As part of the Beijinger’s daily Mandarin Month series ahead of our June 25 Mandarin Mixer, we're bringing you some handy tips and tricks to make living in Beijing all the more enjoyable. This post focuses on digital language proficiency tests.
Learning Mandarin is a daunting endeavor, especially in the very beginning. In fact, many of us newbies don't even know where to start. Fortunately, there are some handy digital resources out there that can quickly help you gauge your level, so that you'll know what to target before hitting the books in earnest. Don't worry: chances are your Chinese is better than you realize, a galvanizing proposition that the tests below can offer.
1. Mandarin Talk's "Fast Counter" Vocabulary Test (free to use here)
This simple test is a fun resource for beginners. Basic words like are presented in both character and pinyin form, though the pinyin is removed partway through the increasingly challenging test. Users are given four multiple choice options for each word's meaning. A meter at the top measures not only how much of the test you've completed – there's also a cute animated panda that smiles or weeps, depending on the accuracy of your last answer.
2. Easy Mandarin's reading tests (free to use on their website here)
Known as one of Shanghai's leading Mandarin learning centers, Easy Mandarin also boasts an easy to use web-based reading tests. It is divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, and each test essentially consists of "fill in the blank" multiple choice questions that gauge both the user's vocabulary and sentence structure. This is a no frills option, but it quickly and easily gets the job done.
Also try: Chinese Pod's Placement Test (free on the Apple app store, click here) or Frontiers' web based online placement test (free on its website), both of which are very similar to Easy Mandarin's rendition.
3. Laokang's Tone Test (free on Apple's app store, click here)
Those of us rendered crosseyed by reading and writing characters should try this free app, which tests the user's speaking and listening accuracy. Even though tones are too often dismissed as an afterthought by lazier students (i.e. me), this easy to use app handily reminds the user about how crucial pronunciation can be. By simply reading the words and tone prompt diagrams during the speaking test, users can try their hand (or more aptly, their tongue) at properly saying each tone, before being comprehensively graded at the end. The speaking test is less useful – its entry level merely gives various iterations of "ma" tones via sound clips, before prompting the listener to select from multiple choice options. This is repetitive and quickly becomes dull, but it is effective enough in terms of grading the user's accuracy (a rating for how quickly the user can complete the test is an added bonus).
4. Sino Vista Systems' Test Your Chinese game (USD 1.39 on Apple's app store, click here)
Anyone longing for a lighthearted way to test their Mandarin should opt for this colorful game. It boils down to, yet again, another series of characters and multiple choice options, but its cutesy design is much easier on the eyes than the numerous, drier Easy Mandarin-style web-based alternatives out there. It also, refreshingly, flips the script at times and gives the user an English word before listing several Chinese character options that can be chosen as an answer (the opposite is usually the case for most Easy Mandarin-style tests). One weak point: there are some weird vocabulary choices in Sino Vista Systems' testing sets – words like "axe" – which are sometimes less useful.
5. On Demand World's BCT Business Chinese Test Vocab List (USD 13.99 on Apple's app store, click here)
This app is more geared toward serious students with an entrepreneurial streak. It teaches and then quizzes the user on vocabulary (both pinyin and characters) for business situations – from standard professional greetings, to specific words like factory, as well as useful phrases like "on behalf of."
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