HSK vs CEFR: All You Need To Know

Are you taking language proficiency tests and don’t know how HSK vs CEFR compares? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

In this blog post, we’ll explain everything you need to know in order to understand HSK and CEFR. You’ll learn how they compare and how both of these tests are scored.

Are you ready? Let’s get to it!

What is HSK?

HSK stands for Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì. It is the official Chinese language proficiency test intended for non-native speakers.

Written test (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) and Oral test (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì – Kǒushì) are independent of each other and taken separately.

It consists of six levels (1-6) for the written test and three levels (Beginner, intermediate and advanced) for the oral test.

At a Glance

Written Exam Words Characters Oral Exam
HSK 1 150 178 Beginner
HSK 2 300 349
HSK 3 600 623 Intermediate
HSK 4 1200 1075
HSK 5 2500 1711 Advanced
HSK 6 5000+ 2633

What is CEFR?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated in English as CEFR, CEF, or CEFRL, is a guideline used to describe the achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. 

The six reference levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.

At a Glance

Level Group Level Description

Basic User

A1 – breakthrough You can understand and use basic expressions and phrases.
A2 – Waystage You can communicate in a simple way and perform routine tasks.

Independent user

B1 – Threshold You can understand and use sentences on familiar and personally interesting topics. 
B2 – Vantage You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity with native speakers.

Proficient user

C1 – Advanced You can use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.
C2 – Mastery You easily understand what you hear or read and express yourself fluently and precisely.

Want to test your CEFR level? Check out our language tests!


In 2010, it asserted that the HSK’s six levels corresponded to the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

HSK Words Characters CEFR
HSK 1 150 178 A1
HSK 2 300 349 A2
HSK 3 600 623 B1
HSK 4 1200 1075 B2
HSK 5 2500 1711 C1
HSK 6 5000+ 2633 C2

However, European Chinese language teachers have reported that the correspondence, in practice, is somewhat different. The HSK levels are used more as a standard for academic requirements (for example, being admitted to an undergraduate or graduate program in China) rather than real-life application.

Take Your Test Today!

Whether you want to take the CEFR or the HSK, it is important that you work hard and practice as much as possible. 

Want to practice for your test? Our expert staff will get in touch within 24 hours, and you can start practicing your Chinese right away. Or sign up for a group class (online or in person)!



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