1. Speed is king. This is especially true on the listening sections. There’s no repeats, and there’s no second times. So, it’s important to be paying your fullest attention during the exam.
For the reading section, especially for the higher levels, this is all you’re really being tested on. The texts aren’t difficult to understand, but you have to work fast. So it’s important to practice speed reading and time yourself with mock papers.
2. “Should I take notes during the listening exam?” Personally, I say no notes unless you’re at the higher levels. And even on the higher levels, I’d still prefer no notes.
I often find that if you’re taking notes, you’re not listening, and if you’re listening, the notes you take aren’t very good quality.
3. Two types of practice. When doing practice papers, you can practice in two ways – the first way is to do lots of questions that are section specific, and you can practice with entire HSK papers. If you’re drilling questions, your objective is to learn the question type and learn which bits of the test to hone in.
However, with the second way, you’re really practicing for timing and assimilation. So I highly recommend that you simulate exam conditions when doing it.
4. Learning to skip questions…temporarily. Unless you’re a true Chinese whizz, there will be parts you don’t get, whether it be listening or reading or writing. It’s important to learn what to skip.
Because of that, if you feel like a question is bugging you, let it go and skip it…you can always come back to a question that you’ve skipped, but there’s no getting back time you’ve lost to do other questions.
5. How to do the exam. This may just be a personal preference, but I have a way I like to go about multiple choice exams. I personally find it annoying to fill in those answer cards – but because these are checked by machines, you have to shade it well.
So instead of filling in the answer card at the end of every question, I like to do them in bulk after an entire section of questions.
But this way, you’re killing two birds with one stone – on the one hand, you’re not constantly distracted by having to look between the HSK paper and the answer template, and on the other, you’ll reduce errors you make when transferring answers.
6. My “One Take” theory. In my opinion, I think that the answers you put down first are usually going to be your final answer, and the answer most likely to be right.
So, if you’ve done your preparation, give yourself some credit and trust your answer. Don’t look back twice – you can do that when double checking.