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I am just getting started learning Chinese. My goal is to be able to speak Chinese at the level of a first grader. My plan is to evaluate this by completing HSK course(s). But I do not know which level of HSK I need to pass to achieve my goal.

What is the school grade level equivalent of each HSK level? For example, is HSK-1 equivalent to a first grader? Or perhaps, a senior in high school? And what about HSK-2, HSK-3, etc.? Or if this is not a fair way evaluate the skill level needed to pass an HSK test, what is?

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As you might expect, it's incredibly hard to compare primary school levels with HSK levels. But let's nevertheless try comparing characters at different primary school levels vs. HSK levels, with the caveat that Chinese children are learning characters with different expectations to HSK students (e.g., a different emphasis on handwriting).

For the following plots, I used the primary school characters from here, and the HSK2.0 characters from here and the HSK3.0 characters from here.

The first plot is simply the number of characters at each level:

number of characters: primary school vs HSK(2.0) vs. HSK(3.0)

As we can see in the plot, Chinese primary school children learn many characters very early on, but then it tapers off. In high school, it reaches 3500 characters like in 通用规范汉字表 and 现代汉语常用字表, but students likely know a few thousand more than this by the time they reach the 高考, and they likely have a formidable fluency with these characters.

Next, I (with ChatGPT's help) made these heatmaps of the common characters:

primary school vs. HSK 2.0 standards

primary school vs. HSK 2.0 standards

(Janosh's answer at TeX.SE was used to generate the heatmaps.)

So as we see, Chinese children learn different characters to HSK students, but it gets worse, because there's many characters left off these plots:

291 characters occur in the primary school corpus, but not the HSK2.0 corpus (at any level): 弧扳筝硝藻拴浩蜒秆锯汪尼鳃谧拎鹰岷迂萝茅晌揪蚊蒜蝙孟冶鹿澜翁涯瑕荆钮噩骏妮囚迪眷誊榛乃崎曹翩刘柑芬犁哮怦暇嫣枫玫笠玲吭跤吾坊缸驼凯顔咏踮玛锄拱敝亩杭榆碧瞅梧蝉潺簇仆竿啄魏刨咆徽桂螺匠帕脯莞湛葛茵岭狞洼诲龟祷恙铛缕腭淮赐卜鸿虾敛罗橱匪砾袄爪侍碱潭屯胧垒猬枳狐莹蛾烬囫桩娜皎姹弓笋勒蜓凰祭埃囵燕柳彤莲秦梭粪榴铲蚕诣峦柏枣绢窿璧蹄跺腊蝠藤斧眺鸥媚秧粼寨豹哟狸饵坪幔兀阁韵翠莱鹅毡躯菊蜘荷蔡喳蜻芳檐藕魁渲栗泞赵谙拂鼎擂禾盏曼鹭橘俏裸啪瑰浆咚骆擞蛙岖漾噎洛丞菠伊兰鲸凤蜿嘻蓑蝇匣桐朦葱蘸杉绽呐霎窟宋雁瑞绞驮荧瑶纱曰朱臀捶浙茁冈绊侯柄杨绵徐肝胯棚矶寇吴鹊霄胚鹃嗡翡襟丹萨梅甸杏脊艄珑缤瑟淌蛛腮溢
486 characters occur in the HSK2.0 corpus (all levels), but not in the primary school corpus: 纽咋帅戚讼炫喇瞄丑桔怠缚蔓遏馋馈酗奢浏狈沧尬咖粥营帖框婪辅嵌来葡询纬旨瘩僻衷熨椒伪瘸枉眶侃暧厢衍腥恒订叨颜捆拄煮宪撤扯假狭瓜蓄陋饼赂啡勿饱诈拙碳棍甭蕾狱踊萌歪剑吉慷贸伺候谋膨艘绅淆啰岳迸叙磁擅鉴嘛档潇逮迁呵贩锲擎腐泳掰柬馒抬萄虐糙阂蹬综衣勘耻遵瞒酬呕慨碌枕宰啸孕沼朽惦巩廉罕涮氧届酱疙谍券惕姥淀循乙趋培歹蜂永链浊熏荤妥溃谴芒蔑贤嫁扣啬婚辙厦兔尴温肖惮漏奈杖渗盟粹富徙乒兆墅雌腻塘缔饥谱仓讳皂凸逻哦堕嫉袱瞎紊嚏秩颠灶隶挫徊拟绎窍幢愣侈弥泻滞汹钦蒂溶肪宵疏刹筛疫唠伶钥刊捍膏酝惋俭悼咸掐谅俐铸岗煎译携棕圾疗躬傅惰姻侥恕蔚屡鞠胀阐衅椭哆劈轨杠睦誓彰隘债劫鄙磋畏瘾殴赁嘈缀歇嗨隧措沛濒徘兢钞奴抒疤瘫筐履署橙憾耍耽纲秃驳贿犹舆殃辰屑涵孝掷烹滔拽凌霸冤拧膜尚赴娶辑症嗯摧瘤犬屁汰诽椎厕俊讽魅储亦嗅曝饪肴虏澄袜刷辕丙涕匙墓硕贫捏惭馅策秤乓钝啤贷氛咨庇暄锤摄菌屿铭氓恳唆倔昧坟佣垄董髦裔恭泌酿剖攒讯廓臭颂晤宠迄丐嗦藐晕渺拓崩琢儒薪晋垃吝倡赌辖逊卑凹聊喻暖喧弊肿纤沐榜啥酌筹竞猾瓷俘颁污偿簸辜狡斟筷谤镶赚辐畴叛谬宴咙痪蛮韧癌钙税痹抑卧诬缴诧阱媒兼霍憋泄舶涂御敷签颖兑聘篷遣础己壤譬晾瞩揍贬缉

150 characters occur in the primary school corpus, but not the HSK3.0 corpus (at any level): 茁姹寇硝啄咀涩蝴恙拂矶丞妮咚瑕藕腭毡骆咆柑蜓皎桐粼锄驼梭晌莞哮湛瑶澈蚁幔洼吟猬蚕苟峦臀侯峭脯誊胯碱烬霄噩杏嗡莱狞腮囵嘻曼栗铛擞鹃笠眷踮蝉檐襟眺蜻埃呻岷跺梧怦蚂崎翩狐谧榛枳霎喳蔡玛谙璧狸渲鲸敝笋洛蝙匣葛榆吾坊蜒彤裳钮鹭榴砾绢诲哟潺嫣菠啪绊艄蛾蹋玲迂诣侄枫蓑泞眯娜雹鸥蹄瑟袄兀蛛囫翡杉犁珑鹊顔茵岖蝶鳃蜘蜿暇擂秆鸿蝠噎
688 characters occur in the HSK3.0 corpus (all levels), but not in the primary school corpus: 谅钙瘾钦臭戚彬撬芝综窒黏茄靴霍啤饱闸阀衷铸囱鹏抨糙涡驳兔涂楷萌徊滔煎辰劈氓偿犬奸吏丐屿憾俘轿敦卦沐硕舵姥垄婿卒宰潦棱枉撰缀菩礁谱镑揍捆兢垃祀乙嫁沏掐袱衍抠狈筛唬铭沽弘嫦酌巫崛勿浊拙晕诀募躬屑髦讹淀芯剃撤哦蔑恕辑囊芦皂孪摄哆砌卤鹤喻驭膳诧幢滞蕾兼届杖殷叛娥御逾顷寥虔酱戈矢浦瞩擅荫丙氧刊暮罕祈勋董泳宠倡宵贤磊焚渝债衅宴鲨媲涵挟垮捅来钞培熏己殴腕肪绅腐啸汰伪灶慨贱抒稽迄捏馒蛮酝蔓衣诽圾框酬猾帅尚飙阎牡粤萄叙奴倚谴馈颂咖宪炖颊钥签链奢营隘秤耿臊沪兑绰逊澳浏绷乒铝杠炫窑剑挫氛苛僧喇禅咧署菇栓虏萧肿卑询犹穆卵缴骇痰磁泻菌榜秃闺芭嫉冗税袁丑咨档饼佑椰措舶邪慑缆拄碟刹迭沼娶焊屡辅睦污渗嗜椒廷遂辙恭爵抑匿狡捍讯塘晋酵赴譬栖儒症粽殃岗富灼侈擎蓄恳丫痪畏窘恒恤纬仲髓竞钧靶谍弊腺帖嗦彰孵渊篷疗候镶抬赂耍疏薯膜潘絮傅弛萍畸涤痴筹贾揽拧履馨冯契嘛歼吕煽烹瞎凌廓阐缉淆槽隧邓爹煲酥逮瘟玄煮赁曝琢隶踊赌歇溃膏讼译奈弥兆喧韧峙曙韩冤扣础贷贬循唠遣攒婚颖卧枕蜀缚啡凸佐慷凿粥晤虐蹭瓷鞠券筷妥颠俊诈储莽澄巅狭胀秉厄呜孝馁蹬瘫芒舆涮聘辐猖攘沛赚迁驯嬉逞厢邦颁赃伺酗矫咸遏朽涕笛仓拽颓酿壤嵌赫妖碳拯鉴棍棺缔墓讽乔狱聊槐巩辜拓崩寡矣贩温谤谋厕俄陋磋誓癌枢竣夷贿葡痹携永咙柬厦捂溯惦馅橙沧兹岳呵摧颜趋裔劫凹盟蘑纤鳄渺贮豁钳泄耻尿勘紊揣敷遛卉谬瓜盹歹怠蒂陨耽艘愣亦酣弈叨阂灸屹秩侃碌戳尬订郭粹馋惕暖赡秽焕膨屠腥汛吉坟徘廉抡潇俭纽窥猩瘤乓婉醇垦佣僚僻昧歪婪缅腻槛艾假掰踹讳筐砂袜策尴辖魅涝惰肾孕锤剖贸姻绯赎窍疫媒阱肇墅逻掺蜂拟绎堕溶匙棘嗅纲汹凳肖函逸贞姜悼惋呛畴瞄倔薪泌熙遵炬霸鄙刁毙惭懈锡瞒呕轴贫饥旨怡憋扯刷轨漏旭

I get the feeling the HSK aims at providing a well-rounded education, so it touches on a broad range of topics in business, science, law, medicine, and so on, and these topics are likely taught differently to primary school children.

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