“Knowledge is having the right answer. Intelligence is asking the right question.” - Unknown
It has been estimated that there are around 100 million people in the world learning Chinese today, which is a huge jump from the 30 million around the early 2000s. When we say Chinese, we mean Mandarin Chinese, one of the many Chinese languages spoken in mainland China and the one most commonly taught to people both inside China and around the world.
You may want to learn to read, write, and speak Chinese for professional reasons. This would mean you'll need to prove your level of fluency with Chinese exams.
If you've just started learning Chinese in a language school or with a tutor, why not work towards taking the HSK test to certify your level in the language?
As a beginner, the first test you can take in your second language is the HSK 1 exam. In this guide, we’ll tell you what the exam is, what you'll need to learn, how to prepare for it, what to do on the day, and what benefits you can gain from the HSK exam.
Read on and let’s get to know about HSK Malaysia.
How Many Levels Are There in HSK?
The Chinese HSK is a level test similar to the TOEIC or TOEFL for those who learn English. It’s a test that ascertains users’ proficiency in the language. The HSK, romanised as Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, is the official Mandarin Chinese proficiency test for non-native speakers. The HSK is administered and certified by the Confucius Institute (Hanban).
Just like the TOEIC, the HSK is widely recognised around the world. It’s proof of the user's proficiency without having to do any additional tests. This official Mandarin exam is very useful if you want to travel to China or study as an exchange student.
How many HSK levels are there?
There are six levels in the HSK, which range from HSK 1 to HSK 6. In terms of language ability, HSK 1 is at the lowest level while HSK 6 is the highest. You will be tested on your listening, reading and writing skills in Mandarin when you take this Chinese exam.
When test-takers pass the HSK, they will be equipped with different levels of Chinese language abilities. With HSK 1, test takers can understand and use very simple Chinese phrases. Those in HSK 2 have an excellent grasp of basic Chinese and can communicate in simple and routine tasks.
HSK 3 test-takers can use basic level Chinese in their daily, academic, and professional lives. In fact, they can manage most communication in Chinese when travelling in China. Those who have passed HSK 4 can communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers on a variety of topics.
As an advancement to the rest of the levels, those in HSK 5 can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, enjoy Chinese films and present a complete speech in Mandarin. In the final level that is HSK 6, test takers can easily make sense of written and spoken information in Chinese, along with expressing themselves effectively in written and spoken Mandarin.
Who can take the HSK test?
You do not need to have any prior certification in Chinese to sit for the HSK. While this means that anyone is welcome to sit for this Chinese exam, it is also important that you examine the purposes for taking HSK Mandarin.
A lot of HSK test-takers are employees who want to stand out at the international level. By showing that you’ve put in the effort to learn difficult HSK levels, you will be highly demanded by Chinese companies and may even be granted the opportunity to work in China.
Students who want to get into a Chinese university will also have to sit for the HSK. China’s Ministry of Education makes it compulsory for potential students wanting to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a Chinese university to pass the HSK 4.
You can also take the HSK exam to gain an advantage when applying for universities and scholarships.
What Exactly is the HSK 1 Chinese Exam?
In general, HSK 1 assesses the ability of test-takers in the application of everyday Chinese. This first level of the HSK corresponds to the A1 Level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
The HSK 1 is intended for students who have studied Mandarin for one university semester, equivalent to half an academic year. These students have mastered commonly used Chinese words and basic patterns in grammar.
What does the HSK 1 look like?
The Chinese exam lasts 35 minutes and includes two parts: listening comprehension and reading comprehension. These two parts are very important. Each part includes 20 questions, divided into four parts. The total of these 40 items accumulates a score of 200 points, with listening and reading each representing 100 points.
About 15 minutes are spent on the listening test before moving on to the reading test. Don’t panic as you have three minutes at the end of the listening test to write down your answers. The remaining time is spent on the reading test, which is about 17 minutes.
In the listening test, the recording of every item is played twice. Test-takers have to answer true-or-false questions, select the correct corresponding pictures, and choose the best answer out of three possible answers.
The reading test assesses whether test-takers can judge the consistency between pictures and phrases. Additionally, they need to choose the correct pictures, match the correct answers to questions, and fill in the blanks.
All the items in the paper are shown in Pinyin. To pass the exam, you need a minimum of 120 points. However, the higher your score, the more you can show how proficient you are in HSK Mandarin.
Ready for an adventure?
What Skills Will You Need to Learn for the HSK 1?
Once you’ve signed up for the Chinese test, it’s time to start practising for the big day.
However, what skills will you need to learn?
One of the most difficult things about Chinese is learning all the Chinese characters. Each level of the HSK test has a number of characters you’ll have to learn. The more characters you know, the easier it’ll be to read and write in Chinese.
You’ll need to learn a lot to reach level 6 and become bilingual. For the time being, and to get the HSK 1 exam, you’ll need to understand some simple and common expressions.
To pass the HSK 1 exam, you’ll need to know 150 characters. To help you, we’ve provided the Pinyin transcription alongside.
Here’s a small list of characters you should know:
- 爱 / ài / love
- 八 / bā / eight
- 爸爸 / bàba / father
- 杯子 / bēizi / cup
- 北京 / Běijīng / Beijing
- 本 / běn / this
- 不客气 / bù kèqi / you are welcome
- 不 / bù / no, not
- 菜 / cài / dish, vegetables
- 茶 / chá / tea
- 吃 / chī / eat
- 出租车 / chūzūchē / taxi
- 打电话 / dǎ diànhuà / call
- 大 / dà / big
- 的 / de / of
- 点 / diǎn / point
- 电脑 / diànnǎo / computer
Understanding Simple Phrases
Some exercises in the HSK 1 exam require you to complete sentences with a Chinese character. This means that you’ll need to understand the structure and know the character. Practise the different common phrases with the right vocabulary. You can use online resources to help you with this.
Accustom Your Ear to the Chinese Accent
Knowing how Chinese is pronounced is useful for passing the test and you should accustom yourself to the Chinese accent. In fact, in the listening part of the exam, you’ll hear a native Chinese speaker. You can score well in this listening test if you become familiar with the accent.
How Do You Prepare for the Mandarin Chinese Test?
There are a number of solutions to help you pass the test and learn all the Chinese characters you need to. With private Chinese tutorials, group classes, Chinese lessons, and online learning, there’s something for everyone. You’ll need between 2 and 3 hours of Chinese study per week per semester.
Taking Chinese Lessons
In most cities in Malaysia, and especially in places where there are significant Chinese groups, you can easily find a place offering Chinese language lessons or Chinese associations providing Chinese language education. The Malaysian Confucius Institute branches are some of the first places you can consider visiting.
Chinese lessons will teach you what you need to know about Chinese vocabulary. Chinese teachers will also provide you with useful techniques and recommend resources like dictionaries for remembering new words and characters.
Practise Your Chinese Online
You can also find past papers for the HSK on the internet. By familiarising yourself with the exercises on the exam, there won’t be any surprises the day you sit down to take the test.
With websites and apps, there are plenty of different ways to prepare for your exam. With just a quick online search, you’ll find the perfect site or digital resource.
Teaching Yourself Chinese
You can also teach yourself Chinese characters. Learning Chinese on your own is a great option for your very first steps. However, you may eventually hit a roadblock. After all, all resources have their limits.
You could always travel to China in order to practise speaking Chinese with native Mandarin speakers. It’s much easier to learn Mandarin by going abroad. You’ll also have an opportunity to experience Chinese culture, Chinese food, and events like the Chinese new year, etc.
Get Help From a Private Chinese Tutor
If you don’t want to commit to the full year of studying or would like to benefit from personalised lessons tailored to you, you can opt for private Chinese lessons with a tutor. This option allows you to choose your own Chinese programme.
Unlike other Chinese language courses (like Chinese MOOCs or the Chinese A-Level), you're in charge of your own language learning. If you need to focus on the spoken language, your tutor can put together a course with a lot of intensive activities on Chinese pronunciation and having a conversation.
If you're struggling with Chinese grammar, they can make sure you have enough time to study the rules of the language and focus on reading and writing.
Learning Chinese is more than just knowing how to say Malaysia in Mandarin.
For those interested in the country, your tutor can blend language and culture and teach you about Chinese history as well as Chinese Mandarin language skills. After all, you'll be the only student in the class and the language course is just for you.
How Can I Learn HSK?
You don’t need to look any further if you are looking for a private Chinese tutor.
Find a tutor who is passionate about teaching Mandarin Chinese on the Superprof Tutors page. You just need to decide whether you’d like to have your Chinese classes in person or online. Do this by choosing either the Around Me or the Online option.
Those who take HSK Malaysia may have different needs when it comes to learning Mandarin - some may need more help with reading, others perhaps in their listening or writing. A Superprof Mandarin tutor is the right choice because you can find a tutor who suits your language learning needs.
If studying for the HSK exam feels like a daunting task, read through the catalogue of available Mandarin tutors on the Superprof page. You can get quality Mandarin tutoring to overcome the pressure of learning the HSK and at an affordable price.
At an average price of only RM60 for quality Mandarin lessons, you can learn about how to read, write and listen effectively in Mandarin. In fact, you can look for experienced Chinese tutors on Superprof, and check previous students’ reviews to make sure you are getting what you paid for.
When you learn Chinese with Superprof, you can take your first lesson for free.
How Much Does It Cost To Take HSK?
Just like how each level of the HSK assesses different levels of language abilities, so do the costs for these different HSK papers. Different fees are applied to the different levels of the HSK exam.
Depending on where you take your HSK exam, the cost of sitting for the Chinese exam may also differ. However, a general rule is that as you move up the exam levels, so will the cost of taking the exams. This means that HSK 1 will cost you the least out of the six HSK levels, whereas HSK 6 will have the highest exam cost.
Here are the base prices when you sit for any HSK test:
- HSK 1 - RM100
- HSK 2 - RM130
- HSK 3 - RM160
- HSK 4 - RM190
- HSK 5 - RM220
- HSK 6 - RM250
Is the HSK worth its price?
It is important to consider some downsides to the HSK. For instance, the HSK exam has no speaking section, meaning that your speaking ability will not be taken into account in the exam.
This may be an issue if you actually plan to improve your speaking ability in Mandarin since speaking is one of the core language components. And if you do want to measure how well you speak Mandarin, you would have to take the HSKK, which is another test under the Hanban to test your proficiency in spoken Chinese.
You do not have to sit for all the levels though.
For instance, if you’ve taken the Chinese language in your SPM examination, it is recommended that you take HSK 5 and above. Yes, that means that if you are already proficient in basic Chinese, you can bypass the earlier HSK levels and gain your certification in HSK 5 or HSK 6.
Remember also that this certification can save you money if you successfully obtain a university scholarship. At the same time, the costs you spend when sitting for an HSK exam will be rewarded with an attractive job resume and extensive career opportunities.
Advice for Succeeding on HSK Exam Day
After you’ve done all your preparation, you also need to sit for the exam! Are you well-prepared for your HSK test? Here are some directions for doing your best on the day.
Take Your Time to Understand the Exercise
It’s such a pity when people lose points on exams because they haven’t fully understood the activity or haven’t paid enough attention. However, you can avoid this situation! Take the time to read the instructions for each exercise. This doesn’t mean spending minutes and minutes of your time poring over each instruction but avoiding being too quick to answer either.
How do you stop yourself from making false assumptions about what the exercise wants you to do? Fully read and digest the exercise as it may be slightly different to what you’ve practised.
All you have to do is read the instruction and then look at the exercise itself to make sure you’ve understood what’s expected of you. Once you’ve taken this time, it will help you figure out the exercise. You can proceed with answering the question after that!
Although this is easier said than done, let’s remember that the test only lasts 35 minutes. Since you’re being tested on whether or not you know your Chinese vocabulary, it is important that you are sure of yourself on the day of the Chinese exam, and this definitely requires concentration.
Even if you hesitate on a question, thinking over one question for too long may affect your concentration. Move on with the exercise and come back to it later. Keep your focus level up and remember that your current level in Chinese should correspond with the level of the HSK test you are taking.
In the listening section, really focus your attention on what is being played aloud. Later in the reading section, carefully study the pictures and questions. It may be tempting to seek out all the answers immediately, and this may cause you to lose your focus - concentrate instead on the information being given and you will surely find the answers you need.
Learn to Relax
Preparing and sitting for the HSK exam can stress some people both before and during the test. This is understandable because with all the effort you’ve put into studying for HSK 1, you would most certainly like to do well.
Taking HSK Malaysia can therefore be overwhelming for some. So during your studies, why not spend some time relaxing? Relaxation techniques can help you lower your heart rate, reduce muscle tension, and directly decrease your stress levels. Using relaxation techniques can even improve your concentration and mood!
This will be really useful on the day of the exam.
Breathing exercises are another great way to relax since they directly calm the body and mind. Learning how to breathe so that you can calm down and relax the body is a skill you can pick up from widely available articles and videos online. Knowing how to relax can help you to get the most out of your brain, especially when you’re going to need it… like during an exam!
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