When it comes to choosing a Mandarin exam, most prefer HSK. Many don’t even know or consider TOCFL (Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language).
But probably, you should rethink.
How is this different from HSK? Is there any actual benefit? What are the test centers, dates, exam structure, fee, syllabus? How can you apply and prepare?
Everything you want to understand about this Chinese exam is here. Let’s start!
Table of Contents
- What is the TOCFL Chinese Test?
- Benefits of TOCFL Mandarin Test
- Which test to take? — TOCFL or HSK
- Everything about the TOCFL test
- How to apply?
- How to prepare?
What is the TOCFL Chinese Test?
TOCFL stands for “Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language.” This is the standardized Mandarin exam promoted by the Republic of China (ROC), i.e., Taiwan.
The test measures the Mandarin ability of non-natives speakers and overseas Chinese worldwide.
This means anyone who is not a valid citizen of Taiwan can take the test to check the Chinese ability.
Who conducts the exam?
The Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) manages the test.
It operates under the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China.
In 2005, when it started, the name was TOP, i.e., Test Of Proficiency-Huayu. The latest version came into existence in 2013.
Recognition of TOCFL worldwide
The government of Taiwan approves TOCFL as proof of the Chinese language.
Thus, all universities, academic institutions, foreign and government organizations in Taiwan accept it.
Approx. 100 educational and business organizations in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Switzerland, the USA, Vietnam, Thailand, etc., use it to check students’ Chinese competence.
Many companies are looking to hire people for jobs requiring Chinese. And they accept the TOCFL scores. So in recent times, it has earned a positive reputation.
Do remember that this certification is not recognized in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
In these places, one has to take HSK. Likewise, it is not available and supported in Taiwan.
Benefits of TOCFL Mandarin Test
There are many obvious advantages. Here are some well-known ones.
1. You can get scholarships in Taiwan
Every year Taiwan government gives scholarships, grants, and fellowships to deserving foreign students.
This scholarship includes a monthly allowance and other perks during your stay in Taiwan. So you get a quality education at an affordable price or free.
Who would like to miss such a once-in-a-lifetime possibility?
There are many scholarships like the “Taiwan Scholarship,” “Ministry of Education Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES) for learning Mandarin,” and “MOFA Taiwan Fellowship.”
There are 100’s of scholarships from Government-sponsored bodies to various companies and educational establishments for studying in Taiwan.
If you want to be eligible, you can take TOCFL. This is the most significant benefit of taking this exam.
Not all scholarships expect you to pass this. It depends on many factors like course, academic performance, and profile. Yet, many do demand it. In any case, it increases your chances to a large extent.
You might also need a certain level to get admission to different colleges and universities in Taiwan. The situation varies, so check with them.
2. It increases career and job prospects
Do you want to work as a Mandarin language expert in a company that trades and deals with Chinese people or businesses?
This can add tremendous value to your resume. The certification, along with other skills and experience, will put you on your way to the interview.
Although HSK is more popular, still, many companies accept TOCFL scores for jobs involving Chinese skills.
And if you desire to work in Taiwan, you’re in luck. That is because it is the only accepted Chinese certification in the country.
3. You will know your Chinese ability
If you’re learning Chinese, you do like to know your current language skills. In that scenario, the TOCFL is an excellent option.
You will identify your present strength and your weakness.
This test can help you focus on shortcomings that need improvement. And hence, encourage you to prepare better for the next exam.
Plus, the exam structure is comparable to HSK. In fact, TOCFL is more complex. Hence, you will prepare for it and enhance your motivation.
Which test to take? — TOCFL or HSK
There are a few key differences between these two Chinese exams.
1. Importance depends on the country
HSK is useful when you apply for scholarships at universities in China. Also, TOCFL is helpful for universities in Taiwan.
This is also applicable when you wish to apply for jobs in the companies in each region.
For political reasons, HSK is not available in Taiwan. In the same way, there is no TOCFL in Mainland China, Macao, and Hong Kong.
So, pick the test as per your study destination.
The good thing is you can take both since the exam format and levels are more or less the same. Learning takes time, not appearing for the test.
2. Different tests to check language skills
Both tests measure candidates on all 4 language skills, i.e., speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Still, they don’t assess all 4 abilities through a single test.
For example, HSK checks writing, listening, and reading skills through the standard exam. For speaking, they have a separate HSKK (Hanyu Shuiping Koushi Kaoshi).
TOCFL checks 4 skills by 3 different tests — writing, speaking, and listening & reading.
3. Simplified Vs. Simplified & Traditional
Another major difference between HSK vs. TOCFL is the usage of Chinese characters.
HSK uses simplified Chinese characters. In contrast, candidates can choose either simplified or traditional in the TOCFL.
4. Difficulty level
Although both follow a similar format and test structure, TOCFL is more complex than HSK.
For instance, HSK VI requires knowledge of roughly 5,000 words. But the highest TOCFL level needs you to know about 8000.
The new HSK version with 9 levels from earlier 6 might have the same difficulty level.
Everything about the TOCFL test
Let’s find everything about the test.
The types of TOCFL test
There are three types:
- Listening & Reading,
- Speaking, and
Candidates can choose either simplified or traditional characters when registering for it.
Children’s Certification (CCCC)
Children aged 7-12 can take the test of Children’s Chinese Competency Certification (CCCC). It is the standard test to measure the Chinese skills of young learners.
They have designed this test to impart cognitive and linguistic aspects to Children. The topics focus on daily routines, hobbies, and basic Mandarin language. It inspires them to continue the study of Chinese in the future.
It has 3 levels — Sprouting, Seedling, and Blossoming that take 40, 50, and 60 minutes to finish the exam. The test covers only the reading and listening sections.
TOCFL (Computerized Adaptive Test)
The TOCFL Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT) has two modules — listening and reading.
CAT concept came from the Rasch model and Item Response Theory (ITR). Here the computer decides the next question based on the previous response.
This takes less time as questions depend on your abilities, and results are more accurate.
It is a single multilevel test that grades your Chinese from 0 to 100. So, you won’t pass or fail, but you will find your exact level.
How many levels are there?
There are four TOCFL test bands: Novice (Pre-Beginners), Band A (Beginner), Band B (Intermediate), and Band C (Advanced).
Each of these bands is further subdivided into 2 sublevels. Thus, there are eight levels in total.
Level 8 is the hardest one, whereas level 1 is the easiest.
They claim it matches CERF. So, for example, levels 1 and 2 are like A1 and A2, and levels 3, and 4 are like B1, and B2. And levels 5 and 6 are comparable to C1 and C2.
You can find the 2023 guidelines and test format on the site. It also includes information on speaking, writing, listening, reading, speedy screenings, and novice. — LINK
Testing centers in the world
Other than Taiwan, SC-TOP has conducted the test in several countries since 2006.
The number of testing centers is few compared to the HSK test. Still, they are adding new exam centers every year.
As per SC-TOP’s official website (January 2023), they have 37 test centers across 27 countries. They also organize the test at 21 centers in Taiwan. Here is the list.
- Asia Pacific — Japan (Tokyo, Osaka), Indonesia, Australia, Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok), Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang), Malaysia, India (Delhi), Korea.
- North America — U.S.A (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta), Canada (Vancouver, Ottawa).
- Central and South America — Paraguay, Nicaragua, Panama.
- Europe — UK, France, Poland, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Luxembourg.
- Africa — Burkina Faso.
TOCFL test centers in India
It has one testing center in India.
Taipei Economic & Cultural Center, Delhi.
Address: 34, Paschimi Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.
2023 TOCFL Test Dates
The dates differ depending on the country. Usually, they conduct the test 4 to 8 times a year. Check the country-specific website.
They will conduct the test four times in India.
The registration fee varies depending on the country where you sign up.
For example, the price is INR 2,000 in India, whereas it is RM 120 in Malaysia. The cost is the same for each level.
Get in touch with your nearest test center.
How to apply?
Test-takers have to choose a specific level as per current Chinese language ability.
If you are in Taiwan, you can apply online through the website.
In other countries, check the specific sites as every country has a different procedure.
In most cases, make the payment and send the scanned form to the official email address before the last date.
How to prepare?
On the official website, there are tons of valuable resources for teachers, academics, and learners. Here is the list.
- Teaching Resources — LINK
- Study Materials — LINK
- Forms, References, and Downloads — LINK
- Recommended Books — LINK