Passing HSK Level 6 Exam – Success Story
Good for you then! HSK Level 6 is the last stretch of the HSK exams. It’s the highest level to reach, but what’s it like to take the HSK 6 exam, and what does it take to pass the HSK 6 exam?
We’ve asked a number of students who have passed HSK 6 to share their experience in taking the exam, and give tips and advice to help future test takers like you increase the odds of passing the HSK 6 exam.
(The interview was originally conducted in Chinese and translated to English)
How did you do on your HSK 6 exam?
Well, I took the paper-based HSK 6 exam in Beijing last year. I had studied Chinese for 4 years before taking the exam. I got 267 out of 300. Considering the passing score is 180, I am very happy with my result.
How difficult is the HSK 6 exam?
Personally, I don’t find the HSK 6 exam difficult, at least not as difficult as I thought. I think the difficulty of the HSK 6 exam has been exaggerated somehow. It seems many people hesitate to believe they can pass the HSK 6. They are often daunted due to a lack of knowledge, thinking HSK 6 is “untouchable”, thus giving up trying for no reason. Eventually, they stagnate at HSK 5 or HSK 4. But if you keep on studying Chinese after reaching HSK 5, I would say there is a good chance you’ll be able to pass HSK 6 in one year or so.
What’s it like to take the HSK 6 exam?
First of all, I have to say the exam is quite expensive. I took the paper-based HSK 6 exam and paid 650rmb for it (It’s the same price if you opt for the internet-based HSK), and I heard it’s even more expensive to take the HSK outside China.
The exam center I chose was located at a university. More people took the exam than I had anticipated. We had around 20 people in one room, mostly from Asian countries – Korea and Japan I think. I only saw another westerner guy like me. Many Korean students were still cracking books at the last minute, which made me kind of nervous. They reminded me of my earlier days when I took the Chinese exam at my school.
As for the exam itself, there were three parts in the listening section: dialogue, interview, and monologue. Many of the topics were related to Chinese culture and society, and there were some topics related to technology as well. I remember some of them vividly because some topics were quite up-to-date and I had heard them on the news before.
The reading section mainly tests your vocabulary and grammar. You are expected to have a good grasp of 关联词 (conjunctive words), for example. The main challenge of reading is that you must answer 50 questions (multiple choices) within 50 minutes. Basically, there is no time for you to think.
The last section was writing, which was the most difficult part of the HSK 6 exam. From what I learned, very few people scored over 85 in writing. We were given 10 minutes to read a passage consisting of 1000 characters, then the passage was taken away and we had to summarize it with 400 characters. If you take the computer-based examination, you can type the characters instead of writing by hand. For me, the writing was not a big issue, I actually felt pretty good after writing the passage, but in the end, I only got 77/100.
Which HSK exam version is better, paper-based or internet-based?
If I had to take the HSK 6 exam again, I would choose the internet-based version because I could then use headphones for the listening section (the computers have headphones, and you can bring your own pair).
As for the paper-based exam, the audio is all put on speakers. With the sound bouncing around in the room, some words inevitably become ambiguous, that’s why I lost some points in the listening section. I discovered later that speakers can be pretty lousy in some exam centers. So I suggest taking the internet-based HSK if you can.
What should test takers know to pass the HSK 6 exam?
Well, if you haven’t done enough practice before, you might find the listening section challenging, mainly because the questions are not presented on the exam paper (only answer options are). Instead, they are read to you after the conversation ends, which means you need to guess what question they are likely to raise at the same time when you are listening to the conversation.
For some longer conversations, you need to note down the details, or you will likely forget them at the end. Since the audio is only played once, you need to stay highly concentrated throughout the listening section.
The reading section is easier than listening, generally speaking, though the first ten questions – “choosing the wrong sentence” could be a bit tough if you haven’t done any practice before. Many people don’t pay much attention to grammar when they learn Chinese or speak Chinese, but when it comes to taking the HSK exam, grammar will come back to bite them. If you are weak in grammar, pick up a grammar book and do some practice.
Pay attention to the timer as well, since you only have 50 minutes to finish all the reading. Don’t get stuck on the questions you can’t find an answer to. Just move on to the next question and get back to that question if you have time left at the end.
As for writing, you need to pay attention to the character limits. Since you are required to shorten the original passage from 1000 characters to 400 characters, it will not go well if you write the start of the story with 200 characters. If you exceed the character limits, you will lose points. I find it very helpful to summarize the story in my mind first before writing it down.
Before I forget, I’d like to remind you to bring two pencils (2B) and an eraser to the exam if you take the paper-based HSK. Though you can write with a pen in the writing section, I suggest you use a pencil instead. If you write something wrong, you can always erase it and write again. The paper will look tidy and neat.
Any more advice for people aiming to pass the HSK 6 exam?
If you to want to get a higher score on the HSK 6 exam, work on your vocabulary. I don’t mean just the standard 5,000 words by Hanban requirement. As I found out, there were many words in the reading section out of the scope of the 5,000. So when you are learning Chinese, work out some ways to build your vocabulary effectively.
Any recommended books for HSK 6 exam preparation?
I used two books primarily for mock tests. One is called 汉语水平考试模拟试题集(HSK 6-second edition) published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press. The other is called 汉语水平考试真题集(HSK 6-2018 edition) published by People’s Education Press. There are 15 mock tests altogether. You can get them in Beijing Foreign Languages Bookstore or on Taobao.com. You can also find many HSK mock tests online.
Are you proficient in Chinese with HSK 6 under your belt?
Nah, I am not the “I am so awesome, I passed the HSK 6 exam and I’m on the top of the world” kind of person, I am still learning lots of Chinese every day. In terms of competency, if you ask me “can you speak Chinese fluently?”, yes, I can, most of the time. But, if you you throw me a topic I am not familiar with, then I am not able to 谈笑风生 (idiomatic expression: talk cheerfully and humorously) like a native speaker yet.
What I mean is that you can pass any HSK exam if you follow the textbooks, learn the specific vocabulary and required grammar by rote memory, and take some proper training on exam skills, but to reach true proficiency in real life, you need to have a more active and diverse vocabulary, for example, colloquial expressions or slang to make you sound more Chinese in casual chatting, and big words, formal expressions and chengyu (idioms) to sound more sophisticated when giving a lecture, a speech or writing a report. I believe the journey of Chinese learning never ends!
Thank you for your time, Thomas!
My pleasure! Thank you for having me here.
Planning to take the HSK 6 exam? Then don’t miss out on the world’s best HSK 6 Prep Guide! Get all the tips and tricks you need to pass the exam!