What is the HSK?

September 02, 2021

If you’re studying Chinese, you’ve probably heard about the HSK. Find out everything you want to know and things you may never have thought to ask about the exam.

Check out our other blogs on "How to Sign Up for the HSK", "What to Expect on HSK 1-4"and "What to Expect on HSK 5 and 6".

Chapter 1 What is it?
Chapter 2 Why should I take it?
Chapter 3 How many levels are there?
Chapter 4 When is the test offered?
Chapter 5 Where can I take the test?
Chapter 6 What is a passing grade?
Chapter 7 What level should I take?
Chapter 8 Does the HSK cost money?
Chapter 9 Do I have to write Chinese characters?
Chapter 10 Will the HSK test my oral Chinese?


  1. What is it?

    HSK is short for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (Chinese Proficiency Exam). The HSK is the official language examination to test non-native Chinese speakers’ language level.

    It is designed and offered by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) for people studying Chinese.



    You can think of it as the Chinese version of the Common European Framework (CEF).

    Please note that these are estimations.

    Many sinologists agree that the HSK levels are not directly equivalent to the CEF levels.


  2. Why should I take it?

    For fun! Just kidding. (Unless test-taking is your hobby—you do you.) Passing Level 4 and above is beneficial to foreigners interested in living, working, or studying in China. You can attend a Chinese university and get a job in a Chinese company. A passing score can even improve your odds of getting a Chinese work visa.

  3. How many levels are there?

    Six. HSK 1 is the most basic, and HSK 6 is the most advanced.

  4. When is the test offered?

    The HSK is offered monthly at various locations. To find the date most suitable for you, check the HSK testing dates for 2021.

    taking the HSK: testing dates
    Exams are on Saturday or Sunday. (Double check when you register.)

    Levels 2, 4, and 6 test at 9:00am. Be there by 8:30.

    Levels 1, 3, and 5 test at 13:30. Be there by 13:00.

  5.  Where can I take the test?

    You can take the exam both in China and in countries across the globe.

    When you register, you can select your continent, country, and nearest testing center. Often the test is held in local Confucius Institutes or universities.

    taking the HSK: where can I take it

  6. What is a passing grade?

    If you take HSK level 1 or level 2, the maximum grade is 200. A passing grade is 120 points or higher.

    If you take HSK levels 3, 4, 5, or 6 the maximum grade is 300. A passing grade is 180 points or higher.

  7. What level should I take?

    If you aren’t sure what level HSK you should prepare for, you can download previous versions of the exam for a practice run.

    You can also contact us for a free level evaluation. 😉

  8. Does the HSK cost money?

    They say the best things in life are free, but the exam does indeed cost. The price varies by level.

    taking the HSK: prices

  9. Do I have to write Chinese characters?

    If you are located in China, the answer is no-you don't have to.

    There is also the option of a computer-based test, so you can type the characters instead. If you want to test your writing knowledge, sign up for the paper-based test. Maybe brush up on your pinyin and stroke order.

    If you are outside of China, availability of the computer-based test is limited. Double-check when you register.

  10. Will the HSK test my oral Chinese?

    No. If you want to evaluate your spoken Chinese level, sign up for the HSKK (Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi)-the Chinese Oral Proficiency Exam.

    The HSKK has 3 levels—Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced.


Want to make sure you are ready for the exam? Sign up for our HSK prep classes.