HSK Scorecard

OK, I realize this is really boring, but some people have been asking about it, so I guess I’ll write about it.

I did not get the HSK score I hoped for. I wanted an 8. I got a high 7. I pretty much expected a 7, because the amount of vocabulary needed to ace the HSK was just beyond my ability to build in just one semester. Well, if I wanted to do anything in my free time besides study for the HSK, that is. I regret nothing.

So the surprise came Saturday when one of my classmates came to Shanghai and brought my scoresheet and HSK certificate. The test is divided into 4 sections: Listening, Grammar, Reading, Synthesis. My scores in each category were right in the middle of the range — no “almost’s” or “not quites.” My scores, respectively, were 8, 8, 8, 6. I got a 6 in the Synthesis section! I’m not sure why, and I’m not allowed see which ones I got wrong or even the test questions.

“Synthesis” (综合) is the section where you have to write in some Chinese characters, but that part was surprisingly easy. It could also have been the “choose the word which best completes the sentence” portion. They ask some tricky ones in there. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I was tired because it was the end of the test? Don’t know.

So my total points came out to 334. The cutoff for 8 is 337. Even if I had had 3 more points on the Synthesis section I wouldn’t have gotten an 8, though, because you can’t have the score of one category so far below the others. I would have needed a full 5 points to get the 7 in Synthesis and 8 overall.

So that’s the HSK. I’m not sure if I’ll ever take it again. Overall I’m pretty satisfied, but the nerdy student in me feels a lingering bloodlust for that damn test….


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. That’s EXACTLY the same score I got – 334/400, missing three for the 8. Sounds like our profile was slight different though, I only need 3 more in the last section, not 5. That last one’s horrible . . .


  2. Roddy,

    Maybe “334” is the fake grade they give white guys that totally kicked the HSK’s ass in order to save their face. Yeah, that’s what it is…

  3. Prince Roy at-large Says: February 13, 2004 at 1:31 am

    is there a web page for the exam with some sample questions? I’d probably be lucky to get a 6.

  4. I don’t know what your problem is guys but I totally got an 8. 415/400 cause I aced the secret extra credit section too. (Just kidding) John considering what else was happening all semester (us) and the attetion that you gave us, you did wonderful and you will forever be our Chinese speaking champ.

  5. Prince Roy (you’re going to have go grow up and become King someday, y’know), try http://www.hsk.org.cn – that’s the official site. However, they only turn it on when they have enough spare sunflower seeds to feed the hamster that runs on the wheel that powers the generator that supplies energy to the server, so you might need to keep trying. A look round my site will turn up some useful stuff too.

    Actually, I checked and I was wrong above. I got 336, with 3 needed in the Zonghe to get that up to a 7 for an overall 8. So I agree, 334 is a face-saving grade, whereas 336 is an absolutely stunning effort deserving of praise, garlands and . . .


  6. thanks for the tip, Roddy. If anyone else is interested, you can actually download MP3 samples of the beginner, intermediate and advanced versions of the HSK at that site.

  7. robbed! don’t succumb to the temptation to take it again. you’re so much more than a number to us: you’re also a translator and a free room in shanghai!

  8. oops. that was me.

  9. Did you actually manage to get them to download? I find that site very unreliable. I’m going to have to take it again, if only to justify the fortune I spent on textbooks in my last week of desperately trying to learn 200 characters a day.


  10. Roddy,

    yes I did, although the recordings aren’t much of a help w/o the answer choices. Still, it piqued my interest in taking a stab at it. Too bad it’s only offered in a handful of places here in the US.

  11. Considering 1.you learned chinese formally at ZJUT for the HSK for only ONE semester, 2.Chinese’s already your THIRD foreign language, 3.(of the greatest importance)you’ve got REAL abilities in Chinese rather then just for the test, you’ve done a really good job. Congrats!

    I took a look at its sample test paper and wow… all I could say is I appreciate so much you guys who have taken/are gonna take it. (Thumb’s up!)

    Not 8, so what? Hehe! And now I owe you a meal :p

  12. Roy,

    Where ya been, man? I’ve linked to that HSK site several times in the past. Here’s the most recent:


    I’m sure you’d do fine if you took it. You could probably get a 9 pretty easily, with all your exposure to real Chinese literature.

  13. Rainbow,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. The high standards I set for myself are not so easily dropped, though.

    But I can take you up onthat food! So how do I get it??

  14. The advanced exam scares me. You have to actually write an essay, rather than just isolated characters, and you have to use this strange antique device called a ‘pen’. I think I have one lying around somewhere, though I can’t figure out how to input the pinyin to it to make it write the character onto the ‘page’.

  15. John,
    Well, you can call me whenever you’re back here, or when you go halfway from Shanghai and come to visit my hometown. What do you say?

  16. John, sometimes the praise from your friends & contemporaries are worth as much or even more than a test grade. Yes, I know, the bureaucracy values the certification more, but what do they know? I hope that you can feel our pride & happiness for you coming through. Congratulations!

  17. i remember seeing your hsk blog entry … Commenting now.. I got same score as you..The results were out on Friday.
    Just wondering what hsk books you used.. I need prepare for the Dec 2005 hsk and we don’t have hsk preparatory classes.. Not sure how I’m supposed to prepare for the hsk. LoL

  18. Prince Roy! This is Mark, your old student at UCB. Your post just got me to thinking… Back then all of you grad students just seemed to know “everything” about Chinese, but now I’m beginning to realize how long of a haul learning this language really is for most people. Were there any HSK requirements to get that TA position?

  19. Mark,

    no, none. Of course, several TAs were native speakers. For those of us who weren’t, we had to send in a speaking sample, and we also interviewed in Chinese at the department. As you most likely remember, this is no fool-proof method, because some of the TAs (and even professors) had fairly weak spoken Chinese.

  20. John, I need to give it to you straight. 7 or 8 at the HSK: it makes no difference, both are classed as just Intermediate Chinese. And yet you have posted all over your archives on how great your Chinese is. Have you really been in China for 5.6 years to get 7 in the HSK?

  21. DJW,

    Thanks for the helpful advice.

    As for your question… If you take a look at the top of this entry you will find what is called a date. In this case it reads “February 12th, 2004.” So I actually took the HSK over 2 years ago, after living in China for about 3.5 years. I realize that even in light of this information you probably still consider my HSK score pathetic. To my regret, there’s nothing I can really do about that.

    • Just saw the link to this entry on facebook. I’d love to know what DJW is up to these days. No doubt his translation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is forthcoming.

  22. Well, I was being mean, of course. But: I know vocab lists are controversial – there is no shortage of people who will tell you to learn naturally, in context – but I have found a wonderful book, 汉语水平考试词汇自测手册. It includes, not only the 8840 words (2907 characters) in the HSK, divided into 甲乙丙丁, but also a futher 1018 supplementary characters, giving a grand total of 9858 words and 3925 characters. I am learning them from the back!

  23. Hi,

    Don’t know if anyone will see this, as it is now 2008…

    Anyway, I’m going to be taking the Basic HSK soon, and I was wondering if it is better to leave a question blank if I’m not sure of the answer, or pick an answer, even though it might not be the correct one. In other words, are you penalized/have points deducted for not answering anything?

    Thanks for any advice you can give!

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