HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) test taker characteristics, test performance and implications for HSK test constructs



Partners and collaborators

University of Southampton; Nottingham University


The project aims to explore the experiences of people taking the international Chinese language HSK exam (at levels 1-3), run by the Universities of Leeds, Southampton and Nottingham. Find out who our test takers are, what kinds of profiles they have or share in terms of their personal background, and whether this kind of demographic information has any identifiable relevance to their test performance.

Mandarin Chinese is seen by many UK learners as a difficult and different foreign language to learn. This study - the first in the UK - will be valuable in helping teachers and learners understand the relationship between Mandarin Chinese language characteristics, test-takers’ learning behaviours, teaching contexts and test performance in early-stage HSK level exams among anglophone HSK test-takers.


The project aims to inform Chinese teachers how to help students prepare for HSK exams more effectively.

Publications and outputs

Learners are routinely expected to memorise characters individually using flashcards or other repetition activities (Shen 2005) but it is not fully understood how learners transform such visual memorisation activities into a workable vocabulary store, e.g. to help build up reading fluency. Nor do we yet know in detail the links between visual and linguistic cognitive processes involved in character learning, which could help inform the debate whether vocabulary should be learned  first by oral/aural input supported by pinyin, or whether characters can support word learning from the start (Everson 2008).