Last weekend I went to Portland to take the HSK, a test created by the Chinese government to test people’s proficiency in Mandarin. The test was developed in 1987 and by 2005 around 1 million people had taken it in over 120 countries. It is frequently compared to the TOEFL, which serves a similar purpose for people learning English. If you have a certificate from the HSK then many new opportunities in higher education and work open up in China. If your score is especially high then you stand a chance of being granted a scholarship from the Chinese government to study in China.
The levels of HSK tests are divided into three sections, containing two tests each. The elementary level has HSK 1 and 2, the intermediate has HSK 3 and 4, and advanced has 5 and 6. I decided to take the level 3 test, since this is what the people at the Confucius institute suggested as a first try. The test was divided into a listening section, a reading section, and a writing section. If you are in Chinese 331 then you shouldn’t have too much trouble with the listening, after all our classes have a pretty strong focus on listening. The reading section was also not very much trouble. All the characters in the reading questions were very common, but if you aren’t that confident that you know enough then you can find word lists on the internet. The writing section was the hardest because it contained characters that I didn’t know. Plus, I feel that grammar is one of my weakest points.
If you want to take the HSK I believe they will be holding it in Portland again in April. However, if you want to take the HSK 2 they will be offering it for free in November, just check you email.