I took the HSKK on a Sunday, March 13 at 3 pm. It turns out I was the only one taking the Intermediate Level, go figure, so the guy who runs the China-Colombia Alliance calls me up and asks when I want to take the exam. Super legit, I know. And, so I went knocked on the door, it was me and him and some kid who was finishing up the Beginner Level exam. Once the kid was done it was my turn. The guy sits me down in front of a computer and hands me the exam paper. It’s all very strange, I wasn’t too sure how the whole oral exam with a recording thing worked.
He then turns the exam recording on and tells me how it goes. The recording asks you for your name, where you’re from, and your candidate number. Obviously, you have to answer in Chinese, pretty routine. So, I guess at this point I should fess up, I did not study for this exam. BUT! I found out, you don’t have to, you should just be doing tons of speaking and listening to feel confident about taking it.
The exam is super strange. I mean it’s just you and the tape recording. The first part is kind of nerve-wracking, there’s a person who says a sentence and then there’s a little “beep” and you have to repeat it. I totally spaced out for one of the sentences and didn’t even remember one word. Oh, well. At least there’s 10 of them.
Afterwards, there’s 10 minutes to prepare the last four questions. The first two are so weird, it’s just two photographs and you have to talk about each one for 2 minutes straight. I just made up some dramatic shit on the spot. Monologues are not my strong suit. The last two are open-ended questions. Mine were “what do you think about people who play around with their cell phones before going to bed?” and “do you think advertisements have a big influence on us?”. I feel like these are much easier, they’re asking for your opinion on something, I was even able to bust out two chengyus on the spot (I’m a big chengyu fan). But, to be honest, this exam is probably fine as long as you feel comfortable about speaking on different everyday topics.
How did I prepare? I went to italki and payed for a community tutor to give me 2-3 lessons per week for about 2 months. You know, it’s pretty awesome. Before, I used to think, why would I spend money on this while I can just do a language exchange? Well, it’s not too much money, actually. I pay $25 USD for 5 30-minute lessons. I got motivated to do this while listening to IWTYAL podcast because I’m a busy person, and having language exchange is work. Instead, with italki I’m doing most of the talking not using up extra time teaching someone else. Of course, the first thing you have to do to make this truly work is to find yourself the right teacher. I’m really happy with mine, I mean who else will listen to me stumble about trying to explain how international political economy affects our lives or why I love tragic French films? Now, I’m pretty happy that I get to practice my spoken Chinese from the comfort of my own home. I’ll let you know how it goes (3 months in and I’m still pretty satisfied with it).
So, if you’re not sure about taking the HSKK or are nervous about it, get yourself a language partner or better yet, a language teacher on italki, have fun and you’ll do just fine on the exam.