I know that many of you have taken the HSK Basic and Elem/Inter tests and I would like to ask your advice (just quickly!)
I will start to study in BNU from next week on the trial degree program. Before I can progress to the full degree next year, I need to get a level 3 on HSK and was wondering if you had any insight on which test would be easier to score a 3?
At present I can speak quite well and my listening is very good. Reading and writing are my weak points. I can read about 400 characters and write only about 40 (I never have paid any attention to writing).
I am afraid that if I plan to take Elem/Inter I may not reach the level required for a 3 but the actual percentage required to get a level 3 on the Basic test is much higher. Do you think it is best to take Basic and just focus on getting up to the 1000 characters/words in the next 2 months (test in November)? I guess Elem/Inter could come next year??
Do you have any insight? Anyone been in this predicament?
I did the HSK Intermediate this spring and scored a high 4. The ClavisSinica test tells me that I know about 1400 characters. I've never done the Basic, but I was planning to at one point and did a few practice papers. I would consider my reading to be well in advance of my speaking and listening, but on the test I got about equal results in all sections. Remember that lots of Japanese and Koreans do this test and so this already puts you at a disadvantage. If your reading is weak as well your going to really struggle with the Intermediate. Also I found the Intermediate gap fill section quite challenging. I can write reasonably well in free composition, but often just don't know which character it is they want me to write in the gaps.
Notice that the Basic has three sections; Listening, Grammar and Reading. Not knowing too many characters is not going to affect your listening, and I find that you can do a lot of the grammar by pattern matching, that is even if you don't know any of the words in the sentence except for the basic grammar characters, you can work out which one is the verb, which is the noun from the way they arrange the four possible answers. So you should be able to get 3's on Listening and Grammar and then be okay just getting a 2 on Reading.
On the other hand not knowing characters is likely to have a serious impact nearly all the sections of the Intermediate test. You have to write characters and choose characters for the cloze test, and not knowing words in the grammar section is really going to stuff you up. Even on the listening I lost some marks because I didn't understand a couple of characters in the answers.
Note that the Intermediate test has changed this year. I did the old one, which they are scrapping next year. If you wait till next year you'll have to do more writing and a speaking section. (Which would be bad for me, but maybe good for you.)
By next year, do you mean the next academic year (i.e. September) or the actual next year (January)?
If it's January, then you’re going to have to cram as quickly as possible. In this case I'd probably take the Basic as I doubt their is much chance of getting higher than a 3 in the time available (the reading is tough) and doing the Intermediate test at this level can be demoralizing when only scoring around 50%.
If you've got until September, I'd work on your reading for the next few months and then start trying out the Beginner mock tests in January and seeing how you're doing.
I find that writing the characters helps me to remember, so I wouldn't abandon it completely, but then everyone has their own methods.
With your previous knowledge, you will definitely be able to do the Elem/Int test after half a year in China.
A couple of points:
1. Answering HSK reading comprehension questions without actually being able to read much of the text is a skill: you should practice reading a lot, in addition to learning words and characters. Reading a lot will help you remember the characters you have already learnt as well.
2. You can actually get a fairly high score on the HSK without filling particularly many boxes. You could get a 3 (and probably a 4 too) without filling out a single box. I usually know about 5 of them and guess wildly on another ten (I got a 5 this June). The multiple-choice part of the zonghe has a lot of grammar-based questions, so you should be able to get quite a few of them right without having a very extensive vocabulary.
3. Not being intimidated is another skill: since the Elem/Int exam measures all the way from level 3 to 8, there are really easy questions, and there are really, really difficult ones. You must make sure to get all the easy ones right and not to think too much about the other ones. This is particularly important in the reading sections, where some texts are quite easy and others seem impenetrable.