HSK Vocabulary Lists: Sample Characters and Words for Each Level

If you’re planning to take the HSK, the key to success is knowing the right characters and words for your level.

The HSK or the 汉语水平考试 (hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì) is the official Chinese proficiency test, and it has been taken millions of times all over the world.

Currently, it has six levels, with more levels under development.

Below, we’ve provided sample HSK vocabulary lists—pinyin and pronunciation all included.

We’ve also outlined the new test standards for each level for future reference.


HSK 1 Vocab List

Current Standards: 178 characters, 150 words

A student who passes the HSK 1 can use very simple words, phrases and everyday expressions.

The vocabulary you’ll need includes personal introductions and simple question words, as you’ll need to be able to answer very basic questions.

àiTo love; to be fond of
chīTo eat
deOf; used before a noun to show possession
东西dōng xiStuff, thing
dōuAll; both
duōMany; much; a lot of
高兴gāo xìngHappy
Measurement word for people or objects in general
工作gōng zuòJob; work
hǎoGood; well
hěnVery; quite
huìCan; possible; be able to;
jiāHome; family
今天jīn tiānToday
kāiTo open; to start
kànTo look at; to read
láiTo come; to arrive
老师lǎo shīTeacher
leCompleted action marker
maQuestion particle
mǎiTo buy
You (informal)
朋友péng youFriend
To go; to go to (a place)
shìTo be; yes


See the full HSK 1 character list here.

New Standards:

  • Extra topics
  • 269 syllables, 300 characters, 500 words
  • 48 grammar points
  • Writing speed of 10 characters per minute (CPM)

HSK 2 Vocab List

Current Standards: 349 characters, 300 words

The current HSK 2 states that you should be able to exchange simple information.

At this level, you can recognize and use expressions related to your background and family information, your job, shopping, ordering food at a restaurant, immediate surroundings and so forth. You can also respond to questions in basic Chinese conversations.

帮助bāng zhùTo help
biéDo not; must not
chūTo go out
大家dà jiāEveryone
dǒngTo understand
非常fēi chángVery
gěiTo give
孩子hái ziChild
háiStill; yet
教室jiào shìClassroom
觉得jué deTo think
开始kāi shǐTo start; to begin
可以kě yǐCan; may; possible
快乐kuài lèHappy
màiTo sell
面条miàn tiáoNoodles
nínYou (respectful)
便宜pián yiCheap; inexpensive
上班shàng bānTo go to work
生病shēng bìng To be sick
时间shí jiānTime
手机shǒu jīCellphone
It (inanimate object)
跳舞tiào wǔTo dance
为什么wèi shén meFor what reason; why
问题wèn tíQuestion; problem; topic
yàoTo want will; going to
一起yī qǐTogether
知道zhī dàoTo know; to be aware of

See the full HSK 2 character list here.

New Standards:

  • Extra topics
  • 468 syllables, 600 characters, 1,272 words
  • 129 grammar points
  • Writing speed of 15 CPM

HSK 3 Vocab List

Current Standards: 623 characters, 600 words

Currently, HSK 3 standards state that you should be able to communicate at a basic level.

At this stage, you can recognize and form simple sentences and questions. You can also make basic comparisons and describe objects.

The topics covered in this level include travel, hobbies, the workplace and school. You can also talk about feelings, opinions and future plans.

爱好ài hàoHobby
办法bàn fǎWay or method of doing sth
北京běi jīngBeijing
变化biàn huàChange
菜单cài dānMenu
唱歌chàng gēTo sing
聪明cōng mingSmart
担心dān xīnTo worry; to be anxious
地方dì fangPlace
发现fā xiànTo find out; to discover
方便fāng biànConvenient
感兴趣gǎn xìng qùTo be interested in
国家guó jiāCountry
还是hái shìOr; still
后来hòu láiAfterwards; later
回答huí dáTo reply; the answer
记得jì deTo remember
jiàoTo teach
结束jié shùTo finish; to end
可爱kě àiCute
筷子kuài ziChopsticks
lǎoOld; venerable person
联系liàn xíTo practice
明白míng baiTo understand; to realize
nánDifficult (to…); difficulty
奇怪qí guàiStrange; weird
容易róng yìEasy
特别tè biéEspecially; particular;
为了wèi leIn order to
主要zhǔ yàoMain; primary

See the full HSK 3 character list here.

New Standards:

  • Extra topics
  • 608 syllables, 900 characters, 2,245 words
  • 210 grammar points
  • Writing speed of 20 CPM

HSK 4 Vocab List

Current Standards: 1,071 characters, 1,200 words

At this level, you can comfortably discuss a variety of topics, both abstract and concrete. With the given text and audio, you can also state the main argument and identify the advantages and disadvantages.

Overall, you have the ability to interact with native speakers in different settings with little to no strain.

安排ān páiTo plan; to arrange
抱歉bào qiànSorry; to regret
比如bǐ rúFor example; for instance
不管bù guǎnNo matter (what, how)
部分bù fenPart; section
长城cháng chéngThe Great Wall
出现chū xiànTo appear; to arise; to emerge
错误cuò wùMistake; error
当时dāng shíThen; at the time; while
地址dì zhǐAddress
短信duǎn xìnText message
反对fǎn duìTo disagree; to oppose
改变gǎi biànTo change
购物gòu wùShopping
害羞hài xiūShy
后悔hòu huǐTo regret
既然jì ránSince; this being the case
接受jiē shòuTo accept; to receive
看法kàn fǎOpinion; way of thinking
来不及lái bu jíThere’s not time enough to do something
另外lìng wàiIn addition; additional
免费miǎn fèiFree (of charge)
目的mù dìPurpose; aim; goal
péiTo accompany someone
其中qí zhōngAmong; included in
情况qíng kuàngCircumstance; situation
然而rán érHowever; yet; but
使用shǐ yòngTo use; to employ
讨论tǎo lùnTo talk over; to discuss
无聊wú liáoBoring; bored

See the full HSK 4 character list here.

New Standards:

  • 724 syllables, 1,200 characters, 3,245 words
  • 286 grammar points
  • Translation questions in speaking and writing portions

One of the biggest issues with the current HSK is the huge leap between levels 3 and 4, where learners immediately go from basic communication to fluent conversation.

Thankfully, the new HSK will be restructuring the intermediate levels. The remodeled will have a smoother transition between each level.

HSK 5 Vocab List

Current Standards: 1,709 characters, 2,500 words

Reaching this level means you understand Mandarin in a variety of settings, both formal and informal. Here, you also have the ability to read Chinese newspapers. This means you can read longer texts and understand main ideas and implicit meanings.

You also have little to no trouble expressing yourself and can write lengthy texts that are organized with transitions, conjunctions and other advanced grammar structures.

熬夜áo yèTo stay up late
包括bāo kuòTo include; to consist of
保持bǎo chíTo keep; to maintain
吵架chǎo jiàTo quarrel
成人chéng rénAdult
出席chū xíTo attend; to participate
达到dá dàoTo reach; to achieve
贷款dài kuǎnA loan; to provide a loan (bank)
等于děng yúTo be equal to
分手fēn shǒuTo break up
风格fēng géStyle; manner
感受gǎn shòuTo sense; an impression; an experience
各自gè zìEach; respective
过敏guò mǐnTo be allergic; allergy
后果hòu guǒConsequences; aftermath
基本jī běnBasic; fundamental; main

记录jì lùTo take notes
尽量jìn liàngAs much as possible
据说jù shuōIt is said that
可怕kě pàAwful; dreadful
理由lǐ yóuReason; justification
梦想mèng xiǎngDream; to dream of
秘密mì mìSecret
难怪nán guàiNo wonder… (that)
平常píng chángOrdinary; common
勤奋qín fènHardworking; diligent
日常rì chángDaily; everyday
深刻shēn kèProfound; deep
思想sī xiǎngThought; idea
特色tè sèCharacteristic

See the full HSK 5 character list here.

New Standards:

  • 822 syllables, 1,500 characters, 4,316 words
  • 357 grammar points
  • Translation questions in the speaking and writing portions

HSK 6 Vocab List

Current Standards: 2,633 characters, 5,000 words

For the time being, HSK 6 is the highest level for advanced learners. The expectation here is that you’re fluent and can easily understand everything you hear and read. You can also summarize anything you read or hear, recall details and give explanations in a coherent matter.

All in all, if you pass this test, that means you can express yourself effectively in any given circumstance.

巴不得 bā bù déTo be eager for; to long for
拜托 bài tuōRequest sb to do sth
本身 běn shēnIn itself; per se
别扭 biè niuAwkward; difficult
差别 chā biéDifference
尝试 cháng shìTo try; to attempt
创新 chuàng xīnInnovation; bring forth new ideas
打包 dǎ bāoTo wrap; to pack; take to go (food)
大致 dà zhìMore or less; roughly
对付 duì fuTo handle; to deal with
而已 ér yǐThat’s all; nothing more
反思 fǎn sīTo reflect on something; to think back
风光 fēng guāngScene; view; sight
改良 gǎi liángImprove
尴尬 gān gàAwkward
雇佣 gù yōngTo employ; to hire
胡乱 hú luànCareless; reckless
即便 jí biànEven if; even though
杰出 jié chūOutstanding; distinguished
惊讶 jīng yàAmazed; astonished; surprised
倔强 jué jiàngStubborn
开朗 kāi lǎngSpacious, well-lit; open and clear (of a space)
课题 kè tíTask; problem
联络 lián luòTo get in touch with; communicate
冒犯 mào fànTo offend
迷人 mí rénFascinating; charming
敏锐 mǐn ruìKeen; sharp; acute
难得 nán déSeldom; rare
譬如 pì rúFor example; for instance
时代 shì dàiGeneration; era

See the full HSK 6 character list here.

New Standards:

  • 908 syllables, 1,800 characters, 5,456 words
  • 424 grammar points
  • Translation questions in the speaking and writing portions

Originally the test for advanced learners who can effectively express themselves, the New HSK 6 will be remodeled as the final intermediate level to make it a natural progression to the advanced levels.

HSK 7-9 (New Levels)

New Standards:

  • 1,110 syllables, 3,000 characters, 11,092 words
  • 572 grammar points

These new advanced levels will truly test your Chinese proficiency and be ideal for those wanting to pursue a degree or career in Chinese. The translation portion of these levels will also be on a professional level.

HSK 7: Some of the proposed advanced topics include science and technology, sports, literature, major university courses, mental health, among others.

HSK 8: This level will take things up a notch, with texts and audios on possible subjects like linguistics, history, philosophy, politics and the news in general. It’ll be expected that you can have deeper conversations about slightly more complex issues.

HSK 9: This is where you’ll need to know how to communicate on the most complex of topics, like international affairs, trade, academic research, policies, etc. This last level will really test your ability to communicate in formal interactions, such as business meetings and academic settings.

How to Study HSK Vocabulary

Each HSK level has a different expected vocabulary size—the higher you go, the more vocabulary and characters you’ll have to know.

To study the vocabulary words for your level, one of the most effective study tactics would be to make flashcards. You can write out your own or take advantage of HSK prep apps, which offer more lists and SRS flashcards.

With the website and app FluentU, you have the option of studying through pre-made HSK decks or creating your own flashcards based on the program’s Chinese media clips. These authentic videos come with interactive subtitles, letting you click on any word and add it to a personalized list.

hsk vocabulary list

Each flashcard is complete with a definition, some usage info, an example sentence and audio pronunciation. You can click on any word to discover more sentences, as well as native videos that show the term being used in various contexts. 

Additionally, we have a list of 60+ HSK resources, including sample tests and grammar references, to help you fully prepare for the exam. 


Taking the HSK test is a rite of passage for many Chinese learners. Good luck or 加油 (jiā yóu)!

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