Next steps after HSK 4


I’m currently about to finish the HSK 4 vocab list. My ambition is to have a Chinese certificate, but for professional purposes, so taking a HSK 4 exam is probably just waste of time and money now - I’ll verify my level with the an online mock exam for myself.

Should I continue with the HSK 5 list or focus more on other lists? I’m studying “Chinese movie word frequency list 1001-2000” and like that one, it matches my knowledge and gaps, moving me forward more than the HSK 4 list.

HSK tends to be quite academic as an entrance requirement for Chinese schools, but that’s not my ambition. So is it even worth pursuing HSK 5/6? At the same time, there’s quite a big gap between HSK 4 and 5. I wouldn’t call HSK 4-level for fluency, but HSK 5 seems to be.

What’s your experience? What would you recommend at this learning stage? I’m quite fluent but I can’t say I can express myself hassle-free. I’m learning Chinese mostly for business and my Chinese wife.



I would say do HSK 5 / 6 lists, I have done both and do not feel it is enough for fluency. The HSK lists are mostly relevant words used in everyday life or at least in the kind of materials you are likely to read day to day. You’re not wasting your time on very rare words and it gives a good basis to tackle real world materials and conversations.

I would suggest adding a chengyu list if you haven’t done one already. Maybe a character list to fill in some gaps. I prefer the big lists so long as they don’t have too many obscure words, as it cuts down on time spent deciding what to add next.

I have studied most of the big lists of modern vocab I could find (like HSK etc.), and having spent more time the last six months on real world materials, I have accumulated another 3,000 words or so in my quick add list from books, articles, TV, music, etc… Some of that is a bit obscure, but much is of the level someone hoping for decent everyday fluency with the language would want to at least recognise.

Some lists I like:


General vocab:

  • Top 3000 Characters
  • TOCFL - another big “brute force” list
  • Movie word frequency lists are good as well - worth working through all of these

Proper names:


Last few words in my Zhongwen quick add list - some of these I add along the way to Skritter if they’re missing. Should give you an idea of what you’ll be missing even if you study many of the big lists:

  • 先睹为快 xiāndǔwéikuài: have the pleasure to be among the first to read (a poem etc.) or see (a play, film etc.)
  • 放置 fàngzhì: to put
  • 撇嘴 piězuǐ: twitch one’s mouth; curl one’s lip
  • 盛夏 shèngxià: midsummer
  • 游泳圈 yóuyǒngquān: swim ring; life preserver; (slang for fat around belly) spare tire
  • 有爱 yǒu’ài: affectionate
  • 退路 tuìlù: way out; line of retreat; leeway
  • 摆锤 bǎichuí: pendulum weight; pendulum bob
  • 型男 xíngnán: metrosexual; a stylish man (slang)
  • 闲谈 xiántán: gossip; talk idly; chitchat
  • 扯闲篇 chěxiánpiān: indulge in idle chatter
  • 扯谎 chěhuǎng: to tell a lie
  • 扯皮 chěpí: petty dispute
  • 结缔组织 jiédìzǔzhī: connective tissue
  • 眼睑 yǎnjiǎn: eyelid
  • 阴阳鱼 yīnyángyú

Hi Ximeng, thanks for pulling this together - a very useful compilation!

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