Selection of images from Fragrant Mandarin YouTube videos

A New HSK Exam System - What Is Changing?

A graphic displaying the new word count levels of the HSK exam

Did you know the HSK is being replaced? The new HSK will add 3 levels and 6092 new words to the HSK. Instead of 6 levels, there will be 9. Instead of 5000 words at HSK6, there will be 11092 words at HSK9. A new goal for all Chinese learners!

What Does the New HSK Mean?

The next HSK system is set to launch on July 21st of this year, but there will be no changes to HSK exams in 2021. Additionally, it’s believed that the new HSK 1-6 won’t be rolling out until 2023-24 based on previous updates to the HSK. Though this isn’t confirmed.

Comparison chart of HSK vocabulary levels

The New vs. Old HSK

The infographic above shows the differences in vocabulary between the new and the old HSK. As the numbers for HSK7/8/9 haven’t been released yet, we’ve made some estimates. The main takeaway here is that the initial HSK levels (1-6) have been balanced out so that the degree of learning between each grade is more even. At HSK 6 there is only a 9.12% increase in words between the old and new HSK. Whereas the new HSK 1 will have 3.33x more words! Since it’s not set to launch for another couple of years though, you have plenty of time to get prepared. Which basically means continuing your learning as planned.

Will HSK Certificates Become Invalid?

For those of us that have already started out learning, it shouldn’t make a huge difference. Having to take the test again or your qualification becoming unusable for certain degrees is possible. However again, no official status on this has been reported at the present. Rest assured HSK will provide enough information in due time. It’s currently thought old HSK qualifications will still be valid for at least 2 years (April 2021).

The Future of HSK

HSK6 has long been an inadequate representation of the Chinese language. It simply didn’t cover everything. For example, holding an HSK6 qualification doesn’t equate to CEFR level C2, which is used in most foreign language evaluations. So it’s exciting now to see new grounds being made in representing the language accurately. Alongside its huge vocabulary, HSK9 will include 3000 characters, 1110 syllables, and 572 grammar points. Much of the current vocabulary will cross over with the existing levels, but there are changes throughout. I think the huge positive of this change is that learners will still have a structured path between HSK6, which was previously a murky abyss. This means that in time more resources and other materials will become available and the current trend will continue: Learning Chinese will become easier and easier as the years go by. Read on here: