Certificate Exams Preparation

Our exam preparation programmes are for people who wish to obtain a language certificate to enhance their CV for professional purposes, or a step onto the next level of their education. These courses are designed to gain the highest marks in your target exams (GCSE, A Level, Pre U, IB, HSKs, or university exam). We help some local schools in conducting the speaking part of these exams.

The programme covers all elements required of the desired examination board's syllabus, our Beginners, Intermediate, or Advanced language programmes, depending on your starting points, and all elements of our Intercultural Workshops.

For Chinese language exams, you need to have solid foundation of Pinyin (sound make-up), written (Chinese characters) and writing order. Good understanding of language formation (grammar) and vocabulary is also required. In addition, it is necessary to understand Chinese culture to some degree, based on the outline requirements of each exam board's syllabus.

The main objectives are to enable students to develop:

  • an understanding of Chinese in a variety of contexts.
  • a knowledge of Chinese vocabulary and structures.
  • transferable language learning skills.
  • the ability to communicate effectively in Chinese.
  • awareness and understanding of countries and communities where Chinese is spoken.

ISEB Certificate
ISEB CertificateISEB syllabuses & specimen papers
ClassOne-to-one or small group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1 hour session, 1-3 per sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

The ISEB Assessment in Mandarin Chinese is for preparatory or secondary school pupils who have undertaken 30 to 40 hours or one to two years of study. It includes:

  • Reading & Writing - 45 minutes (70%)
  • Listening – 15-20 minutes (20%)
  • Speaking - 5 minutes (10%)

Most independent schools takes the ISEB Certificate as a scholarship criterion.

GCSE and IGCSE Chinese Exams
GCSE and IGCSE ChineseEdexcel GCSE and IGCSE, AQA GCSE, Cambridge IGCSE Second Language Chinese
ClassOne-to-one or small group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1 hour session, 1-3 per sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

The GCSE combines controlled assessment of speaking and writing skills with external assessments for listening and reading skills. These assessments vary depending on whether you are taking the Foundation tier or Higher tier. You may take the exam in either Mandarin or Cantonese, and may write with either simplified or traditional Chinese characters. The assessment is based on the following skills:

  • Listening and understanding in Chinese
  • Speaking in Chinese
  • Reading and understanding in Chinese
  • Reading in Chinese


Possible related content:

  • Media and culture: music, film, reading; fashion, celebrities, religion; blogs, internet
  • Sport and leisure: hobbies and interests, sporting events, lifestyle choices
  • Travel and tourism: holidays, accommodation, eating, food, drink
  • Business, work and employment: work experience, part-time jobs
  • Centre-based option


Exams boards and Exams:

  • The Edexcel GCSE offers Full Course and Short Course in Chinese. It combines controlled assessment of speaking and writing skills with external assessments (Foundation or Higher) for the listening and reading skills. This is a good choice of exam, as it offers greater flexibility for you further progress to GCE AS and A Level or other advanced level qualifications, even if you are unsure how long you can keep up your study.
  • The Edexcel IGCSE is a single-tier papers, 100% examination format via three Edexcel-marked units. If you have been learning Chinese for some time, and wish to progress to any other advanced level qualifications, then this exam is for you. Some native Chinese speakers often opt to take this exam.
  • The AQA GCSE exam offers Listening and Reading for either Foundation or Higher, but Speaking and Writing are untiered. Otherwise it is similar as Edexcel.
  • The Cambridge IGCSE First Language Chinese syllabus is designed for learners whose first language is Chinese. Some native Chinese speakers often opt to take the exam.
  • Cambridge IGCSE Chinese as a Second Language is designed for learners who already have a working knowledge of Chinese and want to develop their understanding to progress their education or career.


If you have a natural aptitude for languages and you can commit time for at least three lessons a week, obtaining a GCSE in Chinese is achievable within a year for a total beginner. If you take two sessions a week it is achievable within two years.

GCE Chinese AS and A-level
GCE ChineseEdexcel GCE
ClassOne-to-one or Small Group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1 hour session, 1-3 per sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

The GCE exam is split into AS Level and A2 Level. You can take the exam either in Mandarin or Cantonese, either using simplified or traditional Chinese character writing. The Edexcel GCE offers a ‘Three units’ format which rewards learners for speaking, reading, listening and writing.

The AS level rewards students for their understanding of spoken and written Chinese, their ability to transfer meaning from Chinese into English and to produce continuous writing in Chinese. These are to be demonstrated by:

  • Spoken Expression and Response in Chinese
  • Understanding and Written Response in Chinese, including Listening, Reading and Writing
  • An essay linked to a short Chinese-language stimulus.

General topic areas:

  • Food, diet and health
  • Transport, travel and tourism
  • Education and employment
  • Leisure, Youth interests and Chinese festivals. Chinese festivals: the Chinese New year, mid-autumn festival, dragon boat festival, Ching Ming (Qing Ming)


The A2 Level tests the student's ability to understand written Chinese and respond in writing. It also enables them to demonstrate their ability to write in Chinese and promotes knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture and/or society through focused research. These are to be demonstrated by:

  • Reading
  • Translation
  • Essay writing and Research-based essay writing (both essays ~250–500 characters)

Additional topic area:

  • Environment (energy, pollution and environmental campaigns)


A Level Chinese brings the language to life as students apply their learning to real-world scenarios. It may be highly attractive to certain employers with a demand for language skills. If you have a natural aptitude for languages, have achieved GCSE Mandarin, and you can commit time for at least 3 sessions a week, the qualification is achievable within a year. If you can commit about 2 sessions a week, it should be achievable within 18 months.

Cambridge Pre-U Mandarin Chinese
Official Website Cambridge Pre-U Mandarin Chinese
ClassOne-to-one or Small Group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1 hour or 1.5 hours per session, 1-3 sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

The Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subject in Mandarin Chinese is a stand-alone qualification, with all components assessed at the full Cambridge Pre-U standard at the end of a two-year programme of study. There are no unit retakes. Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects are certificated separately. They are fully compatible with A Levels and may be taken in combination with them.

The Cambridge Pre-U course is a very highly regarded 'pre-university' course for students, which builds on GCSE Chinese to develop students skills in all areas of the language. Pre-U courses are regarded as comparable to A level courses in most aspects, though the grading system allows the best students to achieve a Distinction grade that is considered to be more impressive than an A* grade at A level. Generally speaking, however , the Pre-U is considered as more achievable for a non-native Chinese speaker.

Main differences with A Level

  • A major emphasis on speaking Chinese
  • A substantial number of cultural topics: Traditions, History, Economics, etc.
  • Requires learning certain Chinese idioms
  • Requires reading and analysing Chinese literature in context, then writing an essay on it in English.

Assessment Overview of the Cambridge Pre-U

  • Paper 1: Speaking - 15 minutes, 20%. Externally assessed Oral
  • Paper 2: Listening, Reading and Translation - 2h 30m, 30%. Externally set and marked written paper
  • Paper 3: Writing and Usage - 2h, 25%. Externally set and marked written paper
  • Paper 4: Chinese Culture - 2h 30m, 25%. Externally set and marked written paper

Exam Details

Paper 1: Speaking - two parts

Part 1: Prepared Topic, and Topic Conversation

Candidates research a topic related to the history, current affairs or culture of the Chinese world. In the examination, they will speak in Mandarin Chinese on this topic for about two minutes and answer follow-up questions from the Examiner.

Part 2: General Conversation

Straightforward questions about the candidate’s background and interests will lead quickly to a more mature conversation covering the Topic Areas listed in the syllabus.

Paper 2: Listening, Reading and Translation - four parts

Part 1: Listening

Candidates listen to pre-recorded passages in Mandarin Chinese and answer questions.

Part 2: Reading

The comprehension of two passages in Chinese is tested by questions in English.

There is a mixture of objective questions and questions requiring written answers in English. Both passages will be in contemporary vernacular style, using grammatical structures as used in all popular textbooks.

Part 3: 成语 (Chéngyǔ - Idioms)

Candidates provide a literal translation and an explanation in English for three chengyu taken from a list of 25 prescribed in the syllabus.

Part 4: Translation

Candidates translate a short passage of vernacular Chinese (not more than 200 characters) into English. The assessment focuses on the transfer of meaning rather than literal correctness.

Paper 3: Writing and Usage - three parts

Part 1: Writing

Candidates complete exercises testing radical and stroke order skills as well as the use of grammar markers, aspect markers and measure words.

Part 2: Letter Writing

Candidates write a letter of 80–100 characters. The task will be in English, but may require candidates to respond to a stimulus in Chinese. Assessment focuses on communication of the required elements, the accuracy of characters, accuracy of grammar and structures and appropriateness of language.

Part 3: Opinion Essay

A choice of six titles, one on each of the six Topic Areas, is provided. Candidates have to write one essay in Chinese of 175–225 characters. Essays will be assessed for accuracy and linguistic range as well as development and organisation of ideas. A colloquial style will be sufficient for top marks.

There is a mixture of objective questions and questions requiring written answers in English. Both passages will be in contemporary vernacular style, using grammatical structures as used in all popular textbooks.

Paper 4: Chinese Culture - two options

In the examination, candidates answer two questions, in English, one on each of their chosen options.

  • First Option: Choice from Topics in Chinese Culture.
  • Second Option: Choice form Chinese Literature and Film (texts in this Section to be studied in English).

The recommended length for each answer is 600-750 words. Candidates are assessed on their knowledge and understanding of their chosen cultural options and their ability to answer a question in a clear and focused manner.

IB Chinese (The International Baccalaureate)
IB Chinese Exam Official linkThe International Baccalaureate in Chinese
ClassOne-to-one or Small Group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1 hour or 1.5 hrs per session, 1-3 per sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

IB Chinese fit into the The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme, a challenging two-year curriculum. Mandarin is an option in the ‘Second Language’ subject groups. Depending on the students experience/level, Mandarin can be studied at one of 3 levels:

  • Ab initio - for beginners who have no previous experience of Mandarin. Standard level only
  • Language B - for students who have had some previous experience of learning Mandarin They may be studied at either higher level or standard level.
  • Language A2 - students who have a high level of competence in the language they have chosen. They include the study of both language and literature, and are available at higher level and standard level.

Note: Standard level is 150 teaching hours. Higher level is 240 teaching hours.

Students must study six subjects chosen from the six subject groups and complete an extended essay. They must follow a theory of knowledge course and participate in creativity, action, service. In most cases three of the six subjects are studied at higher level (courses representing 240 teaching hours). The remaining three subjects are studied at standard level courses (representing 150 teaching hours).

汉字能力考试 (HSK) - The Chinese Proficiency Test
汉字能力考试 (HSK) HSK - Hanban website
ClassOne-to-one or small group
Start DateAny time
Lesson Structure1.5 hours session, 1-3 per sessions per week
LocationOur office, your office or your home

The HSK is China's national standardised test designed and developed by the HSK Center of Beijing Language and Culture University to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers (including foreigners, overseas Chinese and students from Chinese national minorities). It is recognised in China, but most UK qualifications such as Chinese GCSEs or A levels (equivalent) are better received in China.

  • HSK (Basic) is a standardised test designed for beginners. There are two levels: level 1 and 2. It is for leaners who have acquired 400-2000 basic Chinese words and HSK grammar level 1 and 2 outlines.
  • HSK Elementary-Intermediate is suitable for people who have mastery of 2000-5000 Chinese words and HSK grammar level 3 and 4 outlines
  • HSK Advanced applies to those who have mastery of 5000-8000 Chinese words and HSK grammar level 5 to 6 outlines.