The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), or HSK for short, is China's only standardised test of the Chinese language. It is designed for non-native speakers, such as foreign students and overseas Chinese, and approximates to the English TOEFL or IELTS test. An HSK certificate can be used throughout China as evidence of language proficiency for higher education and professional purposes.

The HSK is administered in Simplified Chinese and comprises two tests: a written test and an oral test (taken separately). The written test is divided into six levels from Level 1 to Level 6, while the oral test is divided into three levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The HSK written test, which began as a paper-only test, has also been conducted online at select test centres since 2011. The current format was introduced in 2012.

The following shows the different levels of the HSK written test and oral tests.

Level (Written)Level (Oral) Number wordsNumber characters Test overview
Level 1Beginner 150174 For learners who can understand and use simple words and sentences to communicate specific needs. All characters are provided with pinyin.
Level 2 300347 For learners who can use Chinese in a simple and direct manner for familiar daily topics. As with HSK Level 1, all characters are provided with pinyin.
Level 3Intermediate 600617 For learners who can use Chinese for personal lives, study and/or work, and most communication while travelling.
Level 4 12001064 For learners who can discuss a relatively wide range of topics in Chinese with native speakers.
Level 5Advanced 25001685 For learners who can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, understand Chinese films and TV, and can write and deliver a full speech in Chinese.
Level 6 50002663 For learners who can easily understand any information they read and hear in Chinese and can express themselves fluently in both the written and spoken form of the language.

Note that the number of words/characters are cumulative. For example, Level 2 has 300 words, but this includes all 150 word in Level 1, plus 150 new words. In general, half the words in each level are new, while half are from the previous levels.