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How to Pass HSK, the Mandarin Chinese Proficiency Test


Are you curious about what level your Chinese is at?

Would you like to be certified in your Chinese language abilities? 

Are you thinking about applying for a job or a college program in China? 

Do you need motivation to push your Chinese to the next level? 

If you’ve ever wondered about these questions, it’s probably time for you to look into a Chinese proficiency test called the HSK exam.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Study Strategies in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Step 1: Knowing the HSK Exam
  2. Step 2: Understanding the Six Levels and Finding Your Own Level
  3. Step 3: Drilling for the HSK Exam
  4. Step 4: Using to Help You Prepare for and Pass the HSK Exam
  5. Conclusion

Step 1: Knowing the HSK Exam

Taking the HSK Test

1- What is the HSK exam?

HSK stands for 汉语水平考试 (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì), which means “Mandarin Proficiency Test.” It’s a standardized test for non-native Chinese-speakers to assess their language abilities in daily, academic, and professional life. 

The test has six levels, with Level I being the most basic and Level VI being the most advanced. 

There’s a listening section and a reading section in levels I and II. From Level III and up, there’s an additional writing section; in addition, the Chinese characters will not be marked with Pinyin, as they are in levels I and II. All of the Chinese characters are in simplified Chinese. 

The HSK exam does not test on speaking. If you’re interested in testing your Chinese speaking skills, there’s a separate test for that: HSKK.

2- Why should I consider taking the HSK exam?

Taking the HSK Chinese proficiency test and getting the certificate can benefit you as a Chinese-learner in a few ways, by:

1. Providing a more tangible way to monitor your learning progress and performance (this is especially true for self-taught Chinese-learners). 

2. Opening doors to study at Chinese universities. Many colleges in China require that foreign student applicants pass the HSK IV. 

3. Offering an advantage over other candidates when seeking employment in China. Even though not every employer in China requires their foreign employees to have an HSK certificate, having one will definitely work in your favor.

3- Who is eligible to take the HSK exam, and how much does it cost?

Any non-native speakers, such as foreign students or overseas Chinese, are eligible to take the test.  

There are fees to take the HSK exam. Level 1 costs 150 RMB, which is about twenty American dollars, and it’s 100 RMB more for each level higher.

4- When and where can I take the HSK exam?

You can take the HSK exam any time throughout the year. There are usually one or two tests every month. Check out the HSK exam dates in 2020 here

The test can be paper-based or Internet-based. There are many HSK test centers inside and outside of China, where you can choose to take the paper-based test or Internet test. To find a test center near you, click here

Once you’re ready for the test, register by following the steps on this chart

Language Skills

Step 2: Understanding the Six Levels and Finding Your Own Level 

Level I

HSK Level I requires test-takers to know 150 Chinese words and very basic grammar patterns. At this level, there’s a listening section and a reading section. There will be both multiple choice and true-or-false questions. The test lasts about 40 minutes.

Basic vocabulary and daily expressions are used in the questions. For example, the reading section of HSK Level I tests one’s understanding of simple sentences, such as: 

Tā hěn xǐhuān zhè běn shū.

Tā zài shuìjiào ma?

Wǒmen míngtiān zuò huǒchē qù.

(Translations: “She likes this book very much.” “Is he sleeping?” “We’re taking a train there tomorrow.”)

Level II

HSK Level II requires test-takers to know 300 words and related grammar patterns. The test also has a listening and reading part. The duration is about 55 minutes.

At this level, you should have the ability to conduct daily communications such as giving self-introductions, describing weather and moods, making comparisons, etc. 

Below is an example of a dialogue in the listening section of Level II: 

– 小王,你女朋友呢?
Xiǎo Wáng , nǐ nǚpéngyou ne?

– 她没来。她下午要考试。
Tā méilái . Tā xiàwǔ yào kǎoshì.


Xiǎo Wáng de nǚpéngyou wèishénme méilái?

On the answer sheet, you’re provided with three possible answers in multiple choice format:

A. 要上班  yào shàngbān
B. 要考试 yào kǎoshì
C.  要开会 yào kāihuì

(The correct answer is B.)

Level III

To be able to pass HSK Level III, test-takers are expected to know 600 words and related grammar patterns. 

From this level up, there’s an additional writing section. For the writing section, you’ll be writing in Chinese characters on paper, or typing Chinese characters with Pinyin on a computer, depending on which form of the test you choose. In addition, Chinese characters will not be marked with Pinyin. The duration of a Level III test is about 90 minutes.

Language skills tested at this level include asking other people for suggestions, using conjunction words to express opinions, using specific measure words, being able to express present/past/future events, etc.

Here’s an example of a writing task:

Put the words and phrases below in the correct sentence order. 

妹妹, 最, 吃, 我, 苹果, 爱. 

Note that there’s no Pinyin on any of the Chinese characters.

(The correct sentence order is: 我妹妹最爱吃苹果。[Wǒ mèimei zuì ài chī píngguǒ.], meaning “My younger sister loves to eat apples the most.”)

Level IV

For HSK Level IV, test-takers are expected to master 1200 words. With a listening section, a reading section, and a writing section, the test will be about 105 minutes.

In the listening section, each sentence and dialogue will only be read one time. The materials used in the reading section are more in-depth than those for previous levels. 

If you have the ability to read Chinese newspapers and magazines, and carry out conversations on a wide variety of topics with native Chinese speakers, you should consider taking this level. 

It’s also worth pointing out that passing HSK Level IV is one of the requirements for non-native Chinese-speakers to study in Chinese universities.

Going to College in China

Here’s an example of a passage used in the reading section:


我的理解是:在需要帮助的时候,朋友会勇敢地站出来,及时帮你走出困境, 解决问题;在受伤难过的时候, 朋友会陪在你身边,逗你开心让你快乐; 无论你是穷人还是富人,真正的朋友永远值得你的信任。

And your understanding of the passage will be tested by the questions:

1. 根据这段话,朋友可以帮你: 
A. 获得爱情  B. 照顾家人 C. 解决难题  D. 走出贫穷 

2. 这段话主要介绍的是: 
A. 困难 B. 亲情 C.爱情 D. 友情

(The correct answers are 1. C and 2. D.)

Level V

Anyone wanting to take this level should have at least 2500 Chinese words in their word bank. With the questions being more complicated, it takes about 125 minutes in total to finish the test.  

Below is an example question from the Level V listening section.

On your answer sheet, you’ll see:

A: 男的手机坏了
B: 男的下载了一个没有声音的视频
C. 男的下载了一个新软件
D. 男的没有开电脑的声音

In the audio recording, you’ll hear:

男: 你帮我看看? 这个视频怎么没有声音。 
女: 我看看。是你下载的吗? 
男: 是啊,有画面但是没有声音。 
女: 怪不得听不到声音,你的电脑调成静音了。 


(The correct answer is D.)

Level VI

In addition to the 5000 Chinese words that test-takers need to know to consider taking this level, how difficult is the highest level of the Mandarin proficiency test?

Let’s find out by looking at the writing section of HSK Level VI. 

First, you have 10 minutes to read a story with 600 to 1000 words. While reading the story, you’re not allowed to take notes

When the 10 minutes are up, this story will be taken away from you, leaving you 35 minutes to paraphrase the story in about 400 words.

You’re only supposed to paraphrase the story, not give your own opinions. 

As intimidating as Level VI seems, once you’ve passed and earned the certificate of HSK Level VI, your  Chinese is officially as good, or even better, than that of average Chinese native speakers!

Celebrating Passing HSK VI)

Step 3: Drilling for the HSK Exam

After you find your own level and register for the exam, follow the steps below to make the most of your HSK test preparation and drills:

1. Go to the HSK official website and study the outlines of the six levels very closely. In the outlines, you’ll find information about what language skills are required at each level, which vocabulary words and grammar points will be tested, plus a complete mock test with answers. 

2. Once you have all the language skills listed in the outlines, take the mock tests. It’s very important to treat them like real exams. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted and take the exams within the time limit.

3. The next thing to do, which is also a great learning method, is to collect the questions you got wrong. Put them in categories and find out where your weaknesses are. Is it a certain sentence pattern or grammar point? Or do you need to work on your reading speed? Can you improve your listening scores by doing more listening practice? 

4. When you’re done with one mock test, search for more mock tests and do at least two tests every week until your test date.

Studying Hard Every Night

Step 4: Using to Help You Prepare for and Pass the HSK Exam

Preparing for the HSK exam on your own takes a lot of planning, research, hard work, and discipline. Don’t forget that has abundant learning resources that can make preparing for the HSK exam at any level twice as efficient.

1- Vocabulary

In addition to our frequently updated vocabulary lists that cover a wide range of topics, our lists of the 100 and 2000 core words will gradually bring you up to speed on vocabulary as high as HSK Level V.  

2- Listening

Can’t find listening materials that are appropriate for your level? Look no further! has hundreds of lessons with audio for you, from the absolute beginner level to the advanced level. You’ll find dialogues recorded by native speakers, with scripts, lesson notes, vocabulary lists, and grammar points. You’ll never run out of listening practice materials!  

3- Reading

The fact that Chinese has a non-romanized writing system makes reading even more challenging than it is in other languages. We have special lessons designed to improve your reading skills and prepare you for reading in daily life. Check out this reading comprehension lesson for intermediate-level students here. 

4- Writing

The downside of studying on your own is that you don’t have constant guidance on your learning path. Having personalized advice is especially important when it comes to writing. The good news is that with a Premium PLUS subscription, you can get one-on-one interaction with an assessment from our certified teachers. They’ll answer all your questions, develop personalized learning programs based on your needs, and of course, correct anything you write in Chinese. Try it out and submit your Chinese self-introduction in writing now

5- Speaking and More…

The HSK doesn’t have a speaking section, unless you take the separate HSKK to get credentials just for your Chinese-speaking skills. Whether you’re taking the speaking test or not, offers you the tools you need to master everyday communication.

Asking for Directions in Chinese

With a Premium subscription, you’ll be able to record your own speech to compare with that of a native speaker, so you can work on your accent and pronunciation. With a Premium PLUS subscription, you’ll get feedback on your speaking assignments from your personal teacher right away. The best part? You can do it anywhere, any time, at an affordable price! 

5. Conclusion

Everyone can pass the HSK exam when they’re well-prepared. If you have more questions about the HSK exam, or you’d like to know how our site can help you with it, don’t hesitate to visit us at and leave us a message! 

Happy Chinese learning, and good luck on your test!

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China Life Event Messages: Happy New Year in Chinese & More


Sometimes, a single sentence can allow humans to easily connect with each other, especially wishes phrases that everyone wants to hear. There are some unique life events, and different ways of celebrating them, in every single country even between the local people, and that’s where they share the same values and embrace each other’s traditions. So how do you wish someone well in Chinese? And what can you gain from learning how to say Happy New Year in Chinese, and other holiday greetings?

As a language learner, such events can establish a great communication channel with native speakers and provide a better look at the local culture so you can really be a part of it. In China, you can have a variety of opportunities to get involved, as long as you know the right thing to say. Now is the best time to learn those phrases of congratulations in Chinese that pave your way toward integrating into Chinese culture!

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Table of Contents

  1. Birthday
  2. Mid-Autumn Festival
  3. Chinese Congratulations: Graduation
  4. Lantern Festival
  5. Chinese New Year Congratulations
  6. Wedding
  7. Bad News
  8. Death/Funeral
  9. Injured/Sick
  10. Holidays
  11. Conclusion

1. Birthday

Happy Birthday

Undeniably, birthdays are one of the biggest events across all cultures! Traditionally, Chinese people like to eat longevity noodles, which is a type of noodle that’s all in one string. Nowadays, however, more and more people eat western birthday cakes. Now, imagine that you’re invited to a birthday party and don’t know how to say Happy Birthday in Chinese. How embarrassing is that? Don’t worry, though; the answer is here for you!

In Chinese: 生日快乐!
Pinyin: Shēng rì kuài lè!
In English: Happy birthday!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; informal.

In Chinese: 恭喜你又长大了一岁。
Pinyin: Gōng xǐ nǐ yòu zhǎng dà le yī suì.
In English: Congratulations on growing a year older.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

In Chinese: 恭喜你又向成年迈出了一步!
Pinyin: Gōng xǐ nǐ yòu xiàng chéng nián mài chū le yī bù.
In English: Congratulations that you are one step closer to becoming an adult!
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

2. Mid-Autumn Festival

Full Moon

Mid-Autumn Festival happens when there is a full moon.

Mid-Autumn Festival is another holiday where Chinese people like to unite together with their families. On the night of this holiday, the moon will be completely round. In ancient times, people appreciated the moon in an artistic way, which is why there’s so much Chinese old-style poetry about the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The staple food for this holiday is called 月饼 (yuè bǐng), meaning “moon cake.” It looks round and golden like the moon, usually with a whole salted duck egg inside.

Eat mooncake and appreciate the moon with families!

In Chinese: 中秋节快乐。
Pinyin: Zhōng qiū jié kuài lè.
In English: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 祝你们合家欢乐。
Pinyin: Zhù nǐ men hé jiā huān lè.
In English: Wish you a happy family.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

In Chinese: 你吃月饼了吗?
Pinyin:chī yuè bǐng le ma?
In English: Did you eat a mooncake?
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

3. Chinese Congratulations: Graduation

Graduation Cap on Stack of Books

Graduation means a whole new chapter in life!

Graduations in China are very similar to other graduation ceremonies. Students take pictures and wish each other a bright future. Despite celebrating academic achievements, people may shed some tears on their graduation, as it could be time to part with some of their close friends from school. One way to keep the beautiful memories alive is to sign each other’s uniforms.

In Chinese: 毕业快乐。
Pinyin: Bì yè kuài lè.
In English: Happy graduation!
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

In Chinese: 祝你前程似锦。
Pinyin: Zhù nǐ qián chéng sì jǐn.
In English: Hope you will have a bright future.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 希望你毕业之后一切顺利。
Pinyin: Xī wàng nǐ bì yè zhī hòu yī qiē shùn lì.
In English: Hope everything goes well for you after graduation.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; informal.

4. Lantern Festival

Red Lanterns

Let’s put on some lanterns for the Lantern Festival!

The fifteenth day of the lunar calendar is the Lantern Festival, a holiday that’s arranged very close to the Chinese New Year. On this special day, Chinese people eat 元宵 / 汤圆 (yuán xiāo / tāng yuán), a dessert made from glutinous rice flour, to celebrate. They also give each other riddles to solve with a theme associated with the holiday.

In Chinese: 元宵节快乐!
Pinyin: Yuán xiāo jié kuài lè!
In English: Happy Lantern Festival!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 我来给你出个灯谜吧。
Pinyin: Wǒ lái gěi nǐ chū gè dēng mí ba.
In English: Let me give you a riddle.
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

In Chinese: 祝您一家人团团圆圆。
Pinyin: Zhù nín yī jiā rén tuán tuán yuán yuán.
In English: Wish your family a great reunion.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

5. Chinese New Year Congratulations

Remains of Fireworks on the Ground

When you see these, you know Chinese New Year is running right now!

Wondering how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese? Well, you better know that if you’re studying Chinese, because the Chinese New Year is like Christmas in western countries. On this important holiday, people celebrate it by eating dumplings, visiting family, and lighting fireworks. If you ever want to be a part of Chinese culture, learn how to wish congratulations on Chinese New Year with some must-know phrases for the Chinese New Year!

In Chinese: 新年快乐,恭喜发财!
Pinyin: Xīn nián kuài lè, gōng xǐ fā cái!
In English: Happy new year, (I) wish you prosperity.
Usage: More natural for writing; informal.

In Chinese: 祝您万事如意。
Pinyin: Zhù nín wàn shì rú yì.
In English: May all your wishes come true.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

In Chinese: 我在这给您拜年了!
Pinyin: Wǒ zài zhè gěi nín bài nián le!
In English: Allow me to give you my new year’s blessing!
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

6. Wedding

Marriage Proposal

Traditionally, Chinese couples wore red for their wedding. However, modern Chinese weddings are very similar to western wedding ceremonies. A special custom that Chinese people still like to do is to give 份子钱 (fèn zi qián), or “gift money,” to the newly married couple for a wedding. This Chinese congratulations gift is one of the defining aspects of a Chinese wedding.

What do you say at a Chinese wedding? Make sure to study the Chinese marriage congratulations below to have something to say when you’re invited to a wedding!

In Chinese: 新婚快乐!
Pinyin: Xīn hūn kuài lè!
In English: Happy new wedding!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 祝你们长长久久。
Pinyin: Zhù nǐ men cháng cháng jiǔ jiǔ.
In English: I wish you a long time together.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

In Chinese: 祝你们一生恩爱幸福。
Pinyin: Zhù nǐ men yī shēng ēn ài xìng fú.
In English: Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

7. Bad News

Of course, there are always dark sides of life as long as there are bright sides. Now that we’ve learned all the happy Chinese wishes phrases, it’s time to learn some comforting phrases to show your support when hearing bad news.

In Chinese: 一切都会好起来的。
Pinyin: Yī qiè dōu huì hǎo qǐ lái de.
In English: Everything will get better.
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

In Chinese: 节哀顺变。
Pinyin: Jié āi shùn biàn.
In English: Please save your sadness and let things slide (for someone’s loss).
Usage: More natural for speaking; formal.

In Chinese: 别难过了,有我在呢。
Pinyin: Bié nán guò le, yǒu wǒ zài ne.
In English: Don’t be sad, I’m here for you.
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

8. Death/Funeral

Death is an inevitable topic in every culture, China included. The Chinese have a holiday where people go to the graveyard of their dead families to clean the grave and awake the past family memories. If you ever accompany someone on this special holiday, or go to a Chinese funeral, here are some Chinese wishes phrases you can use for the dead.

In Chinese: 安息吧,你会永远在我们的心里。
Pinyin: Ān xī ba, nǐ huì yǒng yuǎn zài wǒ men de xīn lǐ.
In English: Rest in peace and know that you will always be in our hearts.
Usage: More natural for speaking; informal.

In Chinese: 一路走好。
Pinyin: Yī lù zǒu hǎo.
In English: Have a good trip.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 希望你在天堂一切都好。
Pinyin: Xī wàng nǐ zài tiān táng yī qiè dōu hǎo.
In English: Hope everything is good in heaven.
Usage: More natural for writing; informal.

9. Injured/Sick

We are all human, and we may get injured or sick once in a while. When we’re in such a vulnerable state, we need nothing more than a heartwarming wish from loved ones. Traditionally, staple foods for sick people are boiled chicken soup or some porridge; if you ever want to show your care beyond words, that’s the way to go. But for now, let’s first learn some basic Chinese phrases for condolences, such as “wishing you good health” in Chinese. Here are some phrases to show your friends and loved ones that you care!

In Chinese: 好好照顾自己。
Pinyin: Hǎo hǎo zhào gù zì jǐ.
In English: Take care of yourself.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; informal.

In Chinese: 快点好起来啊。
Pinyin: Kuài diǎn hǎo qǐ lái a.
In English: Get well soon.
Usage: More natural for writing; informal.

In Chinese: 祝您身体健康。
Pinyin: Zhù nín shēn tǐ jiàn kāng.
In English: Wishing you good health.
Usage: More natural for writing; formal.

10. Holidays

More Chinese wish phrases? No problem! There are many more unique holidays in China that you may not know! For example, the Chinese traditional Valentine’s Day is on July 7, which originated from a romantic fairytale of the Weaver Girl. Now, modern Chinese couples like to celebrate Valentine’s Day on May 20 because the pronunciation of 520 in Chinese sounds very similar to “I love you” in Chinese. Holidays like April Fool’s Day are a huge thing in China as well. Many young people take advantage of this day to confess their romantic feelings for one another! Lastly, you’ll learn how to say Chinese Christmas greetings and happy holidays in Mandarin Chinese.

In Chinese: 情人节/七夕快乐。
Pinyin: Qíng rén jié /Qī xī kuài lè.
In English: Happy Valentine’s Day.
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 愚人节快乐!
Pinyin: Yú rén jié kuài lè!
In English: Happy April Fool’s Day!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 圣诞节快乐!
Pinyin: Shèng dàn jié kuài lè!
In English: Merry Christmas!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

In Chinese: 假期快乐!
Pinyin: Jiǎ qī kuài lè!
In English: Happy holidays!
Usage: Natural for both speaking and writing; formal.

11. Conclusion

Basic Questions

Now, do you remember how to say “happy holidays” in Mandarin Chinese? How about Happy New Year or Merry Christmas in Chinese? This article certainly is a life-saver when it comes to being involved in life events. Now you don’t ever have to worry about being awkward during such occasions.

We’re dedicated to fulfilling every language learner’s needs. If you have any more questions about Chinese in store for us, visit ChineseClass101 to start an adventure in finding those answers. You won’t regret it!

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Learn Chinese Direct from Beijing with

Dear Chinese Students,

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of This is a joint project between Popup Chinese and the folks at Innovative Language Learning.

If you’re familiar with the Innovative Language approach to teaching, you’ll know the strength of their materials has always been tight, step-by-step progressive lessons for beginners. At Popup Chinese, we’ve historically geared our materials towards more advanced students, so when we had the chance to cooperate with the Innovative team and work together to build something that could take advantage of the powerful system they’ve already built we leapt at the chance, and began work designing a focused and stepwise program for Mandarin instruction.

Although a few hints leaked out (*ahem*), for the past few months we’ve worked somewhat stealthily to build the best team possible for the task. You’ll find our progressive beginner lessons hosted by none other than the famous Frank Fradella. Other big names on our roster are Amber Scorah and of course everyone on our existing team like Echo Yao and Brendan O’Kane. This is a great team and I can say with confidence I’ve never worked with a stronger one. With more than 100 lessons on the new site, our content is off to a good start too. As Frank said once after a marathon recording session, “our first twenty lessons here teach more than I learned in a whole year studying elsewhere.”

We think this is a great step forward and look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts as well. It is definitely a major step forward for Chinese language education online. There’s never been a better time to learn Chinese, or a better way to learn it online. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced independent learner or a total newbie, we hope you’ll enjoy the work we’ll be doing both here and at ChineseClass101. Thanks for your support, and 加油 everyone!

Best from Beijing,

David Lancashire

Best from New York,

Amber Scorah