4 Tips for Conquering the HSK 4 Exam

September 19, 2022

Setting out to pass the HSK 4 exam can seem a daunting task. 1,200 words? 44 grammar points? It may seem a lot at first glance. However, with the right motivation and resources at your disposal, you can develop a great study routine and conquer the task in no time! In this article, we’ll break down what’s involved in passing the HSK 4 exam and discuss some helpful resources and tips for supercharging your preparation.

What is a passing score for HSK 4?

The HSK 4 exam lasts for 105 minutes in total and contains 100 questions distributed across three sections: listening, reading and writing. Each section accounts for 100 marks, with the overall marks available being 300. The passing score for HSK 4 is 180.

The listening section has three parts, each of which contain questions that are played through once. For the first part, test takers listen to a monologue before answering a true or false question.

HSK 4 exam 1

For the second and third parts, each question consists of a dialogue followed by a multiple-choice question.

HSK 4 exam 2

The reading section is also split into three parts. The first part is a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. HSK 4 exam 4

In the second part, the reader is presented with three sentences and needs to put them into a logical order. HSK 4 exam 6

Part three involves multiple-choice questions based on twenty short passages.

HSK 4 exam 7

The writing section contains two parts. In the first part, test-takers are provided with some jumbled up words with which they need to construct logical sentences.

HSK 4 exam 8

In part two, you must describe five pictures using the keywords provided.

HSK 4 exam 9

HSK 4 study materials

The first thing to mention here is, of course, the official HSK 4 Standard Course materials authorized by the Hanban (otherwise known as the Confucius Institute Headquarters). Here we have two textbooks (HSK 4上 and HSK 4下), along with two corresponding workbooks.

HSK 4 Standard Course materials

The textbooks consist of lessons in which each of the 1,200 words required for completion of the course are presented in meaningful contexts with English-language definitions. Reading passages are presented in both Chinese characters and pinyin. Each of the lessons also contain grammar and vocabulary exercises.

The workbooks provide listening, reading and writing exercises based on the vocabulary and grammar points covered in each lesson, and are designed to mirror the style and difficulty level of the HSK 4 exam itself. These books are indispensable in the armory of anyone preparing for HSK 4!

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Chinese Zero To Hero is a fantastic resource to combine with the Hanban’s official materials. For each lesson in the Standard Course textbooks, Chinese Zero To Hero provides a series of videos intended to deepen your understanding of the curriculum.

Chinese Zero to Hero HSK4 course bundle

Their materials complement what’s found in the textbooks by providing more expansive and accessible explanations for each of the 44 grammar points covered in HSK 4. They also help to expand your vocabulary using the characters studied on the course, help you differentiate between similar grammar points, and help you become a more proficient reader and writer of Chinese sentences.

Their HSK 4 material contains 248 videos, estimated to be around 20 weeks of study material, and costs $64. Keep an eye out for discounts, especially around Chinese New Year!

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The Chairman’s Bao is a news-based graded reader for students of Chinese. The platform boasts many thousands of news articles suitable for students at HSK 4 level (as well as every other stage of the HSK process).

The Chairman-s Bao logo

Although the official HSK coursebooks are fantastic, the subject matter can be a little monotonous for some. The Chairman’s Bao has the advantage of offering highly engaging, up-to-date and relatable content based on a wide variety of topics. Whether on the website or the app, you can filter for topics as varied as aviation, animals, pop culture and sport - there’s something for everybody.

While reading articles, you can click on any word or phrase you’re not familiar with and a definition will be provided, in addition to an indicator as to which HSK level the word is associated with.

There are a limited number of articles available to those who have not signed up for the premium service - those willing to spend $80 annually have access to the vast number of articles available on the platform. 1,600 new HSK-graded articles are added per year, so you will never run out of content to browse through. Again, discounts are often made available.

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Many students also find spaced repetition software (SRS) useful for the purposes of passing HSK 4. Creating and consistently reviewing flashcards through an SRS is one of the most efficient ways of memorizing vocabulary. The best results come from creating sentence flashcards where new vocabulary is learned in a meaningful context. Notable examples of spaced repetition software include Anki and Quizlet.

Anki homepage

The folks over at Chinese Zero To Hero have kindly created flashcard decks for each of the lessons in the official HSK 4 textbooks, which can be studied on Quizlet.

Quizlet homepage

Tips to pass HSK 4


Creating a consistent study routine is crucial: setting aside a little time each day for reading, listening or vocabulary review will be hugely beneficial. This may seem daunting at first, but a week or two into the process it’ll feel like second nature.

Maximize your Time

Try to make use of gaps you have in your day when you could be engaging with Chinese language content - for example, Mandarin Corner has many interesting podcasts appropriate for students at HSK 4 level that you could be listening to when driving your car or washing the dishes.

Stay Positive

Maintaining a positive mindset around your language learning is crucial if you’re to be successful with HSK 4. If you’re getting bored of one thing, don’t be afraid to spice things up! Focusing not only on the Standard Course textbooks, but also on other material appropriate for your level, will help to keep the language learning process fresh and exciting. Netflix can be a powerful resource. Graded readers such as The Chairman’s Bao have the advantage of being both highly engaging and also very much based around HSK 4 grammar and vocabulary.

Find a Teacher

Of course, most important of all is to find a Mandarin teacher that stimulates, excites and motivates you. Luckily for you, here at Culture Yard we have a range of magnificent teachers ready to meet your every need!


Once you’ve passed your HSK 4 exam, you will be comfortable using Chinese to discuss a wide range of topics and will be able to speak with basic fluency. Given that Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to pick up, this will be a major achievement! We at Culture Yard wish you all the best on your language learning journey. If you want some help along the way, sign up for online Chinese classes via Zoom.

About the Author

David Lee is a Mandarin enthusiast and hotpot fiend hailing from Ireland.