Learning Mandarin Chinese

The AP Chinese Language and Culture Exam

Out of the eight different foreign language advanced placement exams offered by the testing agency the College Board, the Advanced Placement Chinese Language and Culture exam is by far one of the most popular.  This makes a lot of sense, given that Mandarin Chinese is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, with close to a billion speakers!

If you’re in the process of learning Mandarin Chinese in the United States, you should make earning a good grade on the AP Chinese Language and Culture test your ultimate goal. Passing this examination with a good score will put you at an intermediate level of Mandarin – and from there, the opportunities are endless. More importantly, it can fulfill one of the common foreign language requirements for college. Even if you don’t plan to study Mandarin Chinese in the long term, a pass on the AP Chinese exam will provide you more time to take other classes.

What Does the Exam Cover?

The exam covers students’ knowledge of Chinese culture as well as interpretive, presentation, and interpersonal skills. It’s meant to test a student’s ability to engage in both written and spoken conversation, to comprehend information from audio, visual, audiovisual, print, and written resources, and to plan, produce, and present various types of communication.

The test takes about two hours and fifteen minutes to complete. It’s split into four sections, each of which will evaluate and assess various skills. It’s administered entirely on a computer, with either Traditional or Simplified character options. 

What HSK Level Corresponds With the AP Chinese Exam?

The HSK, or the Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì, is China’s only standardized test for non-native speakers of the language. The Chinese AP exam is equivalent to HSK level 4 to 5. It includes lots of Chinese cultural knowledge as well as real-life colloquial language use that you’ll need to know in order to perform well on the AP test.

If you are interested in studying, working or living in China, it’s best to use the HSK to prepare and pass the AP test. 

What TOCFL Level Corresponds With the AP Chinese Exam?

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language is another examination that measures your Chinese proficiency. Available in both simplified and traditional character versions, it has three proficiency bands – A, B, and C. 

If you want to pass the AP test, you will need to reach the intermediate level (Level 3) of the TOCFL. Therefore, many students take the TOCFL as a practice test for AP test preparation, since it’s designed for nonnative speakers of Chinese. It also serves as a good test of proficiency if you plan on working, studying, or doing any kind of business in Taiwan. 

Studying for the Exam

Once you’ve decided to take this challenging exam, it’s time to put in the work! Taking classes in Mandarin Chinese and immersing yourself in the language is the best thing you can do – but it’s also a good idea to sign up for a reading program. This will help you to continue to develop your skills long after your courses have ended – you can study on your own terms with a program like the Mandarin Reading Club.

Otherwise, practice, practice, practice! Practice makes perfect when it comes to getting a good score on the AP Chinese test. Good luck!