After HSK 3 (old) - how to proceed - switch to new HSK system?

If you are aimed at passing HSK tests because you need the certificate, this question might be irrelevant, as the tests for HSK 1-6 won’t be updated until 2024. However. I do NOT have such ambitions. I use the HSK system as a guideline for my learning progress and to motivate myself, always aiming for the next milestone.

Now I am about to finish HSK 3 (old), hopefully within the next couple of months, and I am debating whether to switch to the new “HSK 3.0” system. From a birds eye position, not looking at particular examples of words that are included in the one or the other, what pops into the eye is the fact that with HSK 3.0 you tend to go a bit more slowly with regards to new characters, but the number of words goes up massively. So my next step would be either HSK 4 (old) with 1064 characters and 1200 words, or instead HSK 3.0 Band 3 with 900 characters and a whopping 2245 words, then Band 4 with 1200 characters and 3245 words.

Any suggestions? more characters or more words? Are those “more” words in the new HSK even true more words, or are they mostly recombinations / composed terms that you would learn anyway in HSK (old), but they would just not be listed there separately?


Hey Thomas,

This graph is quite interesting to see the comparisons between new/old words, although it doesn’t include your point about words made up of other words, which I think is also valid! When I was looking through the “New” lists I did feel like I a lot of the new words were combinations or general words you learn as part of everyday life.

Personally, I was end of HSK3 when there was the change, and I plan to just continue to use the old HSKs for now as a benchmark. I am currently finishing up HSK4 and looking at HSK 5. It seems the easiest/most measurable way to continue for me. Aiming at the new HSKs seems too large a jump to motivate me, and also, a lot of material online is still using the old HSK levels.

Perhaps once I finish HSK5 I will switch around my thinking… :slight_smile:


I cant make a specific suggestion, because the New HSK has not been around long enough and I have not gotten enough student feedback on it to really assess this.
Please let us know what your experiences were afterwards so we can help the next generation of students.

My personal suggestion would be to not worry too much about it. Either one will be fine and at HSK 3 level the exact order you learn vocab in is not that relevant anymore. Pretty much all of it you will need on your journey to fluency, so if one is a bit earlier or later doesnt really matter.

Things like really making sure tones are 100% correct (they should be before moving on to HSK 4) and making sure reading is up to the same level as speaking are more crucial.


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