How do you know how much Mandarin Chinese your child (or you) has learnt? Well, simple. You do an assessment.
The unfortunate truth is, testing has a bad reputation for young children. Especially in Asian countries where testing is very stressful and rigorous. Testing Stinks. With a capital S!! I remember clearly my childhood mugging and preparing for the PSLE, O levels, A levels in Singapore… there was always the constant pressure to get good grades, so you can get into a good school.
However, testing isn’t all bad! We need to test to know where we are at. The problem is how we use that test result to dictate who is better/cleverer etc.
So please remove this idea of academic excellence from your head now and view assessment as constructive feedback to how much Mandarin Chinese your child has learnt.
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When should you start thinking about testing?
For me personally, as we are located in a non-Chinese speaking country, I have no sure way of knowing what my children’s Chinese proficiency levels are. Unlike children in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Malaysia where they have to sit for exams routinely, my children will never have to be tested on their Chinese skills.
This year is the 3rd year I have been homeschooling my children. At home, I generally do a quick reading or writing assessment based on the Chinese readers they are currently reading to check how much they’ve learnt.
This year, my son has advanced quite a bit, so I decided to sign him up for the Youth Chines Test, to gauge where his level is at, and to use that assessment to inform and guide my homeschooling needs. For my 2 younger children, I think I will wait another year before I will assess them externally.
You might be in the same position and want to know exactly where your children’s Chinese proficiency is at, these are the tests that can give you that information. Or perhaps you want to know where your Chinese proficiency level is?? These are the most commonly used Chinese tests.
The Chinese Proficiency Tests
Depending on where you are located, not all the tests are available. Most people would have heard of the HSK, which is the most popular and common Chinese test available. To be fair though, there are many other ways of testing, as you can see…The ultimate test is the one true test that will truly inform where your Chinese level is at! Keep reading to the end to find out what it is.
The gold standard of Chinese proficiency. It is a worldwide test similar to TOEFL or IELTS. This is the only officially recognised certification for foreigners applying to study or work in China. There are two components to the test: written and oral.
There are 6 levels of HSK Chinese test:
Level 1 – 150 Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 1 vocabulary and guide)
Level 2 – 300 Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 2 vocabulary and guide)
Level 3 – 1600 Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 3 vocabulary and guide)
Level 4 – 1200 Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 4 vocabulary and guide)
Level 5 – 2500 Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 5 vocabulary and guide)
Level 6 – 5000+ Chinese vocabulary (HSK Level 6 vocabulary and guide)
Hmmm…I wonder which Chinese proficiency level I will be at?
You can find apps or books that can help you prepare for the HSK Chinese test. As you can see from the book list below, the levels get harder from level 4 onwards, and there are 4 books devoted to the last 3 levels, that will teach you all the Chinese vocabulary you need to know to pass the HSK!
The Chinese Test website has a clear framework of the different levels of proficiency and requirement.
You can find sample Chinese tests for all levels on the Digmandarin website.
Watch the video below for a quick introduction to the HSK Chinese test.
Youth Chinese Test 中小学生汉语水平考试
This is an international standardised Chinese test for non-native primary and secondary aged children. There are 4 levels YCT Level 1 to Level 4.
My son will be taking this test in November 2022. I will update this post again after our first hand experience.
Digmandarin has a clear outline of the YCT, as well as as good comparison of the differences in Chinese standards between the HSK and the YCT.
If you just want to quickly gauge your child’s Chinese proficiency, the 4 levels of the YCT tests are available here for you to test at home.
I did a sample YCT level 1 test as preparation with Da Bao and he did surprisingly well! Which we were both happy about!!
Full vocabulary lists are listed on Digmandarin.
You can also purchase YCT activity books to prepare your child on the full Chinese vocabulary tested.
This is a Chinese language and cultural exam that is taken at college levels, undertaken with the course of the same name. Available only in certain countries: USA, India, South Korea, Singapore, China and Hong Kong. You can also earn college credit with this course, plus you can also get a Global Seal of Biliteracy. Oooh… fancy that.
Learn about the course and exam on the AP Chinese Language and Culture course page.
STAMP stands for STAndards-based Measurement of Proficiency) language test. It aims to “delivers accurate data on proficiency levels”. It is available in many different languages such as French, Arabic, Russian, with tests suitable for children and adults. You can find sample tests on the website. This can only be taken via an organisation, i.e. school, school district, language centres.
Avant STAMP website will give you all the details you need about this Chinese test.
Chinese Test Papers
Google Chinese test papers and you can find plenty of free Chinese tests from Singapore for primary and secondary school aged children. Have a go and see how your child (or you) compare to the rest of this tiny nation. Keep searching and you will also find free Chinese test papers from other Chinese countries.
You’ll find a lot from Singapore as we are a test-crazy nation! Testpapersfree is one such website.
The Ultimate Test
Send your children to a Chinese speaking country and see how they survive using only that language. China and Taiwan are your best bets!
This is the ultimate Chinese test of whether you can get around with your Chinese language skills. And also the best way to learn!
Remember, the results are meant to be informative and not to be used as a tool against your child’s learning!