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HSK Test Preparation: A Basic Guide

Are you worried about your upcoming HSK Test? Take it easy. Passing a language test does not require high IQ or innate talents but is all about planning and discipline. You can pass HSK of any level as long as you follow an efficient learning strategy and keep yourself motivated. If you have no idea where to start, this article will give you very detailed and helpful steps that guide you through all the ups and downs on the way.

HSK test preparation guide

1. Mental preparation

As taking HSK is a long and demanding journey, you should always get mentally ready before jumping right into any preparation for HSK. It takes an average person about three to five months to pass beginner’s level (HSK 1 and 2), one to two years to reach intermediate (HSK 3 and 4), and three to five years to pass advanced level (HSK 5 and 6). Acknowledging these gaps between levels may help avoid any misconception about the difficulty of the test level and know exactly how much effort you should put into your study. 

You should also adopt a good learning attitude. Cramming is never a good idea for a language test, which always requires long-term memory. The more you procrastinate, the more anxiety you push yourself into. Stick to your goals and schedule. Instead of leaving the most challenging Chinese tasks till night, why not try to finish them in the early morning? Then you can enjoy the rest of your day. 

A positive mindset is also a good starting point for your HSK preparation path. You can try to encourage yourself with positive thoughts every day, such as “you are doing great” or “you can pass this test with flying colors.” Try visualizing yourself knowing all the answers during the test and proudly announcing to your family about the perfect score. According to the Law of attraction, you are more likely to succeed if you keep thinking about it. 

Besides, you should not compare yourself with your fellows. There may be some people who can master the language faster than you. Be happy for them but do not let it dishearten you. Focus on your performance and your abilities, as at the end of the day, they are the only things that matter for your HSK test scores. 

2. Build a solid language foundation – vocabulary and grammar

Learn small chunks. Learn every day.

At this stage, when the HSK test is still months away, many people tend to force themselves to study 4 or 5 hours a day to acquire as many new words and grammar as possible. As a result, they may end up wearing them out and accidentally associate Chinese learning with an exhausting journey. After a few intensive learning days, they then quit studying Chinese, being unable to get back to it and forgetting most of what they have learned. 

On the other hand, studying Chinese 15 minutes a day can be good enough. The chunking principle in psychology suggests humans can remember from five to nine new information items at a time. Therefore, you should study in small chunks at a time, let’s say no more than nine new words and grammar, then keep Chinese learning as a part of your daily routine. Not only can this help you remember Chinese better, but it also keeps you motivated in the long run. 

Pandanese is a reliable Chinese learning tool that applies the chunking principle and helps you memorize new Chinese words via a perfect mnemonics and spaced repetition system. 

3. Improve language skills

After you have acquired an efficient quantity of vocabulary and grammar for the HSK Test, it is time for you to move to the next stage: cultivating each language skill. For HSK 1 and 2, there are only listening and reading tests. However, from HSK 3 and above, you also need to take a writing test. 

Listening 

The listening section tests how much you understand the spoken language. There are two strategies to master this skill: Extensive listening and intensive learning. 

Extensive listening is to either understand the main idea of a dialog or emerge yourself in an extended period of listening. The main point of extensive listening is to make your learning process enjoyable by using entertaining resources, such as a funny Youtube video or a Chinese show. Do not worry about looking up new words and grammar, or keep reminding yourself that you are learning Chinese. Be relaxed and enjoy yourself. Extensive listening makes you familiar and then better with the language effortlessly. 

The second strategy, intensive listening, is quite different. You are expected to listen carefully for a short period of time and understand details of the dialogs. In this case, you need to choose the official listening materials for your current language level, doing the listening exercises, and review them. Some recommended resources are textbook dialogues, listening sections from practice exams, or Chinese language podcasts. Although they are not fun, they give you a clear understanding of how far your listening has improved.

Reading

Reading comprehension may be the most challenging section in the HSK Test. One of the problems is the time pressure. You only have one minute per question. Before enhancing your reading, you should take the reading test from the previous year with a timer and find out how much time you need per question. If you are a slow Mandarin reader, you need to improve your reading speed by practicing reading as frequently as possible. You should choose between extensive and intensive reading strategies based on your reading comprehension level. Besides, there are some must-have application tools like SwiftRead, that assist you in increasing your reading capacity via rapid serial visual presentation, or RSVP. With SwitRead, you reduce unconscious rereading and minimize your eye movements holding back your reading speed.

Writing

While reading and listening show your comprehension of the language, the writing skill demonstrates how much you can use the language to express yourself. You should practice writing a diary in Chinese every day, which allows you to think and express your feelings in Chinese. Therefore, you can expose yourself to the Chinese writing system and create an emotional bond with the language, making it hard to quit learning. You can also practice writing Chinese based on given topics in HSK practice tests. 

When working on Chinese writing, the essential thing is not writing many essays but rewriting the old ones. How could you improve your previous writings? It is better to have a mentor pointing out your flaws and suggesting ways to improve your writing. If you cannot find one, you can also count on Chinese Grammar Checkers to proofread your essays.

4. Take the HSK practice tests

This stage starts around one to two months before the HSK exam. Your main mission is to get yourself familiar with the examination format and review your knowledge. It is advisable to spend about 3 to 5 hours a day doing tests from previous years. 

This is not all about taking tests but also keeping track of your performance progress. You should try taking one mock test twice. After finishing the test, you should score it and record the first result for the first time. However, remember not to look deep into the answers yet. Try redoing the questions you got wrong again with no time pressure and score once again. The first result reflects the score you will get under time pressure, and the second result tells how much score you can get with your real proficiency. The more you practice mock tests, the closing gaps between the two results become, since you gradually eliminate the negative influence of time pressure on your performance. 

Conclusion

You may find it exhausting while preparing for the HSK and daunting when the test is around the corner. But as we’ve mentioned earlier, HSK is a language test that requires takers to have patience and efficient learning methods. See if you can adopt any of the above learning tips to nail the test and enjoy the experience at the same time!

Good luck to you!

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