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Today I took the HSK 3, which was a disaster. The character 嗔 (chēn) means angry or annoyed, and that pretty much describes my feelings about today’s test.

The HSK 1 exam which I took last year had a vocabulary list of 150 words, and I passed that test. The HSK 2 test, which I took and passed this past December had a vocabulary list of 300 words. The HSK 3 exam has a vocabulary list of 600 words, and I wasn’t familiar with many of them. My original plan was to take the HSKK (speaking ability) today and take the HSK 3 next fall, but our teacher required us to take the HSK 3. Just taking the exam is 5% of our grade, regardless of our score on the exam. The reason it’s required is because somebody in the department is apparently doing a study to compare our success rate to students at IU Bloomington. The only reason I took the test is because it accounts for 5% of my grade in class and because we were promised reimbursement for the cost of the test. Personally, I have better things to do with my weekends than to take a test I’m not prepared for.

All that aside, the test isn’t what I expected either. It started out fine, beginning with the listening section, which was divided into four parts. The first two parts went fine, but when the third part started, the audio on the test stopped. I double checked to make sure my headphones were plugged in, and they were. I adjusted the audio on the PC, and it was fine. I would hear a ping whenever the volume was adjusted. Despite this there was still no audio from the test, and it isn’t much use having a listening section with no audio. I raised my hand and got the attention of the teacher conducting the test. She got another teacher, and they contacted somebody (I assume someone from Hanban in China). The instructions were to close the browser and restart the test, and it would pick up from where I left off. I followed the instructions and was back in business. Annoying, but no harm done, from what I understand.

The next section was reading, which was fine, despite the fact that I didn’t know many of the words. I’m in my second year of Chinese classes, but felt as if I was asked to take the final exam for a third-year Chinese class. Needless to say, I guessed on a pretty much everything in that section.

The final section was writing. It should have been my best section, but it ended up being the worst. I took the paper practice exams, and did okay because I could write down the characters even if I didn’t know how they were pronounced. I did pretty good at guessing nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc, so putting them in the right order wasn’t too hard. On the computer, you can’t do that. You can’t type in something if you don’t know the Pinyin for it. I tried to copy-and-paste, but there was no way to do so. Clicking on the characters did nothing. Double-clicking did nothing. Right-clicking did nothing. Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V did nothing. The only way to input a character is to know the pinyin for it, and I only knew about half the characters.

In the last part of the writing section, they have a sentence, and they give the pinyin for a character they want you to type in. It should have been easy, but as I was getting ready to type in my answer to the first question (it related to the cost of something, and the pinyin was ‘yuan’, so my response was to be 元) it kicked me out. I thought I had a couple of minutes left, but I don’t know if I ran out of time, or if there was an error of some sort.

So, lessons learned. First off, in the future, I’ll only take the tests when I’m sure I’m ready for them. If I’m required to take a test, I’ll a) make sure I don’t have to pay for it, and b) set out to deliberately fail it. I see no reason to try something I know I’m not ready for. Since this was part of somebody’s study, I’d like to fuck up their results out of spite.

Perhaps the most important lesson, however, is that the paper practice exams are worthless for anyone taking a computer-based exam. Supposedly, there is an online practice test at the HSK website, but I’ve never been able to get it to work. Maybe it just doesn’t like Macs. Regardless, if I can’t practice taking the computer-based exam, I’d feel much better taking the paper based test.

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