How To Pass HSK 5 // Your Complete Guide [Update 2023]

How To Pass The HSK 5 With Style // Top Tips & Tricks (for 2023)

How to Pass the HSK 4 | How to Pass the HSK 6

Lex the Lion

Today we give provide you with all the ammunition you need and answer the most common questions on how to pass the HSK 5 (with style).

Passing the HSK 5 is a major milestone for serious Chinese learners. As the second-highest HSK level available today, this level really separates casual learners from serious Chinese aficionados. 

If you have already passed HSK 4, then your level is already high enough for simple conversations.

You are probably starting to get used to seeing Chinese text without any pinyin, and Chinese media is slowly starting to make sense to you. 

However, the jump from HSK 4 to HSK 5 is a big one: 1,300 new vocabulary words are added. That is more than twice the entire vocabulary in the HSK 4 exam. Passing the HSK 5 exam is no joke. 

Luckily, there are thousands of students around the world who do pass the HSK 5 exam every year.

The HSK 5 is a language test that you can pass with the right preparation and the right study strategies. 

If you are looking for a breakdown of the HSK 5 exam and the best ways to prepare for it, then this guide is for you. We will discuss each section of the HSK 5 exam and share our recommended study strategies for tackling the test. 

While the HSK 5 is certainly challenging, at LTL Mandarin School we believe that every single student can pass the test with enough dedication! 

How to Pass HSK 5 | How Hard is the HSK 5?

How to Pass HSK 5 | Why Should I Take the HSK 5?

How to Pass HSK 5 | Understanding the HSK 5 Exam Structure

How to Pass HSK 5 | Study the HSK 5 Content

How to Pass HSK 5 | Self Study for the HSK 5

How to Pass HSK 5 | Improve Your Test Taking Skills

How to Pass HSK 5 | FAQ’s

Find out how our student Emma passed the HSK 6 with us here at LTL

How to Pass HSK 5 | How Hard is the HSK 5?

The HSK 5 exam is the second-highest level of the Chinese proficiency exam. Thus, it is not an easy exam to pass by any means. 

Hanban expects HSK 5 test-takers to have studied Chinese for more than two years.

The expectation is that students take 2-4 hours of classes per week plus self-study time. 

Although they’re not specific as to how much longer than two years they expect students to have studied before sitting for this test, we think 3 years is a good estimate. 

Hanban also claims that the HSK 5 level corresponds to a CEFR C1. If you have studied any of the European languages and have taken any CEFR examination, you know that a C1 level corresponds to an extremely high level of proficiency.

C1 and C2 levels start to approach native-like command of the language. 

This is absolutely not the case for HSK 5. In fact, most people agree that the HSK 5 is closer to (and perhaps even lower than) a B2. 

This is one of the reasons why Hanban is releasing HSK levels 7-9 in March 2022. With the new testing structure, HSK 1-3 will correspond to A1-A2, HSK 4-6 will correspond to B1-B2, and HSK 7-9 will correspond to C1-C2. 

LevelDifficultyNEW HSK Word TotalsDifference from current HSK
HSK 1Beginner500+350
HSK 2Beginner1,272+972
HSK 3Beginner2,245+1,645
HSK 4Intermediate3,245+2,045
HSK 5Intermediate4,316+1,816
HSK 6Intermediate5,456+456
HSK 7Advanced11,092 (TBC)TBC
HSK 8Advanced11,092 (TBC)TBC
HSK 9Advanced11,092 (TBC)TBC
HSK 5 will see an increase of 1,816 words

This would place the HSK 5 firmly in the middle of B1 and B2.

Thus, if you have experience with any CEFR exams, you can expect it to be somewhat easier than a B2 but slightly harder than a B1 exam. 

How to Pass HSK 5 | Why Take the HSK 5?

Having a HSK 5 certificate has plenty of benefits. The HSK 5 exam demonstrates a high level of proficiency in Chinese and an ability to have conversations on any subject. 

This can be extremely valuable to employers who are looking for people with conversational written and spoken abilities in Chinese. If you’re interested in landing a job that involves using Chinese regularly, then the HSK 5 could be your way in. 

HSK 5 can also fulfil Chinese language requirements for most post-secondary education programs in China whose language of instruction is Chinese.

This varies widely from program to program, but most will let you in with an HSK 5.

If you are looking to do a program in classical Chinese or something that would require intense command of the language, then a HSK 6 might be required. 

How to Pass HSK 5 | Understanding the HSK 5 Exam Structure

Much like the other HSK exams, the HSK 5 is offered in two formats: paper-based and internet-based.

The questions and content of these two formats are exactly the same.

The main difference comes in the writing section of the test, as those taking the paper-based test will be expected to hand-write their answers while those taking the internet-based test will be able to type their characters using pinyin

This makes the internet-based test an obvious choice for most Chinese learners out there. We recommend that you take the internet-based test unless you are really keen on learning to handwrite each of the 2,500 characters covered in the HSK 5 exam. 

Both the paper-based and internet-based formats are broken down into three sections:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

Listening is always the first section, reading is always the second section, and writing is always the last section. 

Here is a breakdown of the kind of questions you can expect from each section. 

HSK 5 Listening

The listening section is 30 minutes long and students are expected to answer 45 multiple-choice questions during this time. That leaves only about 40 seconds per question.

All audio clips are played only once, so make sure that you are paying close attention during this section. 

Part I of the listening section contains 20 audio clips. Each clip consists of a 2-sentence dialogue. Once the dialogue has been played, a third person will ask a question and four answer choices will be presented on the screen. 

Part II of the listening section involves longer monologues or dialogues. These will generally be longer than 4 sentences long, so test-takers will have to follow along with several ideas to answer the question. There will be 16-17 audios and each will come with 1-4 corresponding questions.

How To Pass HSK 4 // Your Complete Guide [Update 2023] Thumbnail

How To Pass HSK 4 // Your Complete Guide [Update 2023]

Discover these tips, tricks and hacks and pass the HSK 4 with flying colours. Our students boast a 95% pass rate with all HSK exams, so we know the score!

HSK 5 Reading

The reading section of the HSK 5 is 45 minutes long and includes 45 questions.

This is the longest section of the HSK 5, though it contains just as many questions as the listening section.

Lex the Lion

Part I of the reading section includes fill-in-the-blank questions. There will be four paragraphs or short passages, each with a number of blanks missing. There will be 15 blanks in total and each blank will come with four possible answer choices.

Part II of the reading section is made up of 10 short passages. Each passage will come with four sentence choices, only one of which will make sense with the respective passage. You will need to understand the passage and the answer choices to select the sentence that corresponds with the text.

Part III of the reading section includes five long passages, each with 3-5 questions for a total of 20 questions. You will be provided with four answer choices for each question.

HSK 5 Writing

Part I requires you to rearrange the words in eight sentences into the correct order. This is similar to one of the parts in the writing section of the HSK 4.

Part II is perhaps the most complex part of the HSK 5 exam. Here, students will have to write two 80-character essays. For the first essay, you will be given a list of words that need to be included in your essay. For the second essay, you will be shown a picture that you need to base your essay on. 

Each of the three sections has 100 points available for a total of 300 points.

To pass the exam, you need to score at least 180 points. You do not need to pass each individual section to get a passing score for the HSK 5.

How to Pass HSK 5 | Study the HSK 5 Content

Now that you know the structure of the HSK 5 exam, you need to plan out your study strategy.

The road to a successful HSK 5 exam experience is a long one that requires countless hours of study and dedication. 

Percentage-wise, the jump from HSK 4 to HSK 5 is the highest out of all the HSK levels.

The vocabulary requirements double from every other jump, but the vocabulary from HSK 4 to 5 goes from 1,200 to 2,500. That’s a vocabulary increase of roughly 108.3%.

The good news is that getting from HSK 4 to HSK 5 likely won’t take you as long as it took you to get to HSK 4.

Many of the new words use characters that you’ve already learned and you should be more comfortable memorising new characters at this point in your learning journey.

Regardless, you should plan a consistent study schedule that will help you reach your goals within your desired timeframe.

In Person HSK 5 Classes

The best way to ensure that you can pass the HSK 5 is to attend regular in-person classes.

If you’re currently a university or high school student, your school may offer traditional group Chinese classes that are included with your tuition. 

Group Class

If your school does not offer Chinese classes or if you’re not currently a student, then you can try enrolling in Chinese classes at a language school in your city.

These classes are usually offered in semester settings, just like college or high-school classes.

If your time is limited or if you want to reach the HSK 5 level as fast as possible, then one-on-one classes may be the best choice for you.

By hiring a private tutor, you can ensure that all of your tutoring lessons are tailored to your level and needs. 

Even if you choose to enrol in a group class, working with a private tutor may be a good idea.

A tutor can help you develop a personalised study plan that will help you reach your goals faster. Your Chinese tutor will get to know your strengths and weaknesses and will guide you accordingly. 

Online HSK 5 Classes

Online classes are a great alternative to in-person classes, and can even be more convenient for busy students and working professionals. 

Thanks, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now countless qualified Mandarin instructors offering classes through Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and even WeChat.

Lex the Lion

Taking online Chinese classes is now easier than ever. 

LTL Mandarin School is a language school that offers online and in-person Chinese classes. We offer online classes in several formats, including:

  • Flexi Classes – Our most popular online classes format allows students to sign up for Mandarin classes anytime 24/7. We offer one-hour classes every hour every day of the week in seven different Mandarin levels. Check out our free speaking classes as well for a challenge!
  • Fixed Group Classes – If you’re looking for the flexibility of online classes with the regularity of a fixed group class, then you can sign up for one of our fixed group online classes. We offer intensive and regular schedules, ranging from 4 to 10 class hours a week.
  • Online 1-on-1 classes – If you want to pass the HSK 5 exam as soon as possible, your best bet will be to work with a private tutor. Our instructors are trained in the HSK 5 curriculum and can help you work through the HSK 5 grammar and vocabulary. Best of all, you can request any specific topics that you might be struggling with! 
We took student Anthea to HSK 6 in just a year. Check out her story here

Experience Full Chinese Immersion

At LTL Mandarin School, we believe that immersion is the best way to learn a language.

LTL stands for Live The Language, which reflects our philosophy of language immersion as the best way to acquire a foreign language. 

We offer in-person classes in the following:

  • Beijing, 
  • Shanghai
  • Taipei
  • Singapore
  • Chengdu 
  • Xi’an 
  • Beihai

The jewel in the crown though, is Chengde.

This is the home of our genuine 24/7 immersion programs.

We even offer an extreme immersion program in China, which is designed to test the limits of the most serious Chinese learners! 

China’s national news channel, CCTV, followed one of our students, Sean, as he experienced true Chinese immersion.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

MOOCs are another great way to supplement your Chinese studies.

In addition to working with a live teacher who can correct you, you can definitely learn a lot from taking online pre-recorded courses. 

The best part is that, since most of these courses are pre-recorded, they are very inexpensive or even free. 

Peking University offers a very popular MOOC on Coursera. The PKU HSK 5 course is offered completely free, although you have the option to purchase a certificate.

If you’re planning on taking the HSK 5, though, you probably won’t get much use from a Coursera certificate when you can get the real deal through Hanban. 

Lex the Lion in China

Mandarin Corner offers a 43-part HSK 5 YouTube video course that breaks down every HSK 5 word.

Although this series is completely free to watch on their YouTube channel, you can download all the learning materials with a donation as low as $30. 

This Udemy HSK 5 course teaches you the HSK 5 materials through intensive reading.

With a 4.7 rating from over 50 students, this course can be a great resource to those who learn by reading. At less than $10 for the entire course, this is probably a good investment!

It’s worth reiterating that no MOOC could ever replace live instruction. To progress past HSK 4 and reach HSK 5, you need a certified instructor who can give you immediate feedback on your pronunciation and grammar.

How to Pass HSK 5 | Self-Study for the HSK 5

In addition to your classes, you need to do a lot of self-study to pass the HSK 5.

A good estimate is 2-3 hours of self-study time for every class hour.

This means that if you’re taking 10 hours of classes per week, you should be studying 20-30 hours on your own. That’s pretty much a full-time job! 

There are many ways to self-study in addition to traditional textbooks. These are just some of our recommended study aids. 

Best Textbooks for Studying for the HSK 5

The HSK 5 is a bit of a transitory period. You are really at that edge between intermediate and proficient, and you’re just about to get to the level where native materials start to become somewhat manageable. 

Thus, studying for the HSK 5 exam will require a slightly different approach than studying for levels HSK 1-4.

A solid HSK 5 study strategy will involve a lot of reading, writing, and speaking, and less time studying grammar concepts from textbooks. 

The truth is, the only textbooks that you need to study for the HSK 5 exam are the official Standard Course HSK 5 textbooks. 

These are broken down into two categories: HSK 5 上 (A) Textbook and HSK 5 下 (B) Textbook

Then, there are the workbooks: HSK 5 上 (A) Workbook and HSK 5 下 (B) Workbook

Please note these links are affiliate links and LTL Mandarin School take a small cut of any sales made, with the rest going to Amazon and the lister of the product.

Finally, there are the character books: HSK 5 上 (A) Character Book and HSK 5 下 (B) Character Book.

LTL teacher

However, you need to be honest about your study goals before deciding whether or not you need the character books.

If you plan on taking the internet-based test and don’t think you will need to handwrite many characters in the future, then these books may not be necessary. 

Regardless, you shouldn’t need any additional textbooks to pass the HSK 5. The bulk of your studying should consist of consuming comprehensible input, be it books or media. 

The overwhelming majority of the Chinese language learning community recommends Yu Hua’s 活着 (Huózhe) as the first non-graded reader book that learners should read.

Though someone with HSK 5 vocabulary will only be able to understand a little over 65% of the book, being able to approach native material and understanding about ⅔ of it at first should be encouraging enough to finish it. 

Graded Readers for HSK 5 Level

If you’re just starting your HSK 5 journey and are not fully comfortable with picking up native materials yet, then there are still plenty of graded readers that can help you get there. 

A graded reader is a book that was written with language learners in mind.

These generally use a finite list of words and Chinese graded readers tend to go off of the HSK 5 character list. 

If you’ve gotten to HSK 5 already, you’ve surely heard of Pleco.

One of the most essential apps for Chinese language learners, Pleco is almost universally loved for its dictionary and flashcard system. However, few know that Pleco actually offers in-app graded readers! 

Simply click on “Add-ons” in your app, and you will see all of their graded reader options.

They go from 150 words all the way up to 1,200 words, so you will surely find something to suit your level. For HSK 5 students, anything 500 words and above should be very helpful. 

Remember that you want to shoot for a 98% comprehension rate, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like you know all the words—that is the point!

Another great option for HSK 5 students is Chinese Breeze. Their Level 4 books go all the way up to 1,100 words, making them perfect for HSK 5 students. 

You also can’t forget about the graded reading apps Du Chinese and The Chairman’s Bao.

You might have heard of them before since they both offer graded reading for levels as low as HSK 1. 

While they do not offer full novels, these two apps offer short graded reading stories that you can both read and listen to.

The main difference is that Du Chinese focuses on fiction stories while The Chairman’s Bao writes real Chinese news using the HSK vocabulary. 

If you are more interested in fiction, then we recommend Du Chinese, while if you’re more interested in real-world news, then The Chairman’s Bao is the app for you. 

Memorise Characters With Spaced Repetition Software (SRS)

Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) is by far the best way to memorize vocabulary.

An SRS uses an algorithm to learn which words you have learned well and adjusts your study sessions based on it. You review flashcards and tell the SRS which cards you got wrong, and it will automatically do the work for you. 

Not only can a good SRS app save you tons of time, but it can also prevent you from forgetting words.

Even if you’ve learned many words very well, a good SRS app will still make you review easy words periodically to confirm that you haven’t forgotten the word. 

A great SRS app is Hack Chinese. This website is a great way to keep track of what your Chinese vocabulary is like.

One of its benefits compared to other SRS apps is that Hack Chinese has lists of many popular Chinese textbooks and graded readers pre-loaded, so you can just add them to your study queue if you wish to memorise them.

Another great choice is Pleco.

This trusted app contains a great SRS feature that you can purchase as an add-on.

Pleco offers HSK decks that are ready to import, so you can easily import an HSK 5 deck and start studying it right away.

How to Pass HSK 5 | Improve Your Test Taking Skills

Now that you’ve got a handle on the test structure and the test content, you need to start testing your test-taking skills.

Remember that the HSK 5 test is a standardised exam, so there are many test strategies and test-taking skills that can be learned. 

Even if you do not remember every single one of the 2,500 vocabulary words, there is still a very high chance that you can pass the test by using the right test-taking strategies and developing the right skills to ace this test. 

Keep in mind that you only need 180 out of 300 points to pass, which is only 60% of the available points.

Work on the following strategies to increase your chances of passing the test.

Work on Reading Speed

Reading speed is an extremely important skill that can help you pass the HSK 5. The reading section of the HSK 5 is only 45 minutes long and includes 45 questions. 

That means that they are giving you an average of one minute per question to read the texts, the question itself, the answer choices, and make a decision.

If your reading speed is not up to par, there is no way you will have enough time to read everything and think about the question and the answer choices. 

This is where graded readers come in. As mentioned earlier in this text, you should shoot for a 98% comprehension rate with your graded readers.

Even if you feel like what you are reading is way below your level, this will help you develop soft skills like reading speed. 

One of the benefits of using a writing system that is not phonetic is that you do not have to sound out every word in your mind as you’re reading.

This can be odd to us English speakers, but this is how Chinese speakers can read at incredibly fast speeds in Mandarin. 

Practicing with graded readers will help you develop this skill and increase your chances of scoring well in the reading section of the HSK 5.

Chinese vs Mandarin 🤔 What's the Truth? Thumbnail

Chinese vs Mandarin 🤔 What’s the Truth?

Chinese vs Mandarin || Mandarin is a dialect of Chinese. Chinese is a language, whilst Mandarin is one of the dialects of Chinese.

Take HSK 5 Practice Tests

Taking practice tests and working on practice problems is a great way to develop an understanding of how the HSK 5 questions are structured.

Not only will this help you be prepared for test-day, but you will also start understanding where you are lacking. 

Being able to adjust your course as you are studying is a great asset that can make the difference between passing and failing. Your reading skills may be above and beyond what is expected of the HSK 5, but your listening skills may be way under. 

If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can adjust your study strategy to focus on the areas where you are lacking. 

Luckily, Hanban offers plenty of resources for those who want to take HSK 5 practice tests.

First, the Hanban website actually allows students to take a full-length practice test for just 20 RMB. This is probably the best way to accurately test your level as they even give you a grade for the essay parts of the writing section. 

To take this practice test, simply sign into the Hanban site and click on Practice. From there you will be able to choose the HSK 5 level.

At that point, just follow the on-screen prompts and make the 20 RMB payment to access your practice test.

Another very cost-effective way of practicing is by getting a book with official examination papers. You can find the 2018 edition for as low as $15.32 on Purple Culture.

Use HSK Online To Revise With Real HSK 5 Questions

The HSK Online App is probably one of the best apps out there if your main objective is to pass the HSK exam.

This app is completely dedicated to helping you pass the HSK by presenting you with many exercises, mock exams, and vocabulary training. 

To get the most from this app, we recommend that you upgrade to the paid version. At just $36 for a lifetime subscription, this app really is a great bang for your buck if you’re trying to pass the HSK 5. 

You can read our full review of HSK Online here.

If you have been practicing the HSK 5 questions and are not seeing much progress, you should get in touch with us so that one of our certified Chinese teachers can help you figure out the best way forward for you. 


At LTL Mandarin School, we believe that everyone can learn Chinese. We would be happy to work with you on our journey to passing the HSK 5 exam.

Contact us today to see how we can help!

How to Pass HSK 5 | FAQs

What is the maximum score of the HSK 5 exam?

The best score you can achieve would be 300/300 – if you achieve that, you deserve a medal!

Is the HSK 5 much harder than the HSK 4?

Percentage-wise, the jump from HSK 4 to HSK 5 is the highest out of all the HSK levels.

The vocabulary requirements double from every other jump, but the vocabulary from HSK 4 to 5 goes from 1,200 to 2,500.

That’s a vocabulary increase of roughly 108.3%.

What score do I need to pass the HSK 5?

To pass the HSK 5 exam, you need to score at least 180 points.

You do not need to pass each individual section to get a passing score for the HSK 5.

Should I take the internet or paper based HSK exam?

This makes the internet-based test an obvious choice for most Chinese learners out there.

We recommend that you take the internet-based test unless you are really keen on learning to handwrite each of the 2,500 characters covered in the HSK 5 exam. 

Can I work in China if I pass the HSK 5?

If you’re interested in landing a job that involves using Chinese regularly, then the HSK 5 could be your way in with most companies.

Some may require less, few will ask for more unless the field is particularly specialist.

Can I take the HSK 5 exam with LTL?

You certainly can.

We are an accredited HSK test centre, but that doesn’t mean you take the test at our centre, but we can get you booked into one when you need.

Can LTL help me book my HSK 5 test?

We will guide you all the way!

As we are an accredited HSK test centre, we can get you booked in for your HSK exam.

Is there a new HSK in 2022?

Yes there is, around March time.

The New HSK will make the HSK 5 significantly harder, but don’t worry, the exams will take a number of years to roll out so there is no rush to take the HSK 5 exam in the near future.

Take a look at our video guide where we answer you FAQ’s about the New HSK.

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    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

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