0 to HSK 2 in 60 Days: a Guide to Self-Studying

What is the HSK 2?

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK; 汉语水平考试) is a standardized test of simplified Chinese. It is written and administered by the Hanban, an agency in the Chinese government. The exam has 6 levels in total. The second level, HSK 2, is designed for learners who can use Chinese in a simple and direct manner and can apply it in a basic fashion to their daily lives. Test takers are expected to have mastered 300 vocabulary terms, although like HSK 1 Pinyin is still provided for all characters. The test takes under 1 hours and consists of 60 questions (35 listening questions and 25 reading questions). The test is recommended for those who have studied Chinese for half a year or more; however, with the right HSK study schedule learners can easily pass with just 2 months of self-studying.

Hanban offers testing opportunities every month, however, due to COVID-19 the April and May testing dates are likely to be canceled. So, learners that start now can pass the next HSK2 exam in June! Our daily study guide will guide you through [i] mastering the 300 required vocabulary terms and [ii] understanding each of these terms in context. The test is that simple. If you master those two skills, then you will pass with flying colors.

HSK 2 Study Schedule: Overview, Calendar, and Detailed Breakdown

The study program dedicates the first 30 days to building you Chinese language foundation. The goal is to work your way through an introductory Chinese textbook in just one month. At face value, this is a daunting task. However, if you break things down into manageable parts and pick the right textbook this is very doable. We recommend Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1, but any introductory textbook should work. This is the textbook that the majority of our team used many moons ago when we starting learning Chinese and it served us very well.

Using a textbook is much better than just studying from HSK specific vocabulary lists and videos alone for one specific reasons. Unlike HSK focused strategies you will learn how these terms work in context. You will actually learn how to use the Chinese language for your daily life rather than for an exam.

The second half of the study program shifts toward solidifying your foundation and practicing for the exam. You will take structured practice exercises and mini-test to review the vocabulary terms and grammar points that you have already learned. After these 30 days, you will breeze through the test and be able to fluidly use what you learned in your introductory textbook.

HSK Study Schedule Days 1 – 28

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you will learn 30-40 vocabulary word long sections from your textbook. Chapters are a great way to divide up your study days and are about this length in most introductory textbooks. Each chapter in Integrated Chinese level 1 (our recommended textbook), for example, contains about 35 new vocabulary terms. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays you will review the previous day’s section and work on your listening skills. Outside of around 15min of vocabulary review, Sunday is your off day. If you follow the weekly study schedule template below everything should take care of itself.

Monday

1) learn lesson 1
2) add lesson 1 terms to Anki and review all lesson 1 terms in Anki

Tuesday

1) study lesson 1 grammar points
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening practice video

Wednesday

1) learn lesson 2
2) add lesson 2 terms to Anki and review all lesson 2 terms in Anki
3) finish all Anki reviews

Thursday

1) study lesson 2 grammar points
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening practice video

Friday

1) learn lesson 3
2) add lesson 3 terms to Anki and review all lesson 3 terms in Anki
3) finish all Anki reviews

Saturday

1) study lesson 3 grammar points
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening practice video

Repeat this weekly study schedule until you’ve finished your textbook (or approximately 300 vocabulary words worth of textbook material).

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in detail:

In order to “learn” each lesson you only need to [i] spend 5-10min first studying the vocabulary lists associated with the text, then [ii] read the chapter’s passage or dialogue. The bulk of your time studying will be devoted to reviewing vocabulary in Anki – this is Mandarin Study Guide’s number one tip on learning Chinese efficiently. From day 1 until day 60 you should spend around 10 to 20 minutes reviewing and finishing your daily Anki deck (once you load cards into Anki it will create these daily decks for you!). Most textbooks have pre-made decks online that you can easily import into Anki. If you look up Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1 in Quizlet there are pre-made decks for every lesson! Just make sure to pick flashcards that include characters, pinyin, and english. If you’d like to read on how to import flashcards from Quizlet to Anki you can follow our step by step guide.

For a bit more detail on Anki, it is a spaced repetition flashcard software that uses the science of memory curves to test learners on terms at the optimal time. After the first initial review in the software, the program waits to test users on terms until they are just about to forget them, but haven’t yet. This review method allows learners to focus on new and more difficult vocabulary terms without getting bogged down reviewing everything they already know.

If you’d like to hear more about Anki and how it works, check out our top four tips and tricks on using Anki. This is how you will not only have reviewed everything you need to know for the HSK two in time, but how you will remember everything that you need to know. The hardest part to picking up a language isn’t learning vocabulary or grammar it is retaining everything that you’ve learned.

Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in detail:

Grammar is impossible to pick up on your own if you are only looking at vocabulary lists. This is why we recommend that you use a textbook instead of just HSK test materials. On these days of the week in order to build your language foundation you should spend 15-20 minutes studying the grammar portions of the text. After learning about the mechanics behind the passage for the lesson, you need to review the passage again. Do not skim. By reading over the passage a few more times you will review vocabulary, start understanding the grammar points in context, and pick up on details you may have missed before. In order to test if you’ve memorized all of the pinyin associated with the given characters we recommend that you read the passage out loud at least once.

Listening and speaking skills hardest parts of Chinese to pick up when self-studying, especially for beginners. This is why it is extremely important to start listening to native Chinese speakers from week 1 of your studying. If your textbook comes with an audio CD, then use the CD to listen and follow along to each lesson. Many textbooks even have additional listening exercises that you can use. Most of these textbook resources are available online for free(!!), but we are not linking to them for legal reasons. However, with a quick google you should be good to go.

If you choose to not use textbook audio sources to study, there are tons of other options. Everyday Chinese, for example, has phenomenal YouTube videos that you can use to improve your listening skills. In order to develop your speaking skills you should try to repeat what the teachers say in the videos and emulate their pronunciation and tones.

Sundays:

Following this study schedule you should finish the first half of your work in 22 days because in addition to Sundays, we have budgeted 6 additional days for relaxing. You can use these days whenever you need as long as you finish your textbook in the allotted 30 days. The only rule is that you must finish your Anki reviews even on days off. This should only take you 10 to 20 minutes and will significantly help with retaining the vocabulary that you’ve learned.

HSK Study Schedule Days 28 – 49

The second portion of your studies is dedicated to applying what you’ve learned in the HSK context. There is no better way to prepare for a test than to take practice tests and exercises written by the same author as the test itself. As such, Hanban’s HSK Standard Course textbooks are a study prep must for any HSK exam. With your Chinese foundation established via the first month of your studies, you should be ready to jump straight to HSK

. The textbook has 15 lessons and exactly 300 vocabulary terms. However, you should already know the vast majority of these terms. If you studied with the Integrated Chinese textbook, then you will already know every single one.

To double check that you’ve covered all the terms you need to know for the exam, import this pre-made HSK 2 Anki deck. Anki does not allow for duplicate cards, so if you’ve already covered everything it will import no new flashcards. If you have a few terms left, then learn them using the methods outlined in days 1 – 30.

Days 30 – 50 are completely dedicated to reviewing what you’ve learned and testing your knowledge. Follow the weekly schedule below to ace the test.

Monday

1) read passages for lessons 1 & 2
2) review any vocabulary or grammar that you are not familiar with
3) finish all Anki reviews

Tuesday

1) spend 30-min doing practice test or exercises
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening video

Wednesday

1) read passages for lessons 3 & 4
2) review any vocabulary or grammar that you are not familiar with
3) finish all Anki reviews

Thursday

1) spend 30-min doing practice test or exercises
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening video

Friday

1) read passages lessons 5 and 6
2) review any vocabulary or grammar that you are not familiar with
3) finish all Anki reviews

Saturday

1) spend 30-min doing practice test or exercises
2) finish all Anki reviews
3) watch 5-min HSK listening video

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in detail:

Reading through the passages should be easy! Especially the easier texts at the start of the Standard Course textbook. You should blow through this 10min part of your daily studies, making note of any terms or grammar points that you didn’t remember or didn’t completely recall. Reviewing these tricky concepts will take up the bulk of your time. If a concept isn’t sticking, then it is extra important to start seeing it in different contexts. Review the term in your Hanban book, your original textbook, and if it’s still not sticking then use an app like Pleco to see the words placed into the context of dictionary sentences (taken from sources like newspapers or books).

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in detail:

The practice exercises and questions in your Standard Course are pure gold. Before you take the HSK exam you will want to have looked at every single practice and test question in the book. However, in order to avoid studying fatigue do not spend more than 30-min a day on practice questions/tests during this period. If you decide to take one of the practice exams break it up into the two sub 30 minute segments and take them on separate days.

Sunday + 3 flex days:

Like with days 1 – 30, outside of finishing your daily Anki reviews, Sundays are your days off. We’ve included 3 additional rest + Anki days in this portion for you to use as you see fit. Just make sure to finish looking over all of the text passages and practice questions in Standard Course by day 50.

HSK Study Schedule Days 49 – 59

Take a practice test, a practice test, a practice test, then ace the exam. The final stretch is all about getting you game ready. The HSK is designed to test your language abilities, but it is an unescapable fact that it also tests you ability to take tests – all tests/exam/quizzes do this. So, this section is dedicated to making sure that you don’t leave the test feeling like your performance didn’t reflect all that you learned. This block is broken up into two day long segments. Repeat until the day 59.

Day 1

1) Take full length practice test under test like conditions
2) Finish all Anki reviews

Day 2

1) Review every single question that you got wrong
2) Retake the exam (depending on time)
3) Finish all Anki reviews

Day 1 in detail:

We cannot overemphasize how important it is to take your practice tests under test like conditions. This means timing yourself for each section, not taking any breaks, and not using any outside resources. By simulating the actual exam multiple times beforehand, the actual exam will feel like a routine and you will be much less likely to feel nervous. If you exhaust the practice exams in your HSK Standard Course book, there are tons of additional practice tests online.

Day 2 in detail:

This is where you will really grow. Don’t just look over your mistakes, write down [i] what you got wrong, [ii] why you got the question wrong, and [iii] why the correct answer is the best choice. This is a tried and true exam preparation method – students have been successfully applying this technique to the SAT, MCAT, and LSAT for years. Researchers have demonstrated time and time again that this is the best way to review practice exercises (most people just normally don’t have the time or patience to do so). In forcing yourself to deliberately trace why you made a mistake, you become much less likely to make it again.

If reviewing all of your mistakes takes more than 30 minutes, then you need to take the same exam again. This will help you remember all of the work that you just did. Put away the answer key and try to breeze through the test as quickly as possible. This run through should be effortless; however, make sure to still read questions all the way through and to look at all the answer options. This is a fast way to cement this information in your brain.

Day 60 (relaxation time)

Relax and destress before the exam – you deserve it. This is the first day that you can even take a break from Anki. Let us know in the comments below if you’d like any other HSK study guides. If you enjoyed this piece please pin it, tweet it, or share it!


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