Taking HSK 6 Test – Real Experience and Tips

hsk 6 tips experience

HSK is the official Chinese language test organized by CLEC (formerly known as Hanban), a part of the Chinese Education Ministry. The test consists of 6 levels in terms of ability, with level 6 being the highest. For many learners, obtaining the HSK 6 certificate is an ultimate dream, as it proves their full proficiency in the Chinese language.

Now, you may be wondering: what’s the experience like of taking the HSK 6 test? And what does it take to pass the HSK 6 test?

To shed light on these questions, we at ImproveMandarin invited several international students who’ve recently taken the HSK 6 test to talk about how they conquered the test and share their test-taking tips and thoughts afterwards. We hope you’ll benefit from their knowledge of the test structure, and experience to help you get a higher score on the HSK 6!

In this post, we interviewed Eunji Kim from Korea, who’s currently studying international relations at a university in Shanghai. (For more stories and tips from former HSK 6 test takers, read here, and here).

(The interview was originally conducted in Chinese and translated to English)

How did you do on your HSK 6 Test?

I took the computer-based HSK 6 test back in Seoul, Korea in 2019. I had been studying Chinese for 2.5 years by the time I took the test. My total score is 270.

HSK 6 Test in Korea

Is the HSK 6 test difficult?

It depends on what you are comparing with. Compared with HSK 5, yes, the HSK 6 test is a lot harder, you have to double your time and efforts to study and prepare, but in absolute terms, I don’t find the HSK 6 test too difficult for me. I got 270/300 whereas the passing grade is 180/300. But I have to say, my Chinese is better than most of my classmates in Korea, so I can only speak for myself. A couple of students in my class failed the test and they think the test is quite hard.

Of course, I am not saying the HSK 6 test is easy either. I do find some parts of it tricky. That’s why I didn’t get full marks.

HSK 6 score
Eunji’s HSK 6 report

What’s difficult about HSK 6 then?

There are several parts that I found difficult about the HSK 6 test.

First, listening. All the conversations in the listening section are only played once in the test so you really need to focus. I find it easy to understand the conversations but hard to remember all the details in a short time. When I was doing the mock tests on paper, I could scan all the answer options ahead of time in the same section, and I could underline the key information contained in the answers with a pen. This way, I only needed to focus on the keywords and sentences when the audio was playing, and that made listening easier.

However, it’s not possible to do so with the computer-based test. There is a timer set for every question, meaning you won’t be able to look at the answer options for the second or third question unless you finish the first question quickly and still have time left.

Another tricky thing about listening in HSK 6 is that I believe test designers intentionally overload the conversation with excessive information or details to mess with your head. For example, in my listening test, there was a part that talked about discovering Script A in dynasty B, and discovering Script C in dynasty D. The question was “in which dynasty script was first discovered”, but I could not recall the part where it explained the relationship between dynasty C and D, which is earlier or later, and I had to take a guess.

I think if you want to do well on the listening test, you need to do some extra short-term memory exercises to boost your brain, besides working on your Chinese skills.

Is it better to take the paper-based HSK test over the internet-based HSK then?

I only favor the paper-based HSK test for the listening and reading sections, because I prefer to have the option of taking notes on the paper and reading answer options ahead of time. However, for the writing section, I prefer the computer-based (internet-based) test, because I can just type using the pinyin input method (I used SOGOU on my test), which is way faster than writing by hand.

I think the advantage of the computer-based HSK test outweighs the small issue, so I still suggest taking the computer-based test if you have the option.

computer-based HSK test

What’s the reading section like on the HSK6 test?

The most difficult part in the reading section for me was “choosing the wrong sentence” (choose the sentence that is grammatically incorrect, e.g. order of the words, misuse of a word, etc). This has always been my weakness. I never got full marks on mock tests before. What seems to make the matter worse is that on the real test, the sentences were longer, making it more difficult for me to find the faults.

Any tips to prepare for the HSK 6 reading test?

I think for “choosing the wrong sentence”, there is not much you can do but do lots of practice, find out why a sentence is wrong, what makes it wrong, and figure out how to fix it. I did quite a bit of practice, and my results got better, but honestly, it was still the most difficult part for me on the HSK6 test.

For other parts of HSK 6 reading like filling the gaps, I found using a process of elimination most helpful.

Some choices are wrong in a very obvious way, so get rid of them first and don’t look back. If you take the paper test, it would be very easy to cross them off physically. If you take the computer-based test like me, it will be a little harder, as you need to cross them off in your head, but it’s still manageable. Sometimes you can find more than one answer option vaguely correct, in that case, you should choose the one that fits best in the context of the sentence or passage.

What’s the writing section like on the HSK6 test?

I think there are two things worth noting about the writing section in the HSK 6 test.

1. Memorizing the article. (In the test, you only have 10 minutes to read an article and you cannot take any notes. Then the article is taken away and you have to summarize the article in about 400 characters). You have to memorize the key details of the article in less than ten minutes, such as

  • Time: when did the story happen (dynasty, year, month, day…)? Morning, afternoon, or evening?
  • Place: where did the story happen? What’s the name of the place (country, city…)?
  • People: what are the main characters? What are their names and relations? (make sure you write their names correctly, e.g. Is it “刘洋” or “刘阳”?
  • Storyline: It would be impossible to remember all the details in the article, and you should not attempt to do so either because you won’t be able to compress the article to 400 characters with all the details. What’s important is that you take a mental note of the main plot of the story. Think about how the story developed like in a movie and summarize the major plot points.

2. Finding the right title. Play it safe and don’t write anything fancy or complicated in the title. A simple summarization of the story is good enough for a title, such as “爸爸的信”, “红包的来历”.

Any other tips for future HSK 6 test takers?

There is an exam timer in every section of the test. Try not to look at them all the time because it will make you nervous. If you encounter a question you ready don’t understand, take a guess and move on, particularly in the listening section. You must focus on the next question immediately.

Another tip is that before you take the HSK 6 test, make sure you eat a proper meal so you won’t get hungry in the middle of the 135-minute test. If you get hungry, your brain will not function as well. You can bring water to the test, but not food.

Generally speaking, I think the real test is similar to the mock tests I found online in terms of difficulty, though the listening and reading sections are slightly more difficult the time I took the test. It would definitely be helpful if you take some mock tests before the real HSK 6 test.

Would you say you’re now proficient in Chinese with HSK 6 under your belt?

I think there is still a gap between HSK 6 and total proficiency in Chinese, but this is mostly due to vocabulary limitations and culture. 5000 words (as required by HSK 6) is clearly not enough for my field of study – international relations. But since I am studying in China, I am catching up on vocabulary quickly – by previewing books, reading news reports, watching CCTV news (China central television)…

Outside of the classroom, I think I can handle most of the conversations well. I can understand most of the Chinese TVs, talk shows, and films, but I find traditional costume dramas still beyond my comprehension, which is why I want to learn more classical Chinese and Chinese history in the next stage.

Thank you for your time, Eunji! Good luck with your study!

Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Planning to take the HSK 6 test? Then don’t miss out on the world’s best HSK 6 Study Guide! Get all the tips and tricks you need to ace the exam!

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