Any benefits to taking the TOP - Test of Proficiency-Huayu

Are there any tangible benefits to taking this and passing it? I know I’m not going to get a raise or any other benefits from my school.

Do I just get to feel good about myself and put it on my resume or is there some other purpose to doing it?

It is only a test of listening and reading so I’m not sure how well recognized it is. But it is something you can put on your resume and as it doesn’t require any prep there is no harm in doing it.

If you want something for the resume, try the HSK. Companies and universities actually require it for some positions.

It’s hard to say for sure if the TOP will ever really ever open any doors for you.

I’ve been studying for the TOP exam for the last 6 or so months and have more than just a few problems with the system:

There are 7 levels to obtian which have been unevenly distributed through the four tests they offer:

  • In the beginner test the highest grade you can get is 0 (yes zero) :loco: and you have to get above 75% to get it - or you get less than zero!

  • In the basic test you need 75% to get a level 1 and about 90% to get a level 2.

  • Intermediate 75% - 3, 90% - 4.

  • Advanced - 70% - 5, 80% - 6, 90% - 7.

So it would be possible that after 4 or 5 years of studying Chinese - you take the advanced test and get 69%… a fail, :cry: in accordance to TOP you’re Chinese would be less than level zero (which is also a grade). This isn’t very helpful if you need to provide your language level for University or a job etc.

Although they use a simple a,b,c,d multiple choice format - sometimes all four answers are very very alike, sometimes in the listening sections they will say the most important thing first (very quickly and sometimes muttered) then contine to have 2 or 3 mins of useless dialogue :blah: which you have to memorise just in case. Another pain is that time is really limited and there seem to be a number of maths and IQ questions thrown in for good measure!

Worst of all - besides an online mock test (that’s been the same for at least a year) - there are no TOP specific materials available, lists of grammer articles ect. On the TOP website they simply list just about every textbook available in Taiwan as suggested reading… really helpful :fume:

The cherry on the cake is that according to TOP, after studying for more than 960 hours of Mandarin - you should have a base of 8000 words vocab (for the advanced test), myself - being somewhat inferior have spent probably double those 960 hours and some, and have yet to reach the intermediate TOP level’s 5000 word base! I took the intermediate test and scored 70%… a fail! Less than zero… yet I can still read the newspaper, watch most TV shows and converse proficiently in Mandarin.

(TOP) Test of Proficiency = Shita

(TOP Tonally Orthographic Pinyin = very cool tonal spelling scheme not at all related to Shita!!! :astonished: )

Shita = inbred (they generally hire their own), i.e., few new ideas, little expertise from outside Shita and only very rarely from outside Taiwan

Taiwan = wants to do what China is doing already to gain recognition and wants to do it quickly even if the task is a large one that requires time and expertise

Chinese language teaching = well behind the curve of English language teaching

Result: just what you have pointed out. Strange ways of assessing “proficiency” (which 30% wrong puts you in a certain level? Are all the questions on the test the same level, so that it’s okay to get some of them wrong even though they are equally “difficult”?), strange assumptions about how Chinese is learned, more than likely a test format and content that favors students in their programs, strange assumptions about what knowledge equates to “proficiency”, poor test design (questions testing more than one thing, questions as you’ve described).

If you really want to take a proficiency test, take the HSK.

ALTHOUGH – the HSK requires a writing test, which I totally oppose for many reasons, not the least being a realistic view of what native speakers do with their language and what foreigners NEED to do. If you are using the HSK as a measure of “can this student compete with native speakers on an equal footing”, fine (as long as you permit the use of computers for the writing section, the same as the native speakers use on virtually everything longer than a phone message – and I’ve got survey data to back this up) but if you are simply measuring practical foreigner-proficiency in using and understanding the Chinese language, it makes little sense to emphasize writing.

I see your well aquainted with TOP and Shi Da? I guess you don’t recommend that I study there then? :slight_smile:

I’m planning (it’s always nice to have a plan) on applying for a postgrad degree in translation and interpretation two or so years later and will be required to provide a language certificate for my Chinese. As luck would have it, the tutors of the Chinese department are also Taiwanese, I brought up the issue of HSK and TOP with them and they said that although they would prefer an HSK grade, because I’ve been studying in Taiwan they’d consider TOP. They also suggested that I leave my current school Chinese Culture University (I don’t really want to because I think I’m making progress at the mo) and study at Shi Da instead - which I’ve heard from previous classmates is much more expensive, has teachers that like to demonstrate their English ability :no-no: and don’t give the students the chance to practice conversation much… one classmate described their style as being ‘shut-up-and-sit-down-esque’…

Ah - the HSK, it looks better than the TOP being internationally recongnised and having a lot of materials available - it’s just that I’m in Taipei and don’t fancy the thought of taking a flight to Hong Kong or Shanghai to take a test - even though there’s a traditional version available, wouldn’t a lot of nouns still be different (tomato, potato etc)?

Strangely enough the school I’m studying at - Chinese Culture University’s MLC have just opened an ‘official’ HSK course (whatever that is) - I asked them if Taiwan was going to get the HSK and they said they didn’t know… If they do then I can stop torturing myself with the online TOP mocktest that I can do with my eyes closed (after doing it 1000 or so times) but still can’t pass the actual test :doh: .

If you’re serious about doing an MA in T&I, consider doing the Fujen program. It is better than anything they have in Britain at present for Chinese. Yes, it is 2 years vs. 1 year, but guess what? You’ll NEED 2 years if you want to do interpreting. I have not been uniformly impressed with students I’ve met out of the British MA in T&I programs to date (not to say I’ve met them all, mind you).

And best of all, you don’t need either the HSK or the TOP exam to get into Fujen. Just take the entrance exam. Take the Shita exam while you’re at it, but if you have a choice, go for Fujen despite the distance from Taipei. Much smaller class size and everything else (faculty, etc.) is pretty much the same. But class size makes a lot of difference for T&I programs.

I was also amazed at the lack of TOP specific resources. I wrote a letter to the Taipei Times about the issues and word lists were released a few months later…4-5 years after the first TOP test!

FuJen Catholic University has published at least 3 more mock tests this year. I wrote about them on my blog:

There are actually 2 mock tests, from FuJen, for Basic level which I have seen at Lucky Bookstore in Taipei. There may also be 2 available for Intermediate and Advanced. Perhaps 6 in total.

Iron Lady - thanks for the info! One of the courses in the UK now offers a 2 year course, 1st year is a diploma which is supposed to get you up to speed with T&I theory and 2nd year the MA - but as for the quality I can’t say. I’ll certainly give the Fujen a course some consideration (when my Chinese is closer to being ready)! Good to have options here in Taiwan. You mention that a 2 year course would be better - I completely agree, as a study method I’ve tried seperating my English and Chinese as much as possible, (trying not translate) though this has been beneficial to my study - I now find it very difficult translating sentences - even though I know what they mean in both languages! Guess there’s going to be a lot of work involved bridging the gap.

Sanchong - thanks for the update on the TOP situation. I did see the word lists but I wasn’t really sure how to study a list of 5000 (int) or 8000 (adv) vocab, they may have well as just thrown a dictionary at us! The new mock exams will be more heplful - thanks for the tip, I guess I’ll be purchasing them soon. Still… they could do everyone a favour and just bring out some form of study guide which relates to each test, for instance any Taiwanese student studying for IELTS or TOEFL is completely spoilt for choice! They have all the official and unoffical materials to go through! At the very least we the test takers will be able to study something a bit more structured and they the examiners can actually make some money… or do they just enjoy torturing people with their snakes and ladders exam - slightly better than a level 1 is level 2, but slightly better than level 2 is level zero, then 3,4 are practially the same, zero! 5,6,7 are all clumped together as well!