Chinese Language Learning – Is it me, or HSK tests in mainland China are significantly more difficult than the one’s held abroad?

The question is, are all HSK tests created equal?

More specifically, HSK 6. Even-though the test might cover the same vocabulary and grammar, and that each test can be more or less difficult every month. Based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence coming from friends and classmates, I have the feeling HSK tests might be slightly easier when taken abroad.

As some of you might know, in order to graduate from college or get enrolled in a Chinese university, many students need to pass HSK 6 with a certain score. In my case, I need to get more than 60 points in each section of the test, otherwise my university won’t let me graduate.

Almost all my classmates living abroad, got more than 60 points in each section in their first attempt. Meanwhile, several classmates in China have failed to get more than 60 points in each section. We usually miss a few points in at least 1 section. Even after several attempts.

So, recently my classmates and I have noticed how the foreign students in mainland China seemed to be the ones struggling the most to get more than 60 points in each section.

Maybe this is just us being in denial after taking the test so many times and not being able to succeed. But given the fact that tests are held in China almost every single month of the year, it almost feels as if this is a way for 汉办 to maximize profits from this standardized test. (Which I understand is normal for organizations to do this with other standardized test in the world.) [See: “Why is the IELTS over-commercialised in China?”](

Again, this could simply be wishful thinking. Or, us wishing that there could be another explanation as to why our classmates abroad winged the exam in their first try.

Maybe we are just being paranoid and not being able to accept that maybe we haven’t prepared well or just don’t have enough exam-taking skills.

But I thought it was worth mentioning. Especially when one of our Chinese teachers who was an examinator for hanban admitted that sometimes, depending on how bad or how well test-takers perform in a specific 考点, they might grade everyone on a curve.[(See “grade-curving”)](

I know that maybe people don’t give much thought to HSK grading system or 汉办 and its ways. But I still think this topic can generate an interesting discussion.

By the way, I am in no way trying to criticize 汉办 or minimize the efforts of those who took and passed the test abroad. I’m sure that, no matter where you take the exam, they all require time and dedication.

What are your thoughts?

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