Last spring I took the HSK 1 and passed. The HSK (汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) is a test of Chinese language proficiency.
Level 1 is pretty basic. There are 150 vocabulary terms to know, and some listening and reading sections with multiple choice questions. As far as proficiency goes, HSK 1 is the most basic. It’s mainly simple sentences, like “I am a student,” “I am from New York,” etc.
Level 2 is also pretty basic, but it has 300 vocabulary items to know. It also has multiple choice questions for listening and reading sections. I took the HSK 2 a few weeks ago,
and will find out my score in January (edit: I passed). When I took the HSK 1, it was a pencil-and-paper test, but when I took the HSK 2, it was a computer based test.
Blogging in Chinese is mainly about preparing myself to take the HSK 3 this coming spring. From what I understand, the HSK Level 3 has a section that requires the test takers to write something. By blogging in Chinese, it forces me to practice writing. HSK 3 has 600 vocabulary items, and the questions are a bit more complex. The topics relate to aspects of daily life, such as travel, shopping, food, clothes, and so on. Not terribly complex, but probably enough to get around in China, such as for a vacation.
HSK 4 has 1200 vocabulary items, HSK 5 has 2500, and the HSK 6 has 5000. People who pass the HSK 5 should be able to read Chinese language newspapers and magazines.
In addition to the HSK, there is the HSKK, which is an oral exam. Last semester, my teacher urged us to consider taking that as well. The HSKK has three levels, none of which I’ve taken yet.
The HSK and HSKK are run by Hanban, which is in Mainland China. The HSK uses Simplified Chinese. There is a similar test in Traditional Chinese that is run by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. In English, it’s known as the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL). Since the Chinese curriculum at IUPUI is taught using Simplified Chinese (I think all of the teachers are from Mainland China), I’m taking the HSK, and not the TOCFL. Plus, the HSK is offered locally, while the TOCFL isn’t.