I just wanted to post an answer rather than edit my question, I hope this is ok. I think this information might be helpful to introductory students who browse this forum and are interested in taking the lower level HSK's.
It's been just over 3 years, but I did take the HSK 3 test and passed. I did very well on the listening and reading portions but not so well on the writing portion. This is different from what I expected -- I expected to do poorly on the listening but good on the other two parts.
The software for entering the characters was very difficult to use. However, I don't know if that varies according to location, and maybe it changes from time to time. It would have been very nice if it was available for download to practice with ahead of time. I expected to get a perfect score on the writing part since I knew how to handwrite with correct stroke order more than 700 characters at the time of the test. I was also very skilled at using several computer keyboard pinyin systems (I was very proficient with Android's).
Overall, I found the difficulty of the test to be very similar to the practice exams that I had found online. It may have been just slightly more difficult, but was very comparable. I would recommend being able to complete online HSK materials with high scores before going in to the actual official exam at the same level.