Start Early – The HSK 6 is a good test of your real-life Chinese abilities. If you haven’t put the time into developing those abilities, then all the test prep in the world will be of little to no help. My current goal is to raise my HSK 6 score from 224 to 270 and I’m giving myself 1 to 2 years of daily study to do it.
Focus on Vocabulary – If you know the words, then you can answer the questions. If you don’t know the words, then you’ll be lost. It’s that simple. I’m giving most of my prep time to Advanced ChinesePod lessons because I don’t know of anything else out there that is so effective at building up my vocabulary. I’ve chosen 160 lessons, and I’m working on 3 a week. My favorite so far? Probably the 小太监进宫 series.
Do Practices Tests – You can get a number of free practice tests online, including directly from Hanban’s website (PDF and audio file). There are also a number of books of practice tests out there as well. I’ve done this book before. I plan to pick up a stack of practice test books the next time I’m in China. Do at least one of these practice tests early on so you’ll be aware of your weak points. I plan on hitting practice tests harder the closer I get to my next test date.
Summarize Stuff – The writing section of the HSK 6 involves reading an article, then summarizing it in your own words. If you can take the computerized version of the test (as I did recently), you can type it rather than writing by hand. Either way, it will take a lot of practice, especially if you’re not good at this kind of thing in your native language. This is one reason I’m starting my own vlog, where I summarize and comment on the ChinesePod lessons I’m studying. If you work with a tutor, you should insist on making summarizing a part of your routine. Speaking of which…
Get a Tutor – You’ll likely need one to help you make sense of the grammar points on the HSK practice tests, especially for the “请选出有语病的一项” reading section. Your average Chinese person on the street would even be baffled by many of those questions.
Get Immersed – Find a Chinese TV series (连续剧) and get yourself hooked. An old favorite from my school days was the gripping spy series 《潜伏》, and, based on numerous recommendations, I just recently started watching the anti-corruption police drama 《人民的名义》。If you’ve never done a 连续剧 before, my suggestion would be to watch the first episode 5 to 10 times, taking notes and looking up words. Wear out the “Pause” button. Make flashcards for the main characters’ names, and memorize them. If you make that first episode all about rigorous study, then you can relax enough to enjoy the rest of the show. In this situation, binge-watching is a virtue instead of a vice.
Stay Healthy – This may seem out-of-place, but as a 40-year-old with a deteriorating memory, I’m learning that it’s critical. For me, keeping my mind sharp requires three things: Maximizing sleep, minimizing sugar, and eliminating caffeine. I discovered that my performance with my early morning tutors can vary significantly, and I’ve narrowed the reasons down to these three things. Figure out what hinders you, and get rid of it.