What is the YCT?

September 23, 2022

The YCT exam is the Youth Chinese Test, a standardized exam that evaluates primary school, middle school, and high school students on their level of Chinese. It is offered by the Hanban, the same organization that offers the HSK exam. The exam is designed for students whose mother tongue is not Chinese.

If you want to sign your child up for YCT prep classes, read about our pricing for online private Chinese classes.


Why should my child take the YCT?

The YCT is a useful tool for measuring your child’s progress in their Chinese learning journey. Knowing your child’s YCT level can be valuable for helping them to improve their Chinese, as well as for enrolling them in an appropriate Chinese course in their school.

If your child is only beginning to study Chinese, the YCT can also be a good metric to evaluate the results of their Chinese education to date.

What is the difference between the YCT and the HSK?

The YCT is designed specifically for primary and middle school students, while the HSK is meant for high school students and adults.

YCT Level I is too low to be equivalent to the HSK, but the upper levels do correlate.

YCT Level II is approximately equivalent to HSK 1, YCT Level III is approximately equivalent to HSK 2, and YCT Level IV is approximately equivalent to HSK 3.

How many levels does the YCT exam have?

The written YCT exam has four levels: YCT I, YCT II, YCT III, and YCT IV.

YCT Level I

The first level of the YCT exam is suitable for Chinese learners who can understand and use approximately 80 basic Chinese words and grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying 2-3 hours per week for three months. Students at this level can understand and use common Chinese words and form basic sentences.

In total, the YCT Level I exam will take 35 minutes (30 minutes for the exam and 5 minutes to fill in personal information). The exam is broken into listening and reading sections.

The Listening section has four parts and consists of 20 questions. This section will take 10 minutes. The recording for each question and answer will be played twice.

Listening Part I is five true-or-false questions.

YCT level I Listening part 1

Listening Part II is five multiple choice questions.

YCT level I Listening part 2

Listening Part III is true-or-false questions.

YCT level I Listening part 3

Listening Part IV is five multiple choice questions.

YCT level I Listening part 4

The Reading section has three parts and consists of 15 questions. This section will take 15 minutes. Pinyin is included.

Reading Part I is five questions in which the test taker judges whether or not a picture and phrase match.

YCT level I Reading part 1

Reading Part II is five questions in which the test take match the pictures to the sentences.

YCT level I reading part 2

Reading Part III is 5 fill-in-the-blank questions.

YCT level I reading part 3

YCT Level II

The second level of the YCT exam is suitable for Chinese learners who can understand and use approximately 150 basic Chinese words and grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying 2-3 hours per week for a semester (around 5 months). Students at this level can handle basic communication on common topics.

In total, the YCT Level II exam will take 50 minutes (45 minutes for the exam and 5 minutes to fill in personal information). The exam is broken into listening and reading sections.

The Listening section has four parts and consists of 20 questions. This section will take 15 minutes + 3 minutes for filling in your answer sheet. The recording for each question and answer will be played twice.

Listening Part I is five true-or-false questions.

YCT level II listening part 1

Listening Part II is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level II Listening part 2

Listening Part III is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level II listening part 3

Listening Part IV is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level II listening part 4

The Reading section has four parts and consists of 20 questions. This section will take 27 minutes.

Reading Part I is five questions in which the test taker judges whether or not a picture and phrase match.

YCT level II reading part 1

Reading Part II is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level II reading part 2

Reading Part III is five questions in which the test take match the pictures to the sentences.

YCT level II reading part 3

Reading Part IV is five fill-in-the-blank questions.

YCT level II reading part 4

YCT Level III

The third level of the YCT exam is suitable for Chinese learners who can understand and use approximately 300 basic Chinese words and grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying 2-3 hours per week for two semesters (around 10 months). Students at this level can communicate on a variety of daily topics at a basic level.

In total, the YCT Level III exam will take 55 minutes (50 minutes for the exam and 5 minutes to fill in personal information). The exam is broken into listening and reading sections.

The Listening section has four parts and consists of 35 questions. This section will take 20 minutes + 5 minutes for filling in your answer sheet. The recording for each question and answer will be played twice.

Listening Part I is 10 true-or-false questions.

YCT level III listening part 1

Listening Part II is 10 multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III listening part 2

Listening Part III is 10 multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III listening part 3

Listening Part IV is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III listening part 4

The Reading section has four parts and consists of 20 questions. This section will take 27 minutes.

Reading Part I is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III reading part 1

Reading Part II is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III reading part 2

Reading Part III is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level III reading part 3

Reading Part IV is 10 fill-in-the-blank questions.

YCT level III reading part 4

YCT Level IV

The fourth and final level of the YCT exam is suitable for Chinese learners who can understand and use approximately 600 basic Chinese words and grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying 2-3 hours per week for over two semesters (longer than 10 months). Students at this level can communicate at a basic level on academic and professional subjects, as well as in daily life.

In total, the YCT Level IV exam will take 85 minutes (80 minutes for the exam and 5 minutes to fill in personal information). The exam is broken into listening, reading, and writing sections.

The Listening section has four parts and consists of 40 questions. This section will take about 30 minutes + 5 minutes for filling in your answer sheet. The recording for each question and answer will be played twice.

Listening Part I is 10 true-or-false questions.

YCT level IV listening part 1

Listening Part II is 10 matching questions in which the test taker must match an image to the correct sentence based on what they hear.

YCT level IV listening part 2

Listening Part III is 10 multiple-choice questions.

YCT level IV listening part 3

Listening Part IV is 10 true-or-false questions.

YCT level IV listening part 4

The Reading section has four parts and consists of 30 questions. This section will take 30 minutes.

Reading Part I is five multiple-choice questions in which the test taker matches a picture and the correct sentence.

YCT level IV reading part 1

Reading Part II is 10 matching questions.

YCT level IV reading part 2

Reading Part III is 10 fill-in-the-blank questions.

YCT level IV reading part 3

Reading Part IV is five multiple-choice questions.

YCT level IV reading part 4

The Writing section has two parts and consists of 10 questions. This section will take 15 minutes.

Writing Part I is five questions in which the test take must order a sentence correctly using the words provided.

YCT level IV writing part 1

Writing Part II is five fill-in-the-blank questions. Pinyin is provided and the test taker must write the correct character.

YCT level IV writing part 2

YCT Speaking Test

The YCT speaking test has only two levels: YCT Speaking (Beginner Level) and YCT Speaking (Intermediate Level). For the oral YCT exam, a score of 60 or greater (out of 100 points total) is a passing score.

YCT Speaking Test Beginner Level

The Beginner YCT Speaking Test is designed for students who know approximately 200 common words and related grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying Chinese for up to two semesters for 2-3 hours per week.

The Beginner YCT Speaking Test takes 19 minutes. Seven minutes are for preparation and the remaining 12 minutes are for the exam itself.

The exam is broken into three sections.

Section I has 15 items. For each item, an audio recording will be played. The test taker must repeat the sentence. This section will take six minutes.

Section II has five items. For each item, an audio recording of a question will be played. The test take must answer the question briefly. This section will take two minutes.

Section III will show five pictures. For each picture, the test taker must describe the image in two to three sentences. This section will take four minutes.

YCT Speaking Test Intermediate Level

The Intermediate YCT Speaking Test is designed for students who know approximately 400 common words and related grammar structures. This is equivalent to studying Chinese for more than two semesters for 2-3 hours per week.

The Intermediate YCT Speaking Test takes 21 minutes. Ten minutes are for preparation and the remaining 11 minutes are for the exam itself. The exam is broken into three sections.

Section I has 10 items. For each item, an audio recording will be played. The test taker must repeat the sentence. This section will take five minutes.

Section II consists of two pictures. For each picture, the test taker must describe the image. This section will take three minutes.

Section III consists of two prompts that the test taker must respond to. This section will take three minutes.

YCT 2022 Test Dates

The next test dates for both the oral and written YCT tests in 2022 are October 22 and November 12.

Please note that these dates are for the Paper-Based Test and the Internet-Based Test (at center). Some exam centers will only offer one of the dates, so make sure you confirm the details when you register.

YCT test registration

We recommend using either Firefox or Chrome to register for the YCT exam. Internet Explorer does NOT support the registration website.

1. Go to www.chinesetest.cn and create an account. 2. Click “Register Now” on the landing page or “Test Registration” in the top menu. 3. Choose “Youth Chinese”. 4. Select the appropriate exam and level. 5. Fill out your location information and select your test center. (Note: If you are in China, the options for this part are only in Chinese.) 6. Next, fill out your personal information. 7. Upload a photo of the test taker 8. Confirm that the test taker’s information is correct. This is very important for testing day! If it all looks good, go ahead and confirm. 9. You will be taken to a confirmation screen. Make sure you read the information carefully. When you are ready, proceed to payment. 10. Pay. Once payment is complete, a confirmation screen will appear. That’s it—you’re all done!

YCT Test Results

For all written YCT levels, a score of 120 is considered passing. The maximum score possible is 200 points. For all YCT speaking exams, a score of 60 out of 100 is a passing score. Results are released three weeks after the exam date.

YCT Exam Preparation

If you would like your child to take the YCT exam, there are several ways you can help them to prepare.

Speak Chinese at home

We cannot stress this enough: if your child is learning a second language, speaking that language with them at home dramatically increases their engagement with that language!

If your child is learning Chinese, speaking Chinese with them at home will help them to progress more quickly and feel more confident using the language. If you do not speak Chinese, you can learn too! It will be a fun project to undertake together with your child or children.

No time? Take private online Chinese classes that you can schedule to fit your availability.

Do mock YCT exams at home

Download a couple mock YCT exams at your child’s level and practice with them. This will help your child to get familiar with the exam structure and content, so they will not be taken by surprise on testing day.

While you should definitely time them and conduct the mock exam like a real YCT test, try to keep in lighthearted! If your child feels stressed about the mock exams, they will also feel stressed about the actual YCT test.

YCT prep classes

There are several advantages to signing your child up for YCT preparation classes. While we still recommend speaking Chinese at home and doing mock exams with your child, YCT prep classes are a great way to reinforce the work you do with them.

First, YCT prep classes will train your child in the specific vocabulary and grammar they will need to pass the YCT.

Second, if your child’s teacher conducts mock YCT exams with your child, they can provide your child with feedback on their performance. (You probably know from experience that kids won’t always listen to you, but if someone else says the exact same thing, they’ll soak it up like a sponge. We know, it isn’t fair!)

YCT prep classes are also a good way to help your child become comfortable speaking Chinese with an adult they do not know, in a safe environment. Your child will not know the examiner conducting the real exam—if they are more comfortable speaking Chinese with an unknown adult, they will be more likely to perform well and not clam up on exam day.