IS HSK a good guidance for general reading literacy?

As someone who speaks the language and has a goal of general reading/writing, I,e newspaper, lyrics, subtitles, is progressing through HSK 1-6 the best course of action, or is it better to use other frequency lists?

Should I aim to complete 1-6 or should I go midway and jump to another list? Or maybe forgo HSK entirely?


I do a mixture of both. I’m using the HSK lists, but I also have several custom lists, where I add words, that I think will be useful, as I encounter them. If I have many items in my custom list i pause the HSK list and concentrate on my own lists. This way I learn the words that I want to learn right now, and if there is nothing in my own lists I fall back on the HSK words I haven’t learned yet.


I think HSK lists will be good for you. You already have an understanding of the vocabulary and its usage, so the lists are all about connecting meaning/pronunciation and form. Study often for a few months, add new stuff aggressively, and it shouldn’t be too hard to blast through the first couple lists relatively quickly.

As you progress, I would recommend that you ban things quite liberally. Once you feel confident with some of the HSK 1 stuff (我,是,你,一,二,三,etc.) just ban it. You’ll see them in everything you’re reading, and it isn’t worth the time to review it. You’ll naturally engrain them in your memory and you would much rather be spending time getting other characters to that same level, right! :wink:

At some point, you might even consider removing the list from your study queue entirely. You don’t need the SRS system clogged up with tons of things you really know how to write. It just means more reviews/day and, actually, decreased efficiency.

I would recommend expanding out to other types of lists on Skritter once you’ve got a few hundred words/characters under your belt

Studying HSK lists is SUPER boring. It’s a grind.

Start picking some songs you like, short stories, literally anything that you have interest in and make some custom lists. We have a huge database of words already created on Skritter and it makes list creation super easy.

Here are some posts about reading comprehension and level appropriate materials you might find useful.

We also have tons of graded reader list on Skritter for most of the China Breeze and Mandarin Companion books. We’re also going to be working with @SkritterOlle to get Word Swing on Skritter shortly.

Chinese Breeze Lists

Mandarin Companion Lists

The point of me posting all this stuff is that you should be turning your attention toward language in context as soon as you can. HSK lists are great for building the foundation, so I do recommend using them, but once you’re comfortable, it is time to start reading for real!

Also, you’ll enjoy it more, and you’ll absorb a lot more about the language in its written form. Based on your questions, I think you already get that, and I wish you the best success along the way. Not sure if you’re taking classes, but I do think that being a part of a study community is a good way to keep you motivated and on track toward your goals.

Hacking Chinese has some cool challenges that you might wanna consider participating in. And, it is an excellent resource for pretty much everything Chinese related. You’ll find tons of songs, and texts on the site.

And, let us know how things go! We love to hear progress updates, and I think these kinds of topics are really inspiring to others with similar goals. Good luck and 加油!

-Jake (高健)


HSK isn’t exciting but I think it’s vital up to 5. 6 was indeed a grind. But if you’re not grinding, you’re doing it wrong. XD

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