HSK Prep Tips


Preparing for the HSK can seem like a daunting task, particularly when failing the exam can cost you both time and money. Many people fail the exam due to inadequate preparation. Therefore, it’s important to formulate a strategy before heading into battle.

We’ve put together a list of essential study tips to ensure that you’re one hundred percent ready to tackle the HSK.


1. Learn the vocabulary

As a general rule, you can’t do much in Chinese without knowing the vocab. However, a lot of people struggle to find the best technique to learn it. Here are a couple of ways you can approach memorizing the vocabulary:

A. Make yourself flashcards using the HSK vocab lists: If you find that you learn best when you have flashcards that you can hold in your hand, this is the option for you. The only downside is that you actually have to make the cards!

B. Spaced repetition flashcard software: Spaced repetition flashcard software organizes your flashcards for you, re-testing you on them after a certain period of time. Research shows that with this method, you are much more likely to retain vocab in your long-term memory.

Another thing that can help are graded readers. Graded readers are texts that only use vocab from a certain HSK level. According to some studies, seeing a new word within a broader context can strengthen your memory of the word. This option tends to work well in combination with the two options above.


2. Practice practice practice!

Have you ever experienced the dread of opening an exam paper only to find that it’s not at all what you prepared for? Exams can be unpredictable, so the best way to study for them is to use past exam papers.


Preparing with HSK mock tests is a great way of not only familiarizing yourself with the exam format, but also gauging your level of readiness. Do as many exercises as you can, then check over your answers to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. This will also give you an idea of where to direct your focus of study moving forward.


Click here for HSK past exam papers



Click here to take an HSK online mock test


3. Make a study plan

Forming habits is an essential part of learning a new language. Habits are how we ‘stick’ things to our long-term memory so that they can be remembered, not just for the test tomorrow, but for the later future. To do this, a consistent study plan is needed.


Think of it like this; cramming before an exam is like painting a fence with three coats of paint at once. You will most likely only remember fragments of what you studied, while the rest of it drips off. On the other hand, if you make a plan to study an hour each day in the weeks leading up to the exam, you allow time for it to set in your memory.


It’s a good idea to divide your study plan between the four areas of the HSK – speaking, writing, listening, and reading. As mentioned above, mock tests will show you where to direct your focus, and you can adjust your plan accordingly.


4. See Chinese for what it is – a language

Many people see passing HSK as the sole reason for studying Chinese. Those people don’t particularly enjoy learning the language, because to them, it’s just ‘preparing for a test’. In fact, compared to other academic subjects, there’s something very different about studying a language – languages are entirely human.


Once you begin to see how people use the language in everyday life, you also see how it can be fun, exciting, and beautiful. When you see the enjoyment in something, it no longer becomes a chore. To do this, you need to find out what interests you.


Browsing Chinese TV, movies, books, magazines, music, and podcasts are all good ways of discovering that passion. Once you find your ‘hook’ – something that gives you pleasure through the language – you may no longer see HSK study as just ‘test preparation’. It will also increase your ability to understand and enjoy the language.


Hopefully something from these tips will help you in your preparation for the HSK. Above all, find a way that works for you and make it regular. The key to doing well in any exam is time and preparation, and HSK is no different!

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