New HSK Levels 2021 – A Quick Overview

The new HSK levels have been confirmed and there are going to be 9 levels! At first glance it looks to be more difficult, but we’re excited about this positive change. They’ve updated the words to be more useful for your everyday conversation and evened out the pace of the levels. That means you’re less likely to jump quickly from HSK 1 to 3 and then get stuck going from 4 to 5 or 6.

The 9 new HSK leves are divided into three tiers:

BeginnerHSK 1, 2, 3
IntermediateHSK 4, 5, 6
AdvancedHSK 7, 8, 9

Here is a chart showing the change in cumulative words from the old exams:

HSK 1150500
HSK 23001272
HSK 34502245
HSK 412003245
HSK 525004316
HSK 650005456
HSK 7-9N/A11092
Old vs New HSK Exams cumulative words by level

As you can see, at HSK 6 the number of words is quite similar, but the distribution throughout the earlier levels is more even.

Here is a look at the number of words and number of characters needed for each level of the new HSK exam:

Level Words (Cumulative)Characters (Cumulative)
HSK 1500300
HSK 2722 (1272)300 (600)
HSK 3973 (2245)300 (900)
HSK 41000 (3245)300 (1200)
HSK 51071 (4316)300 (1500)
HSK 61140 (5456)300 (1800)
HSK 7-95636 (11092)1200 (3000)
Number of words and characters for new HSK exam

For levels 7-9 there is just one test and depending on your score you will be given a certificate for HSK 7, 8 or 9.

Besides the words and characters there are also grammar, syllabus and handwriting portions.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at the new HSK levels, check out this guide from our friends over at GoEast.

For the average learner, HSK 1-6 will still be most important, whereas the new levels 7-9 are targeted at overseas Master’s students and researchers studying or working in China in fields that require advanced language skills.

Overall, we’re excited about the new change! It shows how much Chinese as a foreign language is growing.

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