengths.
Even if you’re currently undecided about your academic or career plans, you might still want to think about taking the test, regardless. This will give you some flexibility for your future, whether or not you think you need an HSK certificate right now.
And if you wish to work in China, the HSK will be very handy when you apply for a work permit in China. China now implements a work permit scoring system through which every foreigner is graded according to their educational 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 provide 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)
Outside of the academic and professional realm, the HSK does 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 next.
HSK Levels & Requirements
The HSK tests how good you are at Mandarin Chinese at 6 levels: HSK1, HSK2, HSK3, HSK4, HSK5, and HSK6. HSK1 is the lowest level in terms of ability and HSK6 is the highest. At each level, you either pass or don’t pass.
You don’t have 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 the 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 level of HSK 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 chart gives an overview of HSK requirements on each 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)|
Don’t be overwhelmed! The HSK is known to be easier than other official language tests, such as the TOEFL exam for English learners or the DELE exam for Spanish ones.
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 to 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 appear more advanced 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:
You don’t have 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.
A single advanced HSK test for levels 7-9 is scheduled to be added to the current HSK system in 2021 or later. Meanwhile, no change will be made to the existing HSK tests for levels 1-6. Read updates on the New HSK here)
HSK Test Structure & Passing Grade
An HSK test is 35-130 minutes in length depending on its level.
HSK1 and HSK2 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 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 points to pass the tests.
From HSK3 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 points 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 be given an extra 5 minutes to fill in your personal information.
After you take the test, the test papers are then mailed back (or submitted, if you take it on computer) to Hanban headquarters in Beijing. The test centre that administers the tests in Singapore does 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 intend to use your scores to apply to colleges or universities in China, be sure to always look up the HSK requirements for your specific schools and keep the cutoff score in your head as you study for the HSK. As mentioned, some top schools in China may want a bit more than merely a passing grade.
HSK Formats in Singapore
There are two different formats of the HSK: the paper-based HSK and the internet–based HSK (also known as computer-based HSK). Currently, the internet-based test is only available for HSK5 and HSK6 in Singapore.
For both formats, you need to go to the physical HSK test centre (though the name “internet-based” may suggest it, there is no way you can take the test on your own computer at home).
Paper-Based HSK Test (available for HSK Level 1-6)
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 centre. You will need to write your answers in 2B-pencil.
Internet-Based HSK Test (available for HSK Level 5, 6)
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 centre. 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.
The two HSK formats are exactly the same in difficulty level, test content, and scoring criteria. Generally, we recommend you to take the HSK on computer over paper if you are signing up for a high-level HSK test, 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 (read the 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.
In case you are wondering, universities and employers in China don’t have any preference in which format that applicants take the HSK, and you can crush the test with flying colors in either format.
2022 HSK Test Dates in Singapore
The HSK tests are offered 4 times a year in Singapore. There is a test date every three months. Pick the best date for you and your schedule.
The official HSK test dates for 2022 in Singapore are:
|Test Dates||Internet-based HSK||Paper-based HSK|
|Mar 26 (Sat)||y||y|
|Jun 12 (Sun)||y||y|
|Sep 17 (Sat)||y||y|
|Dec 04 (Sun)||y||y|
As you can see, the HSK tests are all administered on a Saturday or Sunday, 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 internet-based HSK tests are 10 days before their respective test dates, while for the paper-based HSK, you must register 5~6 weeks ahead of time.
Here are the details of the HSK registration deadline and results release for 2022 in Singapore.
|Test Dates (Internet)||Registration Deadline||Score Release|
|Mar 26 (Sat)||Feb 18||Apr 11|
|Jun 12 (Sun)||May 06||Jun 27|
|Sep 17 (Sat)||Aug 12||Oct 10|
|Dec 04 (Sun)||Oct 28||Dec 20|
If you take the internet-based HSK test, your HSK test score will be available online at the HSK website two weeks after the test date. The physical test report, on the other hand, will be sent to the Singapore test centre 2-3 months after the test date, and you should be notified either by email or telephone for a pickup.
|Test Dates (paper)||Registration Deadline||Score Release|
|Mar 20 (Sat)||Feb 21||Apr 26|
|Jun 19 (Sun)||May 23||Jul 12|
|Sep 11 (Sat)||Aug 15||Oct 24|
|Dec 05 (Sun)||Nov 08||Jan 04, 2023|
You can view your score reports online at the HSK website one month after you take the paper-based HSK test. The physical score reports are mailed to your test centre 2-3 months after the test day.
A Note on HSK Registration Dates and Deadlines
Though the test dates are already fixed for the entire year, the HSK test centre in Singapore 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 the test centre in Singapore does not necessarily administer HSK tests at every level on every test date. How often it administers the HSK test of your level depends on its funding and on how popular the test is in Singapore at different times of the year, so double-check with the test centre to see your available test dates and options.
Once you decide on your test date, it’s always better to register early than late, because the test centre has limited seating. Registration will always be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. And in the latter case, you have to choose a later date to take the exam.
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. Make sure you read our tips on how to pick the right HSK test date for you.
HSK Test Centre in Singapore
As of 2022, Crestar is the only authorized HSK test centre in Singapore. Crestar HSK Centre conducts all the 6 levels of HSK tests in Singapore, with HSK Level 1-4 given exclusively in the paper-based format, and HSK Level 5-6 in both paper and internet-based formats.
Crestar HSK Centre
Address: 30 Orange Grove Road, RELC Building, Singapore 258352
Phone: 6858 9612
Open: 9:00AM-6:00PM, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (accept calls)
Crestar HSK Centre (Crestar) was established by the Crestar Education Group in May 2003 to promote and administer the HSK test in Singapore. Over the last 10 years, the centre has successively increased the number of people taking the tests, helping to put Singapore among the top three countries in the world with the most test participants in 2011, after Korea and Japan. Crestar has also won the coveted “Outstanding Overseas Test Centre for Chinese Language” award from Hanban.
HSK Test Fees in Singapore
The price of the HSK test will vary depending on the test level and format you sign up for.
For 2022 paper-based HSK tests in Singapore, the fees (in SGD) are 140 (Level 1), 140 (Level 2), 140 (Level 3), 140 (Level 4), 160 (Level 5) and 190 (Level 6).
For 2022 internet-based HSK tests in Singapore, the fees (in SGD) are 230 (Level 5) and 260 (Level 6).
|Test||Price in SGD (inclusive of GST)|
Crestar HSK Centre accepts payment online (PayNow, PayLah) and offline (cash, cheque, credit cards). Just note if you pay with a credit card, a 15-40 SGD bank administration fee will be charged on top of the HSK test fee.
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 for a lifetime.
However, if you wish to use your HSK scores to apply to a college or university in China, your HSK scores are valid for two years only from the date you take the test. 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 Singapore
It’s easy to take the HSK test in Singapore. You can either register for the HSK test online at the HSK website managed by Hanban or locally at the Crestar HSK Centre near Serangoon MRT.
Option 1. Register for the HSK Test Online
The online 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 on the HSK website.
Option 2. Register on-site at the HSK Centre
If you prefer to register for the HSK test in person (or using a proxy) in Singapore, then head over to Crestar HSK Centre and do it at the front desk. Make sure you bring your identification document (IC for Singapore Citizen and PR, Passport for others), a passport-sized photo (for candidates taking HSK Level 3-6 only) and a completed registration form (write to email@example.com to request for the registration form in advance).
HSK Test Preparation in Singapore
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 Singapore. 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 Mandarin 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.
We’ve created quite a few HSK practice tests (for all six levels) on our website using real questions from past HSK exams. You can click here to 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
You can also purchase HSK preparation books published in China that include access to practice tests on Amazon.com. Our top picks 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)
-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)
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 if you take the internet-based test), 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, YouTube videos in Mandarin. Read news articles, magazines, books, or blogs written in Chinese. See if you can find someone with whom you can practice speaking Mandarin regularly. 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 Singapore? 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 Singapore
It probably makes the most sense to take the pre-test preparation course offered by Crestar HSK Centre, since they are the sole administrator for HSK in Singapore. Their course is specially designed with the aim to prepare candidates for the HSK test and help them master common Chinese conversation and business etiquette in the workplace. The price of the course is 160.50 SGD inclusive of GST (total 6 hours).
Aside from Crestar, a few other institutions in Singapore also arrange high-quality HSK preparation courses, and here are our top picks:
1. Han Hai Language Studio
Han Hai Language Studio has established a strong reputation in the field of teaching Chinese as a foreign language in Singapore with a proven track record of success. The school is formed by a team of experienced teachers from China. They provide HSK preparation class in small groups during weekday evenings and private 1-1 tutoring on a flexible schedule.
Address: 20 Kramat Lane, United House #03-05, Singapore 228773
2. Chinese Edge
Another well established Mandarin school in Singapore. They offer group lessons for HSK preparation at different levels on Saturday afternoons. If you want to enjoy more flexibility in time and venue for class, you can sign up for their private lessons. (starting price: S$70/hr)
Address: 137 Cecil Street Level 7, Hengda Building Singapore 069537
#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 your test to stay hydrated, so you won’t feel weary and lose your concentration.
Recap: Taking the HSK Test in Singapore
HSK is the world’s most authoritative Chinese proficiency test. Any non-native Chinese speakers, regardless of their nationality, age, education can take the HSK test if they’re interested in certifying their knowledge of Mandarin Chinese for self-improvement, study opportunities in China and career enhancement.
It’s easy to take the HSK test in Singapore at the official HSK test centre Crestar. There are 4 test dates per year. You can choose to take an HSK test from 6 existing levels (HSK1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and 2 formats (internet-based, paper-based), 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 Singapore to help you crush the test.