April 27th, 2008

So it wasn’t so bad after all.

Well, this morning started far too early. Exams, after all, have never been conducive to a good night’s sleep. I woke up about quarter past four and couldn’t get back to sleep, and eventually gave up, got up, and started getting ready. I took my time, of course, having far more time than I’d planned. Anyway, got out the door as planned before seven. About quarter to seven, I believe.

Across the road, and, shit, ran into a huge mob of high school kids just about to start their visit of BeiGongDa or something. Anyway, managed to get through that unscathed and to the bus stop. After what felt like an hour but was probably only ten minutes, a 649 finally came. Got on, didn’t have to wait too long before I got a seat. Somehow, there just wasn’t any traffic to speak of, and not long afterwards I got off the bus at Chajiafen, on the other side of the Jingtong Expressway from ErWai’s south gate. Check the time: 7:26. No way. I’m there one hour and thirty four minutes early. Damn.

So I crossed the road and went into ErWai and wandered round, first looking for a toilet, then looking to kill time. After a bit of aimless wandering- after all, ErWai isn’t that big a university, and Chaoyang Lu outside the north gate was being torn up and widened, making it a less than salubrious location for an early morning stroll- I wound up just waiting outside my test room. For the remaining hour.

And the test itself? Well, the practice tests I’d been using (although not as well as I should’ve been) had me thinking that maybe HSK isn’t quite so daunting as it’s cracked up to be. Today’s test confirmed that. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not particularly confident of getting a high score, and I’m sure I cocked up big time on many questions. In fact, I’m expecting a relatively low score. But it’s certainly doable, and I’m sure I could’ve done a lot better with more intense preparation.

I would say the biggest issue, really, was time. Listening, well, there’s no way to make that go faster or slower, but the other sections did feel a little pressed. Even so, I finished everything within the allotted time, and was only still writing on one section as the examiner called five minutes left.

Second biggest issue, naturally, is vocab, and I think that’s what will have caught me out in most questions. There’s no easy answer to that, though, only the simple, yet hard: So more study then!

Of course, this was only the 初中级 (intermediate). I would like to move on to the 高级 (advanced) as soon as I can, and from what I understand, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Unfortunately I have a class to teach this evening.

8 Responses to “hsk”

  1. John Says:

    Yeah, vocab will get you, just as it gets our little darlings when they try IELTS. Does the HSK cover all four skills or not? You mention listening and imply writing, but say nothing about reading and speaking.

    How long before the results come out?

  2. wangbo Says:

    We had listening, grammar, reading and “comprehensive”, the last of which included the tiny little bit of writing, which was simply a cloze exercise requiring us to write a character. All but the last section were multiple choice. So no,it does not cover all four skills. There have been rumours, though, of a revamped HSK which does actually test language skills like IELTS, instead of purely test-taking ability like TOEFL.

    I’m not sure how long I have to wait for results. Better check that.

  3. Matt Schiavenza - HSK Post-Mortem Says:

    […] of persistence I’ll find the exam far easier if (when) I take it again later in the year. Chris I’m sure kicked my ass, by the […]

  4. J Says:

    My advice is: never take the 高级 HSK.
    Because I took it. And I should have stayed in bed.
    Not that long ago (last year), I took 初中级 and it felt almost like a piece of cake (well, err, I took it twice because the first time I didn’t bring a pencil so I had to take it again, but that doesn’t count). I got level 8.
    But last weekend… I went there and lost my morning. Seriously. In the 听力 part, that’s listening to the radio. Fine. But keep in mind they’ll ask the most vicious questions ever, like “did Mr Zhang think A or B?” when Mr Zhang spent 5 mins talking A but at some moment he gives a hint that he thinks it’s B. So far so good.
    But when it comes to the 阅读… I’ve been working as a translator for 2 years. I am confident about my speed reading ability (well, at least for a white foreigner… still no match for any Chinese obviously), but at some moment it was like: read 3 big texts (I mean, more than half a page each), and reply the 15 questions (5 on each text), you have 15 minutes, oh, and you have to write the answers in CHINESE, it’s not about ticking boxes anymore. I was, huh, wtf? I know that I should have read the books about 高级 I bought right after my successful marks in HSK 8, but even if you know it, when you’re in the exam room it’s still pretty awkward…
    After the second 阅读 part (this was of course not enough), you’ll have the familiar 综合 part, which is not that familiar anymore.
    After that, you’ll have a break. Breathe for 5 mins. Because after that you’ll have 400-600 characters to write in 30 minutes, about a pretty crappy subject. Last weekend it was about saving water when showering because Beijing lacks water resources. Who the hell would write: “I think we should not save water?” Dumb topic. Talk about debating the CCP’s policy here and there and foreign students would have more to say, but mmh, the teachers probably wouldn’t like the answers.
    This whole brain torture exercise is topped by a 口试, which was about reading a text (don’t mess up the tones or you’re dead) and two stupid questions – here it was: 1) What do you think your kickarse Chinese proficiency is good for (dumb) and 2) A school has money to build one building, and has to choose between a library and a gymnasium. Which one will you choose and why?
    (about as dumb – I chose the library because as I said, “nobody will care about sports after the Olympics”, haha, but that was because my brain melted roughly 1 hour before that).
    As a conclusion my friendly advice is, if you ever think of taking 高级 HSK, remember that you can sleep in bed instead, or do whatever a nice saturday morning is suited for.

  5. wangbo Says:

    J, thanks for your advice. I’ll take a very careful look at HSK 高级 before I even consider taking it.

  6. Carl Says:

    wangbo, I read that ErWai was the first school in Beijing to hold HSK exams, are you going to ErWai or just going for the exams? I ask because I’m going there (on govt. money) this September and desperately want to talk to someone who’s gone/ is going.

  7. wangbo Says:

    Sorry, Carl, I can’t help you much with that. I only did HSK there, never studied there. What I can tell you is that the people who run the HSK there are really good- registering then the exam itself all went super-smooth, no hassles. Also, it is a very nice campus- lots of trees, good facilities- including superb restaurants and cafeterias. It’s a bit out of the central city but has good transport options, both from the north gate along Chaoyang Lu and the south gate along the Jingtong Expressway and Batong light rail. Opposite the north gate is a branch of Big Pizza- all you can eat buffet (including bottomless beer)- and if you turn left leaving the gate you’ll find a good little DVD store and a nice little cafe/bar called 快乐谷.

    My wife is an Erwai graduate, and neither of us has any respect for their English department, but don’t let that impact your impression of their Chinese department. I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything about their Chinese classes.

  8. Carl Says:

    I’ve already got a firm grasp on Mandarin’s basics, and I know that the textbooks are what make the class worth while or a waste of time. Thanks for giving me your impressions of Erwai, I’ve been reading negative things about the foreign study department but I’m posative I can learn Mandarin quickly with my own ways while attending the school. I’ll be following your blog :)