Level 1 (HSK 1) Having passed this first level, the world of Mandarin is opening up for you. You can distinguish the different tones, you know about 150 words and you can read Pinyin. You can understand some essential daily used words and expressions and are able to communicate in a very basic way. For example, you can say hello to people and introduce yourself, thank people and apologize, inquire about price, time and date, and also ask for direction. If you have decided to also start learning Han Zi (Chinese characters), you now can read, and maybe even write, about 175 characters.
Level 2 (HSK 2)By now, your vocabulary has doubled to 300 words and your grammar, though still at a modest level, has really improved. You can describe things by means of their features like color, position, shape, etc.. You are able to talk about more advanced topics, like the weather, your job, and hobbies. You can make an appointment and buy goods in a shop in a quite complete way. You now finished the Elementary level, also called ‘survival’ Mandarin. And if you have decided to also start learning Han Zi, you now can read and maybe even write about 275 characters.
Levels 3-4-5 (HSK 3)With passing levels 3-4-5, you have entered the Intermediate level, well done! This really is a turning point in your journey as from now on you are able to read and write Han Zi, these beautiful Chinese characters. Understanding Han Zi has broadened and deepened your understanding of Mandarin massively. You might even have found out that Han Zi really is the core of the Chinese language. You now already know about 625 characters and your vocabulary contains 600 words, your grammar has reached an impressive level, as have your listening skills and speed of speech. With all this you can talk and read in a more than basic way about many things, for example, you will feel comfortable when traveling in China because you can deal with most topics you run across, like buying train and plane tickets, booking a room in a hotel and making a reservation for a trip.
Levels 6-7-8 (HSK 4)You have now completed the Intermediate level and most importantly, you have covered about all common grammar. You also know how to use the important structures that are so typical to the Chinese language. Your vocabulary spans 1200 words and you now know about 1000 characters. You can discuss a wide range of topics in all kinds of areas, and express your ideas clearly and rather fluently. And last but not least, it is important to know that having acquired this level, you will be admitted to Universities and many Chinese companies will now allow you to apply for a job!
Levels 9-10-11-12 (HSK 5)With level 9, you are entering the Advanced level. Your vocabulary has doubled again to 2500 words and your fluency has increased almost to the level of a native speaker. Although at a moderate speed, you can now read most simple Chinese books and articles in newspapers or magazines. You can enjoy Chinese movies and TV programs and express yourself accurately and hold speeches. As you also can understand and use typical Chinese structures and sayings, and know about Chinese history and culture. There is not much that hampers your communication anymore.
Levels 13-14-15-16 (HSK 6)With levels from 12 to 16 you have reached the last and highest possible level. Your vocabulary spans at least 5000 words, it is easy to understand anything you hear or read, you can fluently express your opinion both orally and in writing. You can analyze and understand difficult texts, discover textual errors, and your speech is at such a level that you can debate about all but the very specialized topic. In short, you have the abilities of a native speaker now, congratulations!