Highly Stressful Kaoshi (HSK)

Written by uln on November 18th, 2008

I have decided I can’t really run a serious China blog without the corresponding “learn Chinese” section.

So here you go. This first post is about the HSK (汉语水平考试), which is giving me a lot of trouble these days. HSK is the official test for Chinese language organized by the Beijing Language University. Also known as the Chinese TOEFL, or the Chinese Proficiency language. It is a nightmare.

The second and last HSK examination of 2008 will be held on the 22nd November, which is this Sunday. And I have completed my registration and I am joining this time, and I am wondering how I ended up here. One day I told my teacher that I needed some challenge, and before I knew what was happening, it was all set up for me.

Yes, I have always been a bit of a masochist when it comes to languages, but HSK is beyond my wildest expectations. It hurts. It is the most stressful language exam I have ever done. You get less than 3 hours to read and answer more characters than any normal person would read in a week.

The listening part has to be my favourite. They play a CD with a guy babbling in Beijinghua, and immediately afterwards a lady comes up asking a tricky question about what he just said, and in the meantime you are supposed to choose an answer from four different options that have nothing to do with the subject in hand. You are still there wondering if you got the right CD track when there comes the man again with his next old chat. No repeats! you jot down your answer and move on to the next.

Among the hordes of professional Japanese and Korean examinees that will show up at Shifan University this Sunday,  I will probably be the only one there just for the sport of it. That must be the Olympic spirit I acquired earlier this year in Beijing.

GOALS: I am aiming at a 6th Level, which according to the official HSK should be enough to enter a non-language academic program in a Chinese university. According to me, the levels of HSK correspond quite closely to the age of a native speaker, so if I succeed in my goal I will be like a 6 year old toddler. Great! Then I will be able to update the age info on my profile.

That is probably what they meant when they said that China would make me grow.

UPDATE: I am still 5 y.o. I touched the 6 with my fingertips, but was short of 2 points in the grammar section (surprisingly the beijing gangsta-rap listening went fine, I think I got so obsessed with the listening that I overdone it and disregarded grammar). SHIT, I am going in again in April. If there’s anyone out there in Shanghai with similar level who wants to join me in the effort, please write me a note.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Nov

    Well, it’ll all supposedly make you stronger, or at least up your ability to talk about super useful topics like bookbinding and granite. I remember writing lines of the same character over and over for practice, which resulted in my being able to write 20-some characters per minute. And now I got to watch videos like this:

    Anyway, 加油!

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  2. Nov

    Hi Tom! Nice link, I am going to need more than a few of those steno machines this Sunday when the HSK CD starts spitting out 1250 characters per second of the old beijing gangsta talk

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  3. Nov

    Hi Julen, nice strategy for improving your Hanyu (or Beijing hua?) which remind me my TOEFL experience.And it has a quite sarcastic Chinese for it”托福”.My happiness depends on an examination? Probably true! We live in a certification kingdom, which generates a high-profit industry:Test-aimed training school!

    [Reply to comment]

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