You should take an HSK test, not a YCT test. In terms of actual content the HSK and YCT are almost identical, so you or your kid can take either. Passing the HSK officially qualifies you to study in Chinese universities and the YCT does not. Therefore, you should always take the HSK unless a school or program specifically asks for the YCT.
What’s the difference?
So the HSK and the YCT are essentially the same test, just intended for different audiences. Seriously, studying for the HSK involves studying the exact same vocabulary as the YCT and basically the same grammar and sentence structures. Just compare a HSK test to an equivalent YCT test; it’s easy to see how similar the vocabulary and complexity are.The HSK is old and intended for high school students to adults, while the YCT was added more recently and is focused on young kids.
This leads to a weird situation where if you can pass a YCT test, there’s an equivalent HSK test you can pass and I’ll go more into this later. The big deal though is that passing the HSK 3 and HSK 4 are required to study different subjects in Chinese colleges like Peking University. This gives the HSK a lot more credibility and value than the YCT. Building upon that, foreign colleges and international companies all know the HSK is older and more prestigious and therefore value a passing grade on a HSK test more than the YCT test.
At the end of the day, you’ve got two identical tests but what gives a significant reward and the other doesn’t. You should basically always take the test that gives you better rewards.
How do individual HSK and YCT tests compare?
So the YCT goes from levels 1-4 and the HSK goes from levels 1-6. In general, a YCT test is worth a HSK test worth one level lower. So the YCT level 3 is equal to the HSK level 2 and the YCT level 4 is equal to the HSK level 3. The YCT doesn’t go further but the HSK 4-6 are generally intended for working professionals to show full fluency.
Having said that, the YCT levels 1-2 and the HSK level 1 in general aren’t worth taking. They’re very simple tests and no one will really be impressed with passing them. The HSK level 2 and the YCT level 3 are a bit more impressive, representing 6 months to a year of study but there’s still no real reward. The HSK level 3, but not the YCT 4, is required to study in a Chinese university and represent some serious study and lower intermediate fluency.
Should I or my kid ever take the YCT?
Only if you have a good reason, like a specific school or program specifically asks for the YCT. I’m serious about how these tests are identical; you go to the exact same website to sign up, pay the exact same fee, and even go to the same testing center to take the test. Even worse, because the HSK is more popular, the test is more common and you’ll often have to wait longer to schedule a YCT test than a HSK test. Having said that, if your local school or extracuricular program wants the YCT, it’s not difficult to take and pass if you’ve already passed the equivalent HSK test.
How do I take the HSK or YCT?
This is a whole topic on it’s own, but in general you need to go to Hanban’s website, make an account, and sign up for either the HSK test or the YCT test. You’ll need to find a nearby test center, which almost always means a Confucius Institute at a local college, and choose a date. The dates change but in general the HSK is held once every month and the YCT is held once every quarter or season. Quick note: you might see references to an “online” HSK but this doesn’t mean you can take the HSK online, it just means that you take the HSK test at the test center using a computer.