"I am thrilled with the program. It is a new and powerful tool in my study of Chinese."
—Jos Spapens

"I have been using the program for about 5 months now and I have moved from knowing a little over 2,000 characters to consistently scoring 3,000 or more on your on-line character test. More importantly I have finally moved from reading intermediate texts to on-line news I find on the WWW. Your program has turned out to be an amazing aid. I am now a huge fan."
—Brent Nelson

"Big thanks for the software! I just started learning Chinese here at the UN, and your program is just what I need. It lets me follow up what I learn in the classroom and then explore further."
—Nikolai Galkin, United Nations

More User Comments


Chinese Character Test

How many Chinese characters do you know?

The Chinese Character Test provides a fast and easy way to estimate the number of Chinese characters that you know. The test is a free, web-based applet that you can use as often as you like.The Character Test is also included as a free bonus on the Clavis Sinica program CD, in case you'd like to install it on your own computer for better performance.

When you take the test, you'll first be asked your approximate skill level, how many characters you want to test, and whether you prefer simplified or traditional characters. Once you've completed the test, you'll be shown a results panel that includes a mathematical estimate of the total number of characters that you know.

Try the Character Test | Flashcards for iPhone | Learn Chinese Characters

How the Chinese Character Test Works

The Chinese Character Test is based on the Clavis Sinica dictionary, which in turn is based on the first level of the Guobiao Chinese character set. The 3755 GB-I characters included in the Clavis dictionary are the most frequently used in modern Chinese. The Clavis dictionary divides these characters into four frequency groups, as follows:

*** The top 300 most frequently used characters in modern Chinese (you'll find a list of them here)
** The next group of 500 most frequently used characters
* The next group of 800 most frequently used characters
no asterisks The final group of 2200 less frequently used characters

The characters included in your test are selected from these groups according to the skill level that you indicate. If you're a beginner, only characters from the first, most commonly used group will be included. If you're a low intermediate, characters from the first two groups will be included, and so on. At the end of the test, the program determines how many correct answers you had from each group. It then extrapolates from this result the total number of characters you're likely to know in each group, and adds these numbers together to produce a final estimate of the total number of characters that you know.

Because the program only tests those characters appropriate for your skill level, the maximum possible score varies, as follows, according to the skill level you select:

Skill Level Maximum Score (approximate)
Beginner 300
Low intermediate 800
High intermediate 1600
Advanced 3755

If you find that you're scoring towards the high end at a particular skill level, you should advance to the next skill level in order to obtain a more accurate measure of the number of characters you actually know. This is because someone who knows all, or nearly all the characters at one level is very likely also to know quite a few of the characters at the next level.

If you score below 250 or so on the test, you might want to use the Stepping Stones lesson series on this site to help master the top 300 Chinese characters.

Try the Character Test | Flashcards for iPhone | Learn Chinese Characters

Taking the Test

To begin the Chinese Character Test applet, simply click on the link below. You will be taken to another web page on which the actual applet will appear.If you'd prefer to install the test on your own computer for better performance, you can purchase it on CD from our ordering page.

For best results, please note the following suggestions for using the Chinese Character Test:

  • Do not make random guesses. If you don't recognize a character, simply press the Continue button without entering a response.
  • When you enter an incorrect response, you'll need to press "Continue" again to move on to the next character.
  • If you're not sure of your skill level, take the test the first time at the advanced level. The next time you take the test, choose the highest level at which you scored a significant number of correct answers.
  • Once your score nears the maximum for the level you have chosen, you should advance to the next level.
  • You will obtain the most accurate results by taking a long test (72 characters) at the appropriate skill level. Taking the test several times and averaging your results will also increase the accuracy of your scores.
  • Use the Chinese Flashcards applet to drill yourself on the characters used at the first two skill levels. The flashcards tool is also included as part of Clavis Sinica 3.1.
  • Take the test at regular intervals and keep a record of your results in order to measure your improvement over time.

If you'd like to install the test on your own computer so that you can use it without an internet connection, you can purchase a CD copy of the Chinese Character Test program, or get it for free when you buy the Clavis Sinica CD.

Try the Character Test | Flashcards for iPhone | Learn Chinese Characters