HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi)

HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) or the Chinese Proficiency Test is an international standardized exam which tests and rates Chinese language proficiency. It assesses non-native Chinese speakers’ abilities in using the Chinese language in their daily, academic and professional lives. HSK test was developed in 1984 and the first HSK test was held overseas in 1991. Since then, the Chinese testing centers have spread all over domestic and foreign lands.

HSK test began to be designed by Beijing Language Institute at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). In March 2010, the new HSK test was introduced. The new HSK test was launched by Hanban in an effort to better serve Chinese language learners. The test is the result of coordinated efforts by experts from different disciplines including Chinese language teaching, linguistics, psychology and educational measurement. The new HSK test combines the advantages of the original HSK while taking into consideration recent trends in Chinese language training by conducting surveys and making use of the latest findings in international language testing.

Concepts of Compilation

In the 21st century, the idea of second language teaching has entered a post-methodological age, in which it is people-oriented, emphasizing group study and cooperation, embracing the communicative, task-based and theme-based approaches and aiming at developing learners’ integrated language skills. Under the guidance of these concepts, the compilation of the Course has displayed the following features:

1. Students-Centered, and Stressing the Development of Students’ Integrated Language Skills

The premise of the concept “combination of testing and teaching” is to serve students’ needs for taking the test, but it is not merely about test-taking. Our concern is how to improve students’ language skills under the premise of serving their needs for taking the test, which is also one of the distinctive features of this series. Take HSK Level 1 and Level 2 tests for instance. Though tests at Levels 1-2 have only listening and reading parts, not involving speaking and writing, we’ve still provided pertinent materials and exercise for Chinese pronunciation and characters in the course books at these levels. Besides, absorbing the strengths of the aural-oral and cognitive approaches, the texts are mainly made up of “situations + dialogues + pictures” which cultivate students listening and speaking skills, and the workbooks focus on training students’ listening, reading and writing skills so as to improve their integrated language ability.

2. Integrating the Essential Ideas of the Communicative Approach and Task-Based Language Teaching

The communicative approach stresses the appropriateness in language use and the role of context, while task-based language teaching emphasizes the authenticity of language and the acquisition of language through tasks.

Both approaches attach much importance to the authenticity of language, the design of situations as well as the development of language skills in communication. HSK is not an achievement test based on any textbook; it is a proficiency test assessing learners’ language abilities, designed on the basis of the Chinese Proficiency Test Syllabus. Bearing this in mind, we are aware that the Course cannot be written in the same way as the existing textbooks which require students to do repeated practice and drills on language points rather than covering every aspect that may be tested. Therefore, while ensuring the words and grammar points used are within the Syllabus, we employ different situations to give students a direct sense of how language is used in real life and help them learn and acquire the language through and personal experiences.

3. Reflecting the Concept of Theme-Based Teaching

Theme-based teaching is a language teaching activity focusing on the content and the connotation of the text. It emphasizes the diversity and richness of content. Generally, after a theme is chosen, students will be exposed to materials related to various aspects of the theme, in which way their internalization and understanding of the new content is accelerated; by further probing into the theme, students’ creativity may be developed. To relate to students’ reality and broaden their horizon, starting in Book 4, the Course uses themes as leads, each theme divided into smaller themes. The themes are interrelated with each other, forming an organic network of knowledge that will stay firmly in students’ memory.