HSK Language Test to be Overhauled for the First Time in 11 Years

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  • Lord of Avalon
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Interesting timing on this.
I guess it's a matter of time before the old scores are no longer valid and everyone has to retest.

The announcement, released via the official HSK Twitter account (https://mobile.twitter.com/HSKTestOfficial/status/1263362479553302529)  on May 21, states: "HSK is about to be reformed. In 2020, the Chinese Proficiency Standards will usher in a new change: a hybrid paradigm of 'Three Stages and Nine Levels' characterized by integration and all-in-one." That's compared to the current six-tiered system where level one is the easiest and six is "native level." Now, that highest classification with be further divided into three distinct levels to fulfill the need of advanced learners to acquire native-level proficiency certifications.

Additionally, the nine levels will be sub-divided into three larger stages that mark the examinees' current progress, which is apparently inspired by the most popular European language test, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

From levels 1 to 6, each has a corresponding threshold for the number of syllables, characters, words, and grammatical structures the test taker should be able to comprehend and use (as measured via listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation ability). These standards are considered the "four dimensions" of the new evaluation system and have been distinguished to "better present the uniqueness of the Chinese learning process." Meanwhile, for levels 7 to 9, there is no quantified evaluation quota for each level, however, test takers will be expected to know over 11,000 words and 572 grammatical structures.

New requirements as denoted by HSK level (number of new items/cumulative items)

So far, that's all we know about the new levels. However, in a pdf published by the International Chinese Education (世界汉语教学 shìjiè hànyǔ jiàoxué), they further outline the new proficiency standards for all levels. Compared to the current standards for HSK 1 to 6, it is not hard to see how the new system will alter the overall difficulty curve. For example, the current HSK 6 requires takers to master cumulative 5,000 words, half of which are new, and 2,663 characters, 978 of which are new. In HSK 3.0 though, students need to memorize 5,456 words in total, 1,140 of which haven’t previously appeared, while the number of characters needed has been reduced to 1,800, 1,500 of which should already be familiar. That's good, right? Not so fast.

All those words have to go somewhere, in this case, they've been divided among the lower levels: the threshold to pass HSK levels 1 to 4 have now all increased, with the word list for each expanding drastically, by a multiple of three or four. Let's take HSK 1 for example. Whereas 150 words is currently sufficient for someone to pass, that number will rise to 500 words in HSK 3.0. No word list has yet to be released for any of the levels.

There has also been no word on what these changes will mean for graduation requirements for international students in China. Until now, foreign students who study in Chinese are required to pass the HSK 6 test prior to graduation, while a HSK 4-5 certificate is usually sufficient for students taught in foreign languages to pursue graduate or higher-level degrees. If you major in medicine or a related field, an additional Medical Chinese Test (MCT) may be required.

While the changes seem intimidating at first, we're all for the levels being rebalanced to better reflect an individual's proficiency. For too long, levels 1-3 have felt little more than token certificates, too easy to pass with a little effort and making the jump to HSK 4 and up too substantial. Finally, adjusting the test to better reflect the CEFR system should help give the HSK improved weighting and caliber on the international stage.

alors régressons fatalement, eternellement. Des débutants, avec la peur comme exutoire à l'ignorance et Alzheimer en prof d'histoire de nos enfances!
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