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HSK Exam Reforms for 2020 and Beyond

From 6 HSK levels to 9 HSK levels! Find out more about the changes in the HSK exams for 2020 and beyond.

For those that don’t know, HSK stands for 汉语水平考试 (hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǎoshì) it’s a standardized Chinese proficiency test administered by 汉办 (hàn bàn) - Confucius Institute Headquarters, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. In essence, it is the go-to exam to receive a widely accepted qualification that proves your Chinese proficiency and you can use it to apply to study in China, apply for scholarships or jobs in China.

On the 21st, May 2020, the official HSK account on Twitter posted this:

Let's dive into the changes by comparing the current structure with the new structure.


Levels: Currently there are 6 levels

Words: In total, you'll need to have a vocabulary bank of 5,000 words.

Components: The exam tests 3 language components which are listening, reading, writing (for HSK level 3 and above) and the speaking exam (HSKK) is separate.


Proficiency: The proficiency descriptions will resemble more to the international guidelines such as CEFR, ACTFL which describe the achievement of foreign language learners.

Levels: A total of 9 levels (An increase of 3 levels).

Words: The total number of words needed for each level is likely to increase.

Components: Listening and Reading will still be a component for all levels. Writing will most likely not be for all levels. There will be additional components for speaking and translation.

Now you may be asking why!? There are said to be 3 reasons why the changes occurring and these are:

  1. To reflect the intricacies of the Chinese language – The syllables, characters, vocabulary and grammar you need for a beginner, intermediate or advanced proficiency in the Chinese language will be more clearly defined.

  2. To be more in line with international guidelines such as CEFR, ACTFL which describe the achievement of foreign language learners. There are 3 levels for the beginner, 3 levels for the intermediate and 3 levels for the advanced. The vocabulary quantity and requirements will be higher for the advanced levels (levels 7 - 9).

  3. To more fully reflect the components required for language competence. So instead of just having listening, reading and writing components across the levels. 5 competencies will be tested and these are listening, speaking, reading, writing and translation.

So my thoughts are that HSK levels 7 – 9 may be the new requirement levels for those wanting to pursue a Masters degree or a PHD degree in China but for those that want to pursue anything below a Masters or PHD degree, these higher levels will not be applicable for you anyway.

So that is what we currently know right now. If you do want us to keep you updated, please like this video and comment on what you would like to know. Please subscribe to our Youtube channel, so you can keep up to date with the latest updates. 下次见!

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