HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, the Pinyin version for 汉语水平考试, meaning “Chinese Proficiency Test”.

HSK is a series of tests for non-native Chinese speakers to certify their knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. It consists of six independent tests at different levels. Depending on which level you can pass, HSK certifies your proficiency accordingly, from HSK1 to HSK6. And since HSK is widely recognized and accepted, every time you refer to your HSK level, people can quickly evaluate your Chinese skills.

What Are the Six HSK Levels?

The six levels within HSK are HSK1, HSK2, HSK3, HSK4, HSK5, and HSK6. HSK1 is the lowest level in terms of ability and HSK6 is the highest.

According to Hanban, the HSK organizer, in this system, HSK1 and HSK2 correspond to very basic Chinese skills, using basic conversations and dialogues. Then, HSK3 and HSK4 introduce a more sophisticated knowledge of Chinese using more detailed and complicated dialogues and conversations and simple articles about daily life. Finally, HSK5 and HSK6 serve as indicators of high proficiency and fluency in Chinese, using long articles to introduce different aspects of China, including science, technology, economic and social life, Chinese history and culture.

HSK levels

Students will learn around 150 words and phrases to be able to understand and use simple words and phrases to be able to speak in basic conversation, including greetings, self-introductions, and small talk around a small range of topics, such as hobbies, shopping, date and time, weather and transportation, etc.
Students will learn over 300 words and phrases to communicate simply and directly on daily topics, such as daily routine, colors, clothes, shopping, food, study plans, movies, festivals, etc.
Students will learn over 600 words and phrases and be able to conduct basic communication in daily life, study and work. At this point, students will have a sufficient grasp of the Chinese language to communicate when traveling in China.
Students will learn over 1200 words and phrases and be able to discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese and can communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers in most common situations. Topics covered include transportation, personality, health, education, etc.
Students will learn over 2500 words and phrases and be capable of understanding a wide range of Chinese media, including newspapers and magazines, films and TV, and can express their opinions and ideas in conversation, as well as write and deliver a full speech. Content is covered using complex articles of 600-800 words, exploring topics such as history, geography, sports, art, etc.
Students will learn around 5000 words and characters and reach second-language proficiency in the Mandarin Language, and can easily understand what they read and hear, and express sophisticated ideas and opinions smoothly and accurately in written and oral Chinese depending on the context. Content is covered using complex articles of around 1500 words, exploring broad topics and complex ideas such as sociology, culture, sustainability, economics, etc. Students will also start to venture into exploring Chinese classic historical literature through select excerpts, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms.