On Saturday I took the HSK3 exam at my university after 9 months of studying the language. Normally I discuss my general thoughts on the HSK exam itself – difficulty, studying for it, difference between previous HSK’s and etc however before that post is released I would like to discuss something different, the exam process itself – because it was oddly strange and I also like to be in a position where I can understand everything in a test before I talk about it in detail,
But why did I take this test before I could understand all of it, with such a small time frame between HSK2 and 3? Well the answer is that I’m looking for a year long placement in IT next year and any extra qualification I can get is useful. So when I found that I could pass the test (maybe two months after passing HSK2) I just decided to take it. I only did one more test paper after that and didn’t study any grammar specifically for a test.
Actually I received a HSK3 text book as a little Christmas present however I actually found it kind of useless, granted if I didn’t study grammar so much it would be quite useful, however I found that most of it I knew already. It was mostly good for checking that I knew all the grammar that could come up before I took my test.
The troubles started before the test even began, with some quite serious technical errors.
The test was run online using university computers, and the staff were supposed to log into these so that everyone could do the test.
The issue was that if you log into two computers and have chrome open on one of them, you can’t open chrome on the other.
I found this out as I was called into the test room before all of the other candidates to log in to the other computers. After my first successful log in I logged into a different computer and sure enough, the error was still there. This caused problems for other candidates who weren’t a part of the University.
However fortunately there seemed to be enough helpers with University accounts to log in for everyone, there was just a lot of moving around and disorganisation.
As a side note – I do feel kind of sorry for anyone not part of the University who tries to take the test where I live. The building is just kind of horrible.
It’s on a very small cul-de-sac full of cars so you cannot park there, meaning you need to find another place to go. I know the area and find it difficult to imagine a place where you can park that’s not an already busy street.
Then the building is quite small and the classroom doesn’t really have much space. Granted there aren’t many test takers either but it still doesn’t feel nice.
When I first went there the test centre looked miserable, with the only sign of a test being there a crumpled sign falling off the rails pointing in the right direction. It resembled more of an abandoned fair ground than a place you go to learn.
Fortunately they updated this the next time and it looked far better.
But obviously still not ideal.
It’s kind of crazy to me that people have language tests here, when further up the road theirs a much nicer building which they could easily have access to. The Confucius institute should have enough resources as when I took my HSK1 exam (at the Confucius institute at the University of Nottingham) it had computer rooms for everyone and looked significantly nicer.
Anyway back to the point. Instead of the test being in written form, it was actually online through the Confucius institute’s online system. The system itself wasn’t poor, however as it was a new system, I instinctively didn’t trust it. This meant that I was hesitant to press next and missed a lot of time where I could be reading ahead of the question being asked.
Then the most stupid thing was the hanzi test, where you have to write hanzi given the pinyin. Since this was online, we wrote the hanzi using a Chinese keyboard, which meant that we didn’t need to know how to write anything, and instead could just write the pinyin and choose the character that we recognised. It was incredibly simple and really pointless considering how easy the hanzi were. It was clearly intended to be written down and not the other way around, so it was really too easy.
However as a positive I was able to get some of my £30 back by doing an interview and telling them about this process. So maybe my criticisms will be listened to and change the test. For me obviously, the easier the test is the better, however I think it’s important for tests to actually do their jobs, which this section did not.
You only need about 60% to pass the exam anyway, which surprised me. When you can get a mark of 60% in the exam you can still not understand a whole lot, maybe this is something I should have brought up which I didn’t.
The entire HSK system has changed in the past, so that now it’s currently easier. However this makes it even more easy. If you make the test easier it would make sense to expect more of the test takers, but I guess at the early stages it’s not as important as it’s learning the language that counts.
Actually learning languages to pass a test overall is really not a good way to go about it, so in a way having an easier test makes people more willing to learn on their own and then use the test for a bench mark to measure progress rather than the goal itself.
Anyway that was my thoughts on the HSK3 exam process – more later when I can fully answer everything in the HSK3 exam!