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Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language

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Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language
Logo of the TOP
Logo of the TOCFL
Traditional Chinese華語文能力測驗
Simplified Chinese华语文能力测验
A TOCFL Certificate

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL; Chinese: 華語文能力測驗; pinyin: Huáyǔwén Nénglì Cèyàn) is the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s standardized test of proficiency in ROC Standard Chinese (one of the two forms of Standard Chinese) for non-native speakers such as foreign students. It is administered by the Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) (Chinese: 國家華語測驗推動工作委員會; pinyin: Guójiā Huáyǔ Cèyàn Tuīdòng Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì). The committee is under the direction of Taiwan's Ministry of Education. The test was formerly known as the TOP or Test Of Proficiency-Huayu.

For children aged 7–12, an age-specific test exists called the Children's Chinese Competency Certification (or CCCC, Chinese: 兒童華語文能力測驗; pinyin: Értóng Huáyǔwén Nénglì Cèyàn).[1]

The test cannot be taken in Mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao, where only the PRC's HSK exam can be taken. Conversely, the HSK exam is not available in Taiwan.

History of SC-TOP

The Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP) was established in November 2005 under the direction of the Republic of China's Ministry of Education. Originally called the Chinese Language Testing Center and renamed in January 2007, the Committee aims to develop and promote an effective Chinese assessment system, mainly the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL), for Chinese learners worldwide to assess their Chinese proficiency.

The SC-TOP has the following major missions:

  • To design and plan the test contents of the TOCFL and CCCC exams
  • To build test item pools for the TOCFL and CCCC exams
  • To develop computer-based Chinese proficiency testing systems
  • To promote Taiwan's Chinese proficiency tests for non-native speakers of Chinese
  • To increase the exchange among Chinese proficiency testing organizations worldwide

History of TOCFL

The Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) is a standardized language proficiency test developed for non-native speakers of Chinese. It is the result of a joint project of the Mandarin Training Center, the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, and the Psychological Testing Center of National Taiwan Normal University. The research project started in August 2001, and tests were first held in 2003. So far,[when?] it has served test takers from over 60 countries. The new version of TOCFL, which was in development since 2008, become available in 2013.

The new version of the TOCFL has four proficiency bands: Novice, Band A, Band B, and Band C. Each of the bands has two levels. Therefore, there are a total of eight levels: Novice 1 and 2, followed by Levels 1 to 6. The items on the test of each level are 50 multiple choice items, to be answered in 60 minutes. Test takers can choose the test levels best suited to them based on their Chinese language proficiency and learning background. The former version (until 2013) had only five levels.

Purpose and use

TOCFL test takers who reach the level requirements will receive a certificate, which can serve as a credential of proficiency in Chinese for:

  • Applying to the Taiwan Scholarship.
  • Applying to academic programs at colleges or universities in Taiwan, as a reference for the subject of Chinese.
  • Providing a job-required proof of language competency.

Currently some[quantify] undergraduate and graduate programs in Taiwan adopt the TOCFL certificate as the requirement for admission or as the evaluation of an applicant's Chinese proficiency.[2] In addition, many international businesses in Taiwan, such as LG, adopt TOCFL as a reference for their employee dispatch programs. Several overseas companies also refer to candidates' TOCFL certificates when recruiting.


The TOCFL is intended for non-native speakers of Mandarin. Those who wish to know their level of Mandarin Chinese proficiency, and those who want to study, work, or do business in Mandarin Chinese-speaking countries or contexts are welcome to register for the test. The following table sets out the suggested learning hours of Mandarin Chinese, and suggested vocabulary base at each test level.

Band Level Suggested Learning Hours Number of words
Novice Novice 1 30-120 hrs 300
Novice Novice 2
A Level 1 120-240 hrs 500
A Level 2 240-360 hrs 1000
B Level 3 360-480 hrs 2500
B Level 4 480-960 hrs 5000
C Level 5 960-1920 hrs 8000
C Level 6 above 1920 hrs 8000

Please note:

  1. The suggested number of course hours learning Mandarin Chinese required by overseas test-takers may need to be doubled. For example, the table indicates that Level 2 test-takers who take Mandarin Chinese courses in a Chinese-speaking country need to have completed 240–360 course hours. People taking courses in countries where other languages are spoken generally require 480–720 hours.
  2. The suggested vocabulary list for each level can be found online at the official site.

Relationship with TBCL

Taiwan Benchmarks for the Chinese Language (臺灣華語文能力基準, TBCL) is a guideline developed by Taiwan's National Academy for Educational Research to describe seven levels of Chinese language proficiency. It includes lists which contains 3,100 Chinese characters, 14,425 words, and 496 grammar points.[3][4]

For exams starting from August 2021, the TBCL ability level column will be added to the transcripts to help Chinese learners around the world understand the correspondence between TBCL, CEFR, and ACTFL guidelines. The TOCFL will also use the TBCL as one of the references for test design.[5][6]

Comparison with HSK

It is difficult to directly compare the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) with the TOCFL.

Unlike TOCFL, HSK has 6 levels. The six HSK levels and the six Band A, B and C TOCFL levels all claim that these levels are compatible with the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). However, for each test, the number of words or characters required differs. For example, TOCFL generally requires more vocabulary at each level, compared to the HSK.

In 2010, Hanban asserted that the HSK's six levels corresponded to the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).[7] However, the German,[8]: 1, 3, 5  French and Italian[9] associations of Chinese language teachers argued that HSK Level 6 is only equivalent to CEFR Level B1/B2/C1 (about TOCFL Level 4); thus rejecting Hanban's claim of equivalency.

The new Chinese Proficiency Standard, effective on July 1, 2021, adds 300 required characters to every level, therefore the amount of words that must be studied increases exponentially. According to the new Chinese Proficiency Standard, levels 1, 2, 3, 4 in the coming HSK would be more difficult than its 2010 version, and less so in levels 5 and 6. The more difficult levels (7–9) would equivalent to CEFR level C.

CEFR level
(HSK 2010)
(HSK Coming)
Required words
(HSK 2010/Coming)[11]
Required words
Required characters (S)
Required characters (T)
Level 1
Level 2
Novice 1
Novice 2
Level 1 150
396 174
Level A1
Level A2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 1
Level 2
Level 2[12]
Level 3
Level B1
Level B2
Level 5
Level 6
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6
Level 3
Level 4
Level 4
Level 5
Level C1
Level C2
Level 7
Level 8
Level 9
Level 5
Level 6
Level 6
Level 7
11092 7517 9432
3000 2500


TOCFL tests four language skills: Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing.


Novice has three sections. There are 25 multiple-choice questions in total. This test takes approximately 25 minutes.

Band A has four sections: Picture Description, Single-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), Multiple-round Dialogue (questions with picture options), and Dialogue (questions with text options). There are 50 multiple-choice questions in total. This test takes approximately 60 minutes.

Band B and Band C have two sections: Dialogue and Monologue. There are 50 multiple-choice questions with text options. This test takes approximately 60 minutes.


Novice has two sections. There are 25 multiple-choice questions in total. This test takes 25 minutes.

Band A has five sections: Sentence Comprehension, Picture Description, Gap Filling, Paragraph Completion, and Reading Comprehension. There are 45 multiple-choice questions and 5 matching questions. This test takes 60 minutes.

Bands B and C have two sections: Gap Filling and Reading Comprehension. Each test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and takes 60 minutes.


The TOCFL Speaking test adopts a holistic scoring approach, taking into account the content, fluency, and language skills of the test taker. The results are presented in the form of scale scores. The objective is mainly to assess the competence of the test takers to effectively accomplish the communication tasks verbally in different language contexts.


The TOCFL Writing test is an evaluation of the test-taker's ability to use written materials to effectively transmit information in particular contexts. The level-based grading system is based on the appropriateness and substance of the test-taker's responses to situational tasks, compositional structure and completeness, correct syntax, and the use of a suitably wide range of appropriate vocabulary.

Overseas testing

Aside from being available in Taiwan, SC-TOP has been providing overseas testing services since 2006. However, compared to the HSK exam, the number of test locations is somewhat limited. According to the SC-TOP's official website, the test can be taken in the following countries:

  • Asia Pacific — Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam
  • Central and South America — Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Lucia
  • Europe — Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
  • Africa - Eswatini, South Africa
  • North America — Canada, United States, Mexico

Out of these states, Eswatini, Saint Lucia, and Paraguay recognizes the Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China.

See also


  1. ^ "兒童華語文能力測驗(CCCC)". Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  2. ^ "Steering Committee for the Test Of Proficiency-Huayu (SC-TOP)". Retrieved 2020-11-08.
  3. ^ a b c "Taiwan Benchmarks for the Chinese Language".
  4. ^ a b "華語八千詞表調整說明" (PDF).
  5. ^ "The Chinese Language Proficiency Test report card adds a column corresponding to the level of the "Taiwan Chinese Language Proficiency Benchmark"".
  6. ^ "TOCFL 成績單新增 TBCL 對應欄位 答客問" (PDF).
  7. ^ Introduction on New HSK Test, 2010, archived from the original on 26 October 2012, retrieved 26 July 2010
  8. ^ Association of Chinese Teachers in German Speaking Countries (1 June 2010). "Erklärung des Fachverbands Chinesisch e.V. zur neuen Chinesischprüfung HSK" [Statement of the Fachverband Chinesisch e.V. (Association of Chinese Teachers in German Speaking Countries) on the new HSK Chinese Proficiency Test] (PDF). Fachverband Chinesisch (in German, Chinese, and English). Fachverband Chinesisch e.V. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  9. ^ Bellassen, Joël (2011). "Is Chinese Europcompatible? Is the Common European Framework Common?: The Common European Framework of References for Languages Facing Distant Language". New Prospect for Foreign Language Teaching in Higher Education —Exploring the Possibilities of Application of CECR—. Tokyo: World Language and Society Education Center (WoLSEC). pp. 23–31. ISBN 978-4-925243-85-8.
  10. ^ "台灣華語文能力測驗遍及五大洲,為何無法主要採用國教院「三等七級」能力基準".
  11. ^ a b "China's HSK Language Test To be Overhauled for the First Time in 11 Years".
  12. ^ Level 2 of the TBCL roughly corresponds to between Novice 2 and Level 1 of the TOCFL.
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Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language
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