I have just posted a question about HSK characters list not matching the most common characters list, but I think this question here is a bit different.

I also wonder why do HSK tests have so many words on them that do not appear on any of the level lists (like a 呗 that I saw on an HSK 5 and it's not even at the level 6 list) or words that do appear in a given level, but are advanced compared to the level they appear (like a 公共汽车 appearing on level 1 even if it's only a level 2 word).

1. Why don't the people that prepare the exams follow their own lists?
2. How should a student study for HSK with such a chaotic list situation?


  • Don’t study for the HSK, that’s a horrible idea. Passing the HSK is not really even a good barometer for actual language level or ability. Study Chinese and get good at it. Work on your listening, reading, writing and, most importantly, speaking (which HSK does not test). And one day if you want to test yourself at HSK level, you’ll pass with flying colors & probably be better at Chinese than if you had just prepared for a test.
    – Mou某
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 1:32
  • I'm not studying for the HSK. But many of my students do want and need to pass it. The first reason is to get scholarships, and the second is to improve their résumé. Unfortunately showing a certificate is more important that showing your skills many times. Commented May 11, 2018 at 11:32
  • The requirement of exams are often obscure in China, so the best way is to learn as many words as you can besides words on the list. Just learn as a true Chinese :P
    – Aria Ax
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 12:24
  • The first question has an answer in the YouTube video HSK6 Nghe/Listening/听力 1-2 (怎么学习词汇). It's deliberate: you're expected to derive the words' meanings from understanding the characters. Other things like place names, historical figures, etc., are chosen outside of the HSK as it simulates the real world. (There's also a Hacking Chinese post which lists important vocabulary outside the HSK.)
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 5:56
  • @Becky李蓓 If you don't come in contact with the particle 呗 and no one never teaches it to you, there's no way to know it has a similar usage as 吧. This has nothing to do with derivation. And that is just one example. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


Well...firstly thank you for loving (or pretending to love) Chinese language.
I know quite a lot of examples that the students passed HSK Level 6 but still have a terrible level of conversation. Yes. As a commentator said, HSK doesn't include oral test. Further more, its scope doesn't necessarily match the scope of the most commonly used Chinese vocabulary. Therefore, a word list for a particular test is restricted to this test only.
Also, it's a bad idea to look for a frequency table in order to figure out what should you learn. Think about how you learn your mother tongue. Is the most frequent word learned first? Come on, ignore that frequency list.
Finally, If passing HSK is your top priority, use HSK's vocabulary. It limits the scope of words and expressions you need to pass it.
One last comment: Don't forget to talk and learn more from the Chinese people themselves. They are the real ones that master the language.

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