HSK 3.0 – What is it and when will it be implemented

China’s Ministry of Education issued the “Chinese Proficiency Standards for International Chinese Language Education” on 24th March 2021 (hereinafter referred to as the “Grading Standards“). This Grading Standards is not the same as the HSK exam standards. The Grading Standards will be effective as of 1st July 2021. There are no changes to HSK on 1st July 2021 and HSK 3.0 will not commence on 1st July 2021.

Chinese Proficiency Grading Standards
for International Chinese Language Education

On April 20th, 2021, we attended the “Chinese Proficiency Standards for International Chinese Language Education” launch conference hosted by the China-Foreign Language Exchange Cooperation Center of the Ministry of Education and Beijing Language and Culture University undertaken by Hankao International and Beijing Language and Culture University Press. More than 50 experts and scholars in the field of international Chinese education at home and abroad attended the conference, and more than 450 experts, scholars, heads of institutions, and international Chinese teachers from home and abroad watched the conference online.

After the Conference, Hanban made some official announcements and the following have been extracted from them:

  • What is the relationship between the Grading Standards and the HSK test?  The Grading Standards is a guideline that guides all aspects of international Chinese learning, teaching, testing, and evaluation, not the HSK test syllabus and implementation, whereas the Hanban Institute administers the HSK test. The Grading Standards is instructive and non-mandatory, while the HSK test is instrumental and practical. The Grading Standards provides overall guidance for the HSK examination, consisting mainly of the theory and concept of international Chinese education examination. As such, the HSK examination will be adjusted steadily according to the Grading Standards, such as increasing the examination of syllables, Chinese characters and grammar, and strengthening the examination of writing level.
  • How will the HSK Exam change? The existing HSK 1-6 tests basically meet the needs of foreign Chinese learners in elementary and intermediate level tests. However, for foreign Chinese learners studying in China for a master’s degree, Ph.D., etc., there is a lack of assessment tools for advanced levels. Therefore, for HSK 3.0, HSK will first implement HSK 7-9 on the basis of maintaining the stability of the existing six levels of examination following the Grading Standards to form a “Three-stages and Nine levels” examination grade system. The current HSK 1-6 level examination will not be adjusted in the near future.
  • When will HSK Level 7-9 tests be available?  Many candidates see that the “Grading Standards” will be officially implemented on July 1, 2021, and assumed that this is when the new HSK 3.0 will be implemented. It takes time to develop HSK Level 7-9 based on the “Grading Standards.” The HSK Level 7-9 exam is currently planned for December 2021. The exam will be officially launched in March 2022. The HSK level 7-9 test will adopt the format of “one paper and three levels,” that is, one test paper, and the level obtained will be determined according to the score.
  • How will the current HSK level 1-6 test change? The current HSK 1-6 levels will not be changed in the near future, and the vocabulary, syllabus, and test content, and format will remain unchanged. The exam results of candidates who sat for the HSK 1-6 levels are still valid, and the validity of the certificates obtained remains unchanged. The textbooks and courses compiled and developed based on HSK 1-6 levels can still be used. In the next 3-5 years (i.e., years 2024-2026), HSK 1-6 levels will be gradually adjusted based on the “Grading Standards” and the actual conditions of Chinese learners in various countries. In general, we will continue to uphold the “learner-centered” philosophy.

Click here for the link to HSK official announcement.

The above is the official announcement. Now I will share with you the critical points of the discussions in the Conference based upon our observation. Hopefully, this will give you more clarity on this matter.

  • HSK 3.0 for HSK 1-6: One discussion centers on whether there needs to be any change to the existing HSK 1-6 at all. As the Grading Standards is not mandatory, it is not compulsory for HSK to match the vocabulary and syllabus on a level-by-level basis. There are concerns that if they were to change HSK 1-6, the international students would find it difficult to cope. They want to continue to uphold the “learner-centered” philosophy.
  • What needs to be changed in HSK 1-6?: There are two ways to implement the change: (1) Maintain the existing HSK 1-6 vocabulary and change only the exam contents, formats, or (2) Change the vocabulary and the exam contents and formats.
  • What needs to be tested for HSK 7-9: The vocabulary and syllabus for HSK 7-9 to be developed.


As of the time of writing, HSK is still focusing on developing the HSK 7-9 syllabus; they haven’t announced the syllabus and the test format, etc., for HSK 7-9. Whether the existing HSK 1-6 vocabulary will be changed remains to be seen. Current students learning Chinese HSK 1-6 need not bother themselves too much about this until the next announcement or 2024 (whichever is the earlier), except to check with your university or employer whether there will be any changes.

The number of syllables, characters, vocabulary and grammar points in the Grading Standards

On average, students take about 3 – 5 years to complete HSK 1-6. So, it would appear that even if you are just starting HSK 1 at the time of writing, the changes to be made to HSK 1-6 (if any change at all) may not have an impact on you.

Check out our earlier article which touches on this topic as well – Learning Chinese is Not Hard.

Subscribe to AllMusing Newsletter and we will keep you informed of any upcoming changes.

HSK 1 Storybook Series

HSK 2 Storybook Series

HSK 2 Storybook Vol 1

HSK 2 Storybook Vol 2
HSK 2 Storybook Vol 3

HSK 3 Storybook Series

HSK 3 Storybook Vol 1
HSK 3 Storybook Vol 2

HSK 3 Storybook Vol 3

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *